Today's task continues our review of words and of the effects that words have on our lives and on the lives of others. We consider the role of illusions created and perpetuated with words as we think further about how words influence and may even control our lives.
Think about the world as a huge carnival with merry-go-rounds, tilt-a-whirls, flashing lights, loud music, and countless tempting carnival booths. Each of the carnival booths creates an illusion that if we knock over three bottles or hit a dartboard with enough darts that we will walk away with a big teddy bear that has been sitting on the shelf for months since no one has ever won it. Every day the carnival show of life continues as we are bombarded with words and images on television, Facebook, Twitter, emails, billboards, newspapers, electronic phones and tablets, and countless other social media sources. Or we may be approached by a neighbor, a friend, a religious leader, someone we have reason to trust, who has a deal for us "that is just too good to refuse." Infomercials have created an alternative form of entertainment for some who remain entranced with the catch words "Wait! There's more!" and thereby keep our charge cards charging and keep the flow of packages coming to our front door.
Advertisers are hired for their clever skills in influencing us to believe that what they are tempting us to buy is the best, the biggest, the tastiest, the healthiest, the most wonderful, and the most enjoyable beer, soda, hamburgers, restaurant meals, or sandwiches, and that we must absolutely have countless other products. Pharmacies tout drugs that perform miracles, accompanied by pages of legal warnings about possible and horrendous side effects. Beauty aids will make us beautiful, get rid of unwanted hair, make us happy, and will attract legions of handsome men or beautiful women the instant we apply the deodorant, face cream, or body lotion being touted in the ads. Scantily clad women, an advertising illusion created by Coca-Cola in the 1920s, if my history is correct, successfully inspire us to buy everything from the latest hamburger to the most wonderful cable television service. Family hour no longer is restricted to tasteful and discreet television ads as the masters of illusion seek to inspire us to satisfy every possible want and to create new wants and absolute needs where none existed before.
So then we buy the hamburger that appears three inches thick in the TV ad and it turns out to be a flat little pancake. We buy the large box of cookies with pictures of large ginger snaps on the outside and find it only half full of little tiny ginger snaps. We buy the expensive deodorant and, alas, no handsome men or beautiful women are standing in line to greet us. Or we buy the most tasty and preferred brand of beer and despite buying two six-packs, find no one else around ready to drink it with us. We may succumb to the temptations of a get-rich-quick scheme with visions of a new Lexus in our driveway and then discover soon that the only things we have accomplished are to deplete our bank account and to put a new Lexus in the driveway of the person who enticed us to try his or her scheme.
Words and images can create powerful and continuous illusions. Such words and images may provide a compelling reason for us to try a new product, to buy more of this, to invest our precious savings in a double-your-money illusion, or to succumb to any of the daily bombardment of carnival barkers that want our money without necessarily giving us what we really need or what we think we are buying.
We must, therefore, spend our money with caution, invest our funds only after careful research, seek alternative sources of information, and keep our feet squarely on the floor as we look at illusions directly in the eye and tell them that we have seen through them, that we are not going to risk our money or our time on something that may be only a fraud like the Wizard of Oz. We must always be prepared to ask, "What information is missing here?", or "What else do we need to know about this?", or "what would a qualified financial expert have to say about this scheme". We make too many mistakes when we trust the wrong people, when we assume that we are greater experts than we actually are, and when we think that it is unnecessary to check and double check before we venture our money and our life's savings.
Task Number 134: Beware the words of an illusion. Take your time to investigate and do your own research. No deal worth doing has to be done this very second when someone tells you it will pass into eternity to your everlasting disappointment if you don't act now. Be cautious of advertising claims and of fictitious carnival-like enticements. Keep going, enjoy the peace of mind that comes from common sense and careful cautions, and enjoy your life. The Curmudgeonly Professor.