Saturday, September 12, 2009

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Clearly fiction, but written as if from personal experience, this 1979 bestseller is in my top list of strange and unusual books. Richard Bach is a nomadic type, flying over the countryside in his little biplane selling rides for a couple bucks an hour to locals. At night he nestles in a field somewhere with some canned beans and pan-fried bread and enjoys his life of solitude and freedom. Then one day he sees another biplane he's never seen before, and another pilot just like himself leaning against the plane as if just waiting for him to land. The strange fact is that the man was waiting for him to land, and had known that he would be arriving shortly. Richard soon learns that his name is Don Shimoda, and that he was supposed to be the world's next Messiah before he abruptly quit and left his followers behind.
Don and Richard become friends and soon they are zooming all over the countryside together, offering rides and making more money then Richard would normally make in a single season. There's just something about Shimoda that makes Richard feel as if he's known him all his life. Living the good life, Richard doesn't think to leave until all the little miracles start becoming noticeable--no squashed bugs on Don's plane, the tight impossible turns he makes, and the fact that he never once fills up for gas. When he confronts Shimoda, he is immediately invited to know all the things only a messiah is supposed to know. These things come conveniently in a "Messiah's Handbook", which Shimoda digs out of his cockpit and throws to Richard without ceremony. At first thinking Shimoda is crazy, Richard soon learns that no matter where he goes or what he says, Shimoda is one step ahead and determined that Richard understand he is the real deal.
It soon becomes apparent that Richard has been chosen to take his place. Throughout the book we get glimpses of not only why Shimoda quit being the new messiah, but also into the handbook and its "wisdom".
Philosophical, otherworldly, and at times downright crazy--still I carried this book around in my back pocket for months when I first read it years ago. Picking it up again, I see how it inspired me to see myself as powerful as any Christ, and as capable of miracles. Illusions is a weird and ofttimes confounding novel, and I'm sure it will be viewed with skepticism in the least, ridicule at the most. I love this book because of it's uniqueness, the author's ability to place himself entirely within a fictional story, and because of D. Shimoda--the unforgettable and reluctant messiah.
"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours." (Messiah's Handbook p. 100)

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