September 14, 2009

Illusion and Reality

We are surrounded by media of all sorts, and our artificial creations sometimes play tricks on us, momentarily confusing us about what is real and what isn’t. I offer three examples, but I don’t think these stories have any morals or cosmic significance.

1. While I was in the U.S. Army Pacific Band many years ago, I remember passing by a narrow room with an open door and seeing a fellow bandsman sitting in a chair that faced the doorway reading a copy of Sports Illustrated. The magazine’s cover had what must have been a life-sized picture of a football player’s helmeted head. Because the soldier was holding the magazine in front of his face with both hands, it appeared that the football player’s head was actually his. I did a double take as I walked by. I wonder how many people have had similar experiences.

2. When I’m seated in from of my computer, my cats are often somewhere nearby. More often than not, Eve, my Bombay, is lying atop my monitor. The big Sony CRT provides a warm place to sleep. If not there, she is usually climbing down from her perch to climb up on my shoulder. Ezekiel, my big tabby, can be almost anywhere, though a favorite spot seems to be lying on the papers in front of me on my desk—that is, on the papers I’m working with. Zeke is a classic brown tabby that looks a lot like millions of other tabbys. On the wall to my left, above a television, is my current calendar. This year it’s a cat calendar. (There have been exceptions, but the calendar usually sports either cats or trains.) The cat for September is a tabby that could be Zeke’s twin. The cat is sitting on its haunches and looking at the camera. Except for its size, the calendar photo looks like a real Zeke, and I find that, from time to time, I get the feeling that Zeke is above the TV looking at me. I turn my head left only to realize that “Zeke” is just an illusion.

3. A somewhat different illusion presented itself the other day. My church choir recently sang the Fauré requiem, and we are now rehearsing the Duruflé requiem. Most choir members, including myself, have a CD containing the two works. I have been listening to the CD in the car. On this particular day, I took my CD out to the car, as I had taken it inside to listen to the Duruflé and sing along with my score. I started the car and immediately heard the Fauré coming from the sound system, though the tone quality was rather poor. Was there something wrong with the CD? I then realized I had the CD on the seat next to me, or so I thought. I opened the jewel box, and, sure enough, the disk was in it. When pushing the eject button on the sound system produced no result, I realized what had happened. When I had parked the car, I had been listening to a West Virginia radio station, the reception for which in Pittsburgh is spotty. West Virginia Public Radio just happened to be playing the Fauré requiem when I started the car, and the tone quality was poor because reception was poor where the car was parked. I hadn’t heard the CD playing at all.

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