THE FIGHT AGAINST ILLUSION
From: Common Sense How To Exercise It
Common Sense such as we have just described it, according to Yoritomo, is
the absolute antithesis of dreamy imagination, it is the sworn enemy of
illusion, against which it struggles from the moment of contact.
Common sense is solid, illusion is yielding, also illusion never
issues victorious from a combat with it; during a struggle illusion
endeavors vainly to display its subterfuges and cunning; illusions
disappear one by one, crusht by the powerful arms of their terrible
"The worship of illusion," says Yoritomo, "presents certain dangers to
the integrity of judgment, which, under such influence, falsifies the
comparative faculty, and sways decision to the side of neutrality.
"This kind of mental half-sleep is extremely detrimental to
manifestations of reason, because this torpor excludes it from imaginary
"Little by little the lethargy caused by this intellectual paralysis
produces the effect of fluidic contagion over all our faculties.
"Energy, which ought to be the principle factor in our resolutions,
becomes feeble and powerless at the point where we no longer care to feel
"The sentiment of effort exists no longer, since we are pleased to
resolve all difficulties without it.
"In this inconstant state of mind, common sense, after wandering a moment
withdraws itself, and we find that we are delivered over to all the
perils of imagination.
"Nothing that we see thus confusedly is found on the plane which belongs
to common sense; the ideas, associated by a capricious tie, bind and
unbind themselves, without imposing the necessity of a solution.
"The man who allows himself to be influenced by vague dreams," adds the
Shogun, "must, if he does not react powerfully, bid farewell to common
sense and reason; for he will experience so great a charm in forgetting,
even for one moment, the reality of life, that he will seek to prolong
this blest moment.
"He will renounce logic, whose conclusions are, at times, opposed to his
desires, and he will plunge himself into that false delight of awakened
dreams, or, as some say, day-dreams.
"Those who defend this artificial conception of happiness, like to
compare people of common sense to heavy infantry soldiers, who march
along through stony roads, while they depict themselves as pleasant
bird-fanciers, giving flight to the fantastic bearers of wings.
"But they do not take into account the fact that the birds, for whom they
open the cage, fly away without the intention of returning, leaving them
thus deceived and deprived of the birds, while the rough infantry
soldiers, after many hardships, reach the desired end which they had
proposed to attain, thus realizing the joys of conquest.
"There they find the rest and security, which the possessors of fugitive
birds will never know.
"Those who cultivate common sense will always ignore the collapses which
follow the disappearance of illusions.
"How many men have suffered thus uselessly!
"And what is more stupid than a sorrow, voluntarily imposed, when it can
not be productive of any good?
"Men can not be too strongly warned against the tendency of embellishing
everything that concerns the heart-life, and this is the inclination of
"The causes of this propensity are many and the need for that which
astounds is not the only cause to be mentioned.
"Indolence is never a stranger to illusion.
"It is so delightful to foresee a solution which conforms to our desires!
"For certain natures, stained with moral atrophy, it is far sweeter to
hope for that which will be produced without pain.
"One begins by accelerating this achievement, so earnestly desired, by
using all the will-power, and one becomes accustomed progressively to
regard desires as a reality, and, aided by indolence, man discounts in
advance an easy success.
"False enthusiasm, or rather enthusiasm without deliberate reflection,
always enters into these illusions, which are accompanied by persuasion
and never combatted by common sense.
"Vanity is never foreign to these false ideas, which are always of a
nature to flatter one's amour propre.
"We love to rejoice beforehand in the triumph which we believe will win
and, aided by mental frivolity, we do not wish to admit that success can
"The dislike of making an effort, however, would quickly conceal, with
its languishing voice, the wise words of common sense, if we would listen
momentarily to them.
"And, lastly, it is necessary to consider credulity, to which, in our
opinion, is accorded a place infinitely more honorable than it deserves."
And now the sage, Yoritomo, establishes the argument which, by the aid of
common sense, characterized these opinions.
According to him, "It does not belong to new and vibrating souls, as many
would have us believe.
"When credulity does not proceed from inveterate stupidity, it is always
the result of apathy and weakness.
"Unhappiness and misfortune attend those who are voluntarily feeble.
"Their defect deprived them of the joy derived from happy efforts. They
will be the prey of duplicity and untruth.
"They are the vanquished in life, and scarcely deserve the pity of the
conqueror; for their defeat lacks grandeur, since it has never been
aurioled by the majestic strength of conflict."
Following this, the Shogun speaks to us of those whom he calls the ardent
seekers after illusion.
One evening he related the following story: "Some men started off for an
island, which they perceived in the distance.
"It looked like a large, detached red spot, amid the flaming rays of the
setting sun, and the men told of a thousand wonders about this unknown
land, as yet untrodden by the foot of man.
"The first days of the journey were delightful. The oars lay in the
bottom of the boat untouched, and they just allowed themselves to drift
with the tide. They disembarked, singing to the murmur of the waters, and
gathered the fruits growing on the shores, to appease their hunger.
"But the stream, which was bearing them onward, did not retain long its
limpidity and repose; the eddies soon entrapped the tiny bark and dragged
the men overboard.
"Some, looking backward, were frightened at the thought of ascending the
river, which had become so tempestuous.
"Escaping the wreckage of the boat as best they could, they entrusted
themselves again to the fury of the waters.
