“Illusion is needed to disguise the emptiness within.”—Arthur Erickson (Canadian architect)
According to Andrew Schneider, “Truth is a perception of depth in which we perceive more of what is there, while illusion is a superficial perception of reality.”
These days there is too much stress on appearances whether in terms of dressing or in terms of lifestyle. Regardless of one’s true characteristics, people are recognized and respected for the type of house they live in, the location of their residence, the car they drive, the job that they have and needless to say, the type of garments and accessories they wear. Since the world got trapped in the so-called, brand industry, it has never been the same. Another disturbing tendency that is observed to have taken roots is to imitate those who are socially placed on a higher pedestal or socially recognized as being stylish. They are mostly copied on their outward show but not in the perspective of virtue, honesty, generosity, knowledge, broad-mindedness, compassion etc.
Frankly speaking, if there is affordability, there seems no harm in mirroring others as far as one’s physical semblance is concerned. Maybe someone else has better taste or idea that is attractive enough to mimic, maybe they are better groomed and have impressive demeanours, maybe their elegant choice is imitable and one could learn a thing or two from the way they present themselves. All very well, but this should not come at the cost of one’s own personality, social and family background otherwise it all becomes an illusion rather than the truth. An attempt to conceal reality by covering it up with an illusive attire for the sole purpose of impressing others.
There are many ways to become likeable and captivate attention towards one’s self. This can be done through showing strength of character, knowledge, artistic talents, humour and wit, confidence, bravery, smartness, charisma; in short all characteristics that are actually available in a person. When one is naturally endowed it all comes with ease and these virtues become visible without the pretentious affectation but few realize the importance and originality of one’s own persona. In their bid to impress and keep pace with their peers, they are susceptible to losing their own dignity. The wisest thing to do is impress yourself with yourself. If we can direct our criticism meant for others to ourselves, we should be able to emerge as better human beings.
In addition to copying others, another perturbing case is that of competition. Again, this is positive when applied in certain areas of life but has detrimental effects when done with the idea of humiliating or debasing others in public eye. The best way out is to compete with oneself by trying to improve from good to better rather than outdoing others, especially where our own physical, mental and financial potential, is much less compared to those with whom we are competing.
An assistant professor, teaching at a public university was expressing her concern about the general decadence of character and attitude that has gradually sown its seeds in some of her students, especially females including those who hail from modern families but more specifically, the ones belonging to smaller towns and villages. According to her observation, the marked difference between urban and rural cultures of our society becomes more profound when girls from the so-called conservative areas, lodged in university hostels try to match the city lasses—in appearance rather than in academics. In doing so, they lose their sense of decorum, converting them into split personalities with double profile of the ultra-mod scholar at the institution and the traditionally clad one in their homes. In their eagerness to emulate the urbanites, they lose connection with their truth, to adorn a mirage-like illusion of what they are not in reality, compelling them to embrace two sets of values—one, for the consumption of family members and two, when away from their censorious eyes.
A lot of effort is required by these girls to keep the two dispositions apart, which if diverted to learning could have far-reaching results but the desire to impress or copy is so overwhelming that it surpasses whatever goodness lies within their own character. Apparently there is a feeling of disdain about their origins, an inferiority complex with their lifestyle and above all, a complete disregard for their cherished values. Were these attributes truly imbibed in their minds, they would have felt a sense of pride rather than clothing themselves in artificiality which is hardly sustainable. One can never go far if trying to sail in two boats at the same time. If instead, they focus on fanning their inner goodness and genuineness of nature, they would succeed in fascinating themselves rather than seeking to impress others. Little do they realize how their stupidities are exploited by some vile girls who keep them around to make themselves stand out—a figure in cyphers!
In the tug of war between illusion and reality, unfortunately the victims are usually the persons who are the pretentious ones. One of the first things they lose is their own identity. Tremendous courage is required to completely break away from one’s family and home because both provide the much needed security and comfort to a person. Stepping into the vastness of a strange world, one can never be certain about the future, therefore for those who wear two different facades, the main consideration perhaps is to enjoy the best of both worlds, even if it is on temporary basis. Regrettably, this illusive nature of life can sometimes lead to terrible consequences. Fauzia Azeem aka Qandeel Baloch was one such casualty of illusive lifestyle. Despite her desire to live life on her own terms, she was unable to erase the truth of her extremely orthodox family, especially her brothers who eventually killed her while she was at the prime age of twenty six.
Pursuing one’s ambitions is every human being’s birth right but in doing so they should not lose track of the ground realities. In order to change their lifestyle, they must first work upon the mental faculties of those without whom their lives are incomprehensible. This may not be an easy task but when done in a rational manner can have intended consequences. After all, our infamous Qandeel Baloch did manage to convince her parents to acknowledge her new personality as obvious from the fact that her grieving father point-blankly told the police that his sons had committed her murder. Had he disapproved of her, he would have silently accepted her death and protected the perpetrators.
One wishes that parents have the sensibility to inculcate consciousness among their children to enable them to distinguish between illusion and truth and so allow them to lead more productive lives. While upholding their moral and cultural norms, they should simultaneously strike a balance between extreme modernity and extreme backwardness before subjecting their children to the choppy waters of a stormy urban exposure. University students coming from such backgrounds are mostly grown-ups who should be able to discern right from wrong. Not everything is the responsibility of parents more so when people leave their childhood behind to embrace adulthood.
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)