In Praise of Illusions

magritteI had terrible insomnia when I was a teenager. Stayed up for four days straight once! Not a pleasant experience: first you get the auditory hallucinations (sounds like a radio is on somewhere in the house, but you can’t seem to find the radio); then you get the visual hallucinations (little creatures running this way and that in your peripheral vision). I was sent to numerous doctors, given numerous prescriptions for sleeping pills, but a definitive diagnosis of the root cause of the problem eluded all and sundry. But then, out of the blue, a magical solution fell into my lap: a friend of mine from Argyle Academy lent me two of those New Age relaxation CDs (pretty sure it was part of a series entitled Sounds of Nature). Regardless, the two I had were called Sounds of the Rainforest and Thunderstorm. At this point, I should probably tell you two things about 16-year-old me: (1) I loved rain. (2) I hated bacon.

Though I loved listening to both of the CDs, the Thunderstorm CD was especially amazing. No joke: it was like a magic trick: put me to sleep like a baby. Rarely did I last more than ten minutes. As a direct consequence of this CD filled with the sounds of falling rain, my insomnia was cured, completely cured, for a little over six months. It was glorious. No longer was I exhausted and grumpy all day long. I had energy and creativity and a joie-de-vivre that had been notably absent for about two years. But then, once again, out of the blue, the magical solution that had fallen into my lap was unceremoniously taken from me, albeit inadvertently, by my little sister. One night, as I was listening to the CD and drifting off to sleep, my sister Felicity walked into my bedroom without knocking and said, in a matter-of-fact manner: “Wow, that CD really sounds like bacon sizzling on a stove.”

She wasn’t trying to be mean or malicious. Not at all. She was simply stating (spontaneously, absentmindedly) what had just that moment occurred to her. And, I’m sad to report, she was right: it really did sound like bacon sizzling on a stove. The Thunderstorm CD no longer worked for me (not that night, or any other night) though I tried dozens and dozens of times. I tried to will myself to forget what she had said about the bacon, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. Every time I tried to focus on the sweet sounds of the rain, I’d see, instead, a big fat pervert with a hairy back and a wife-beater, staring at me lasciviously whilst cooking bacon on a stove. Every once in a while he’d lift some of the blackened bacon up with a nasty grease-stained spatula and say (in something approximating a Polish accent): “Hey, you want some?” Alas, I didn’t sleep well for another two years. And it sucked. Big time. But it taught me three valuable lessons: (1) The examined life is overrated. (2) The unexamined life is well worth living. (3) Nietzsche was right about illusion: “Everything which is good and beautiful depends upon illusion: truth kills—it even kills itself (insofar as it realizes that some sort of error is necessarily its foundation).”

—John Faithful Hamer, Twilight of the Idlers (2017)

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

2 thoughts on “In Praise of Illusions

  1. My record for not sleeping I four days. Directly related to a botched surgery. Being drove home from the hospital almost 100 miles from home by my wife who then told me that Friday afternoon that she was going to the most renowned vicious divorce attorney in town. I was a my knees with a towel clenched in my teeth four straight mornings. The combination of those two simultaneous events was a life changing experience for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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