"They had to suffer from cold and hunger, for they were far from shore,
and as, in their imagination, the island was very near, they had
neglected to furnish themselves with the necessities of life.
"At last, after the fatigues which forethought would have prevented, they
found themselves one evening, at sundown, at the base of a great rock,
bathed in the rosy light of the departing sun.
"This, then, was the island of their dreams.
"Tired out and exhausted from lack of food, they had only the strength to
lie down upon the inhospitable rock, there to die!
"The disappearance of the illusion, having destroyed their courage and
having struck them with the sword of despair, the rock of reality had
proved destructive of their bodies and souls.
"The moral of this story easily unfolds itself.
"If the seekers after illusions had admitted common sense to their
deliberations, they would certainly have learned to know the nature of
the enchanted isle, and they would have taken good care not to start out
on their journey which must terminate by such a deception.
"Would they not have taken the necessary precaution to prevent all the
delays attendant upon travels of adventure, and would they have entrusted
their lives to so frail a skiff, if they had acquired common sense?"
We must conclude, with Yoritomo, that illusion could often be transformed
into happy reality if it were better understood, and if, instead of
looking upon it through the dreams of our imagination, we applied
ourselves to the task of eliminating the fluid vapors which envelop it,
that we might clothe it anew with the garment of common sense.
Many enterprises have been considered as illusions because we have
neglected to awaken the possibilities which lay dormant within them.
The initial thought, extravagant as it may appear, brings with it, at
times, facilities of realization that a judgment dictated by common sense
can alone make us appreciate.
He who knows how to keep a strict watch over himself will be able to
escape the causes of disillusion, which lead us through fatal paths of
error, to the brink of despair.
"That which is above all to be shunned," said the philosopher, "is the
encroachment of discouragement, the result of repeated failures.
"Rare are those who wish to admit their mistakes.
"In the structure of the mind, inaccuracy brings a partial deviation from
the truth, and it does not take long for this slight error to generalize
itself, if not corrected by its natural reformer--common sense.
"But how many, among those who suffer from these unhappy illusions, are
apt to recognize them as such?
"It would, however, be a precious thing for us to admit the causes
which have led us to such a sorry result, by never permitting them to
"This would be the only way for the victims of illusion to preserve the
life of that element of success and happiness known as hope.
"Because of seeing so often the good destroyed, we wish to believe no
more in it as inherent in our being, and rather than suffer repeatedly
from its disappearance, we prefer to smother it before perfect
"The greater number of skeptics are only the unavowed lovers of illusion;
their desires, never being those capable of realization, they have lost
the habit of hoping for a favorable termination of any sentiment.
"The lack of common sense does not allow them to understand the folly of
their enterprise, and rather than seek the causes of their habitual
failures, they prefer to attack God and man, both of whom they hold
responsible for all their unhappiness.
"They are willingly ironical, easily become pessimists, and villify life,
without desiring to perceive that it reserved as many smiles for them as
the happy people whom they envy.
"All these causes of disappointment can only be attributed to the lack of
equilibrium of the reasoning power and, above all, to the absence of
common sense, hence we cannot judge of relative values.
"To give a definite course to the plans which we form is to prepare the
happy termination of them.
"This is also the way to banish seductive illusion, the devourer of
beautiful ambitions and youthful aspirations."
And, with his habitual sense of the practical in life, Yoritomo adds the
"There are, however, some imaginations which can not be controlled by the
power of reasoning, and which, in spite of everything, escape toward the
unlimited horizons of the dream.
"It would be in vain to think of shutting them up in the narrow prison
walls of strict reason; they would die wishing to attempt an escape.
"To these we can prescribe the dream under its most august form, that
"Each inventor has pursued an illusion, but those whose names have lived
to reach our recognition, have caught a glimpse of the vertiginous course
they were following, and no longer have allowed themselves to get too far
away from their base--science.
"Yes, illusion can be beautiful, on condition that it is not constantly
"To make it beautiful we must be its master, then we may attempt
"It is thus that all great men act; before adopting an illusion, as
truth, they have assured themselves of the means by the aid of which they
were permitted first to hope for its transformation and afterward be
certain of their power to discipline it.
"Illusion then changes its name and becomes the Ideal.
"Instead of remaining an inaccessible myth, it is transformed into an
entity for the creation of good.
"It is no longer the effort to conquer the impossible, which endeavor
saps our vital forces; it is a contingency which study and common sense
strip of all aleatory principles, in order to give a form which becomes
more tangible and more definite every day.
"We have nothing more to do with sterile efforts toward gaining an object
which fades from view and disappears as one approaches it.
"It is no longer the painful reaching out after an object always growing
more indistinct as we draw near it.
"It is through conscious and unremitting effort that we attain the
happy expression of successful endeavor and realize the best in life,
for slow ascension in winning this best leaves no room for satiety in
this noble strife.
"We must pity those who live for an illusion as well as those whose
imagination has not known how to create an ideal, whose beauty illumines
"It is the triumph of common sense to accomplish this transformation and
to banish empty reveries, replacing them by creating a desire for the
best, which each one can satisfy--without destroying it.
"The day when this purpose is accomplished, illusion, definitely
conquered, will cease to haunt the mind of those whom common sense has
illumined; vagaries will make place for reason and terrible disillusion
will follow its chief (whose qualities never rise above mediocrity) into
his retreat, and allow the flower of hope to blossom in the souls
already filled with peace--that quality which is born of reason and
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