Illusions, by Richard Bach has quickly become one of my favourite books, warranting me to reach out to the author and thank him for writing it. He’s in his eighties now and kindly replied to my email: ‘So glad to know you found the story, and the characters and their ideas touched you. They’ve worked in my life for a long time. I hope they’ll be lifelong friends for you, too!’
I thought his reply described the book particularly well. ‘Lifelong friends’ is certainly what you’re left with once you’ve finished the pages of this small and way-too-quickly-finished work of fiction published back in 1977.
Despite being written before I was born, the story is timeless. It contains all the wisdom of a good Eckhart Tolle book or two (or insert new-age spiritual guru of your choice here) punched into a insightful, playful and good humoured ‘what if’ story of a modern messiah, Donald Shimoda, who one day just up and quit his day job to go fly planes.
In the preface to the book, Richard Bach explains that he didn’t want to write the book. When people asked him what he’d write next, after his bestseller Jonathan Livingston Seagull, he’d reply that he didn’t need to write anything next, ‘not a word’.
‘If I can turn my back on an idea, out there in the dark, if I can avoid opening the door to it, I won’t even reach for a pencil.’
The preface continues:
But once in a while there’s a great dynamite-burst of flying glass and brick and splinters through the front wall and somebody stalks over the rubble, seizes me by the throat and gently says, I will not let you go until you set me, in words, on paper. That’s how I met Illusions.
There in the Midwest, even, I’d lie on my back practicing cloud-vaporizing, and I couldn’t get the story out of my mind. . . what if somebody came along who was really good at this, who could teach me how my world works and how to control it? What if I could meet a superadvanced . . . what if a Siddhartha or a Jesus came into our time, with power over the illusions of the world because he knew the reality behind them? And what if I could meet him in person, if he were flying a biplane and landed in the same meadow with me? What would he say, what would he be like?
Maybe he wouldn’t be like the messiah on the oil streaked grass-stained pages of my journal, maybe he wouldn’t say anything this book says. But then again, the things this one told me: that we magnetize into our lives whatever we hold in our thought, for instance – if that is true, then somehow I have brought myself to this moment for a reason, and so have you. Perhaps it is no coincidence that you’re holding this book; perhaps there’s something about these adventures that you came here to remember. I choose to think so. And I choose to think my messiah is perched out there on some other dimension, not fiction at all, watching us both, and laughing for the fun of it happening just the way we’ve planned it to be.
In this story which centres around two blokes who fly planes for profit – one who happens to be an ex-messiah – Richard Bach uses fiction to uncover the ageless wisdom about life and truly living.