Reality vs. Delusion

“It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” — Carl Sagan

Is Carl Sagan right? When it comes to the cosmic universe, perhaps. When it comes to our personal universe, is it better to persist in delusion? Isn’t that what a dream is, a delusion? The dream might be attainable with luck and hard work, in which case it’s not a delusion. If it is not attainable, is it better to hold on to the dream or is it better to persist in delusion?

I used to think reality was important — I spent my life trying to get down to the rock bottom of “that which is” (as opposed to what we think is). I studied particle physics and quantum mechanics (for fun, can you imagine that?) and discovered that every La La Landparticle can be divided into smaller particles and those particles can be divided, until what you end up is nothing. Or a wave. Or a thought. Or something that changes every time you look at it.

I no longer know if reality is all it’s cracked up to be. If our perceptions can change ”that which is” at the quantum level, perhaps it can change life at the macro level where we live. If so, it might be better to persist in delusion.

I explore this theme of delusion (or illusion, which perhaps comes down to the same thing) in all of my books: What is truth? What is reality? Who are we, really – are we our memories, our experiences, our dreams? I also often explore similar themes in this blog. And I still don’t have an answer.

Reality feels real, while fantasy feels nebulous and silly, but what is fiction writing if not fantasy? We create worlds that never were with our words, and those worlds come alive in reader’s minds, so real, that readers discuss fictional characters as if they were real, and in a certain context, they are real. If the universe is thought, then perhaps they are even as real as we are. Thoughts might have created us in the same way we create characters.

Writing is a powerful tool for living. As we visual other facets of this world, we become better prepared for the vicissitudes of the “real” world.  Writers often write for others, needing to connect with readers, which is important. But even more important is writing for ourselves, creating worlds where our worst fears our vanquished and our dearest dreams are realized.

Can writing actually help us create our future? Some people believe that the more concrete one’s visualization, the greater the chance the vision has of becoming real. Symbols also have their place, perhaps reaching even deeper into our psyches than visualization does, and symbols are generally not reality but only representations of reality. In the same symbolical way our nightly dreaming sometimes connects us to things not of this world, perhaps fiction too can connect us to things not of this world.

Like Sagan, I’ve always believed it better to grasp the universe as it is than to persist in delusion, but perhaps it’s time to change my thinking.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

6 Responses to “Reality vs. Delusion”

  1. knightofswords Says:

    I have always liked the saying “Perception is Reality.” To the extent our perceptions overlap, we end up with the notion that our realities are shared with each other. They may or may not be, though I have a feeling reality is more shattered, one person to the next, than we know.


    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I like that idea — that our shared perceptions make us feel as if reality is the same for everyone, but it might not be. It’s that way in the natural world — many creatures — maybe even most — see reality completely different than we do. Perhaps it’s the same from person to person.

      I’ve always wondered if what I see as “green” for example, is the same color other people see. Well, when it comes to color blindness of course, but there really is no way to check to see what another normal-sighted person sees when they see “green.”

  2. stephenlesliefrance Says:

    Hi Pat,

    Two things: if we are translating ‘delusion’ as a synonym of ‘dream’ ‘ then I would agree with you in your conclusion to change your thinking.

    Dreams are incredibly important, especially for those in the challenging world of the creative arts. If any of us decide to take reality as gospel, then the logical answer is to stick with our day jobs and avoid the arduous pursuit of becoming a successful author.

    I stick with this theory: “Whatever you think and whatever you feel, and whatever manifests is always a match.” Simple words – perhaps a little hard to understand and extremely complicated to activate in daily life.

    I’m still working on it, because the dream part of this hypothesis has to be believed in even before the dream has come true – so much so that the dream becomes reality.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      You’ve given much to think about. I never really believed that if you believe it will come true, because that means if a dream doesn’t come true, you were lax in your belief, where others whose dreams came true were somehow better than you. And that I can’t believe.

      • stephenlesliefrance Says:

        Trust me – I’m still working on the philosophy myself.

        Like I said, very simple words, that in truth I rejected when I first heard them.

        I’ve been studying a lot of philosophy to deal with some extremely trying circumstances–one of those scenarios where a lot of extreme situations hit you all at once. When I’ve sat down and truly thought about what these theorists have asserted–even if it’s offended me–I’ve come to comprehend a great deal and it has brought much happiness in these difficult times.

        I’m not saying it’s right, but it is most certainly worth contemplation. Also, part of this thinking is that it’s subjective/relative. I would never compare myself to others in what could be construed as derogatory to their beliefs and dreams.

  3. rami ungar the writer Says:

    You can only call something reality and something else delusion until evidence comes along that shatters one and proves the other.

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