A Delusional State
What would you do if you had a friend who was imagining things? I don’t know if I’m talking about hallucinations or daydreams or delusions. I don’t really know the difference. I just mean that they believe so ardently that a thing exists that they shape their lives around it, but it simply isn’t there. What would you do? What should I do?
Let’s begin with the proverbial “I have a friend…”
I actually have more than one friend who believes something is real that doesn’t actually exist and I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t mean that they are struggling with issues of faith or are conspiracy theorists or have specific ideas about intelligent life from other planets. This is different. My friends see a thing within the world and interact with it as if it is manifest in physical reality, but it isn’t.
This thing is ever present for these friends of mine. They’ve experienced it in remote places on their travels in the world and they’ve seen it right in the middle of lanes of traffic in big cities. Even when they aren’t within site of it, it’s with them and it has a profound impact on everything they do. Its presence determines what they will eat for breakfast in the morning and what clothes they will wear for the day. It determines where they go, when and how they get there. Some of my friends have even decided what kind of car to buy just because it exists.
I think my biggest worry though is that it is beginning to affect the way that my friends treat people. It’s affecting their relationships. I’ve seen them act ridiculously toward others. Sometimes they embarrass me in public saying the things they do. Even that wouldn’t be so bad, but they’ve become violent too. I don’t know what to do. People shouldn’t be subject to poor, unfair treatment, especially over a thing that isn’t really there.
I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve heard that when people are suffering from delusions or hallucinations or simply don’t have a grip on reality that it isn’t good to strip the reality away immediately or entirely. I’m told that the things they’re imagining might serve some real purpose even though they don’t exist – that the person’s sense of security or agency or hope is somehow served by the existence of the thing even if it’s only imagined. I don’t want to swipe the rug from under their feet, but it’s starting to get pretty dangerous both for my friends and those they encounter. That’s why I’ve decided to go for it, to name the hard truth and see what happens. So here goes:
My friends, borders aren’t real.
Those invisible lines on the ground aren’t real, they’re imagined.
We’ve imagined that they provide security – so much that we actually manifest them into stone, brick, mortar, razor wire – but the security isn’t real. The world is more violent because of them, not less.
We imagine they foster strong identity, but they don’t. They turn diversity into homogeneity. They create “us” and “them”.
I know it seems like they keep the bad guys out, but they don’t. They keep good, kind, people in desperate situations out. They turn people willing to do anything for the wellbeing of their families into “illegals” and refugees into a “nuisance”.
I doubt we’ll be able to see entirely through our delusion any time soon, and perhaps in some ways we need it. We feel a sense of structure that could descend into chaos without borders, at least for now. Isn’t it time though, that we begin to try to imagine what the world would be like without borders? Where refugees are friends rather than fodder for international politics? Where opportunity springs up everywhere? Where “illegals” isn’t a word? Isn’t it time we begin to imagine the real world?