Once a hallucination sensed the good times were coming to an end. In truth, it had ignored the obvious and let itself get woefully out of shape. The sad consequences were predictable. Not so long ago, even a run-of-the-mill hallucination could expect a devoted fan base to pursue it on morning jogs while tweeting madly to their own “followers” about every turn they took. And long-distance hallucinations that kept themselves in even middling form would be greeted with fanatical adulation world wide and receive ringing endorsements by public and private sponsors alike. But nowadays hallucinations that had once been unmatched in power could barely avoid being trampled as crowds rushed past in hopes of catching up with the latest little fantasy-du-jour before it faded away in front of them, to be replaced by an even less impressive one they’d then follow blindly in its own turn. Nobody had the time, or the interest, for has-been hallucinations wheezing in the dust. How the mighty had fallen! This one had witnessed the demise of many a grand illusion in its day. Myths, faiths, cultural certainties, social norms, political dogmas, economic doctrines, technological must-haves—these were only a few of the hallucinations that had come and gone. Come and gone. Even the longest-lived were eventually pushed aside by ones more suited to a new age. And yet, hallucinations past or present made life worth living, whatever their scope and whenever it was that their fifteen minutes of fame was set to expire. Or so it had seemed to this one. At their best, hallucinations offered proof of the nobility of human aspiration and perseverance. At their worst, proof of how little is needed to push nobility into free fall. But best or worst, to hallucinate was to live, was it not? To be human to the fullest extent and depth possible, regardless of the actual limitations one displayed every day. Some hallucinations deserved belief and others deserved far less, of course. Even the loftiest might fall short of the hopes or goals that inspired them, sometimes far short, but they still merited allegiance. Without this allegiance, where would humans be? Condemned to wander about some featureless wasteland, periodically bumping up against one another without recognizing any similarities between them? Without some sense of what they shared, how would they carry on through life’s inevitable disappointments and face the end of their own time here when it arrived? Admittedly, dedication to one’s personal hallucinations and to those powerful enough to unite whole civilizations drew people down into horrors as often as upwards to grandeur, and the deadliest of them might be the entire species’ undoing some day. So much more call, then, to value and not abandon the most glorious. For when individuals and civilizations lose confidence in the most awe-inspiring of their hallucinations—everything they long to see as just, beautiful, and exalting—a greater tragedy than any other brought by life overtakes them, doesn’t it? This hallucination just prayed it wouldn’t be around to witness the final moments of all that had given it such meaning and fulfillment in its prime.
Copyright © 2013 by Geoffrey Grosshans