Smoke and Lights


It's just an illusion and that's OK.

It’s just an illusion and that’s OK.

I was driving home from campus the other day and it was late enough in the evening that I decided to take the highway. Avoiding rush hour is one of the (few) advantages to working/studying long hours.

I was headed east to the place where two highways intersect. It was dark and there was a pair of searchlights sweeping the sky, their beams made visible in a haze of vapor in the air. If I tried to imagine what “the bright lights of Hollywood” looked like, it would be something like what was in front of me in that moment.

It was inspiring. It was dramatic. It was an illusion.

I wasn’t in Hollywood. I was on a freeway. To my right, running along the south side of the highway, was a wide industrial corridor that ran alongside the LA river. I knew from experience that this area featured some of the least glamorous parts of modern industrial life: meat packing plants, shipping depots, warehouses, recycling and waste management, and so on. I could see the Hoffy sausage factory was still hard at work even this late at night sending a plume of steam into the air in a dense cloud. The cloud was drifting across the highway and was catching the lights on top of the Spearmint Rhino gentleman’s club.

This illusion of grandeur was brought to me by sausages and strippers.

It would be easy to get all cynical about how dreams are a meaningless fantasy built on grinding industry and sleaze: meat-markets in both senses of the word. Seeing behind the illusion is certainly the quickest way to become disillusioned. On the other hand, dreams aren’t supposed to be reality: it is in their very nature to be illusory. The point of dreams is to transcend ordinary life and, ideally, to inspire us. As long as we are inspired, it really doesn’t matter whether the dream is built out of the bright lights of Hollywood or out of sausage steam and strip club lights.

So in the end, I don’t mind the illusion. Sometimes it’s more important to understand the truth on the surface of something than the actuality beneath it. I was inspired either way and there are more hot dogs in the world. Really there’s no down side.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on March 27, 2015.

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