March 1st, 2003

Self Delusion

  Title


Dreary cold rain like this for the past three days. The cascade of muddy water soaks through my sneakers. It's a long hike up this rustic staircase. I'm tired, and irritable.

Mostly I'm annoyed because Vittoria has not yet come to visit me, as she promised she would. She told me she'd had the tickets, but something very important came up. You understand, don't you? Maybe next month. This is the third or fourth delay.

To fend off my bad mood I'm reading William James. He says the source of a religious or spiritual enlightenment is irrelevant. God or the subconscious, it doesn't matter. What's important is the serenity that comes when you suddenly realize you are saved, or are in the loving care of some Higher Being. That’s the thing.

I do not want to be mad at her. Because love is patient, love is kind, Paul told the Corinthians. Didn't he?

Better to imagine Vittoria is here right now. Yes. She and I hike these steps together. We're not far from the top, dear. And then we'll be on a charming dirt path that will give us a view of the village far below, and of the sea, and the bright blue sky. Just like the road along the island's coast in the movie Il Postino. Remember?

It occurs to me that the pleasant feelings elicited by pretending Vittoria's presence are in the same general category as the spiritual experiences James describes.

All right, focus. I am holding her hand. She moves her face toward mine and I inhale her scent of lavender. She kisses me lightly, softly. Ah. In moments like this suffering and death are impossible.

Oh, yes. The great utility of self-delusion: If you aren't lucky enough to get struck by a flash of light on the road to Damascus, then you might as well become a true believer in a world of your own making.

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