It’s been a strange week.
The UK Government announced the move into Lockdown 2.0 (November 2020). Then had to revamp the key charts used to justify it.
And the 2020 American election vote counting is almost over . There are claims of widespread fraud, without evidence. As we know all projections, mail-in ballots and dogs are very dangerous.
Observing both these events you might wonder what’s happening. Is there is some kind of Reality Distortion Field at work?
If you’re not familiar with the term Reality Distortion Field (RDF), this extract from the Wikipedia entry explains it.
“The RDF was said by Andy Hertzfeld to be Steve Jobs’ ability to convince himself, and others around him, to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence. It was said to distort his co-workers’ sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and to make them believe that whatever impossible task he had at hand was possible. Jobs could also use the reality distortion field to appropriate others’ ideas as his own, sometimes proposing an idea back to its originator, only a week after dismissing it.”
It’s a bit like combining delusion, confirmation bias, and placebo.
All this reminded me of the introduction to The Magus – a novel by John Fowles, which I used as the metaphor to start my infamous “Consulting With Attitude” workshops.
Once upon a time there was a young prince who believed in all things but three. He did not believe in princesses, he did not believe in islands, he did not believe in God. His father, the king, told him that such things did not exist. As there were no princesses or islands in his father’s domains, and no sign of God, the young prince believed his father.
But then, one day, the prince ran away from his palace. He came to the next land. There, to his astonishment, from every coast he saw islands, and on these islands, strange and troubling creatures whom he dared not name. As he was searching for a boat, a man in full evening dress approached him along the shore.
‘Are those real islands?’ asked the young prince.
‘Of course they are real islands,’ said the man in evening dress.
‘And those strange and troubling creatures?’
‘They are all genuine and authentic princesses.’
‘Then God must exist!’ cried the prince.
‘I am God,’ replied the man in full evening dress, with a bow.
The young prince returned home as quickly as he could.
‘So you are back,’ said the father, the king.
‘I have seen islands, I have seen princesses, I have seen God,’ said the prince reproachfully.
The king was unmoved.
‘Neither real islands, nor real princesses, nor a real God exist.’
‘I saw them!’
‘Tell me how God was dressed.’
‘God was in full evening dress.’
‘Were the sleeves of his coat rolled back?’
The prince remembered that they had been. The king smiled.
‘That is the uniform of a magician. You have been deceived.’
At this, the prince returned to the next land, and went to the same shore, where once again he came upon the man in full evening dress.
‘My father the king has told me who you are,’ said the young prince indignantly. ‘You deceived me last time, but not again. Now I know that those are not real islands and real princesses, because you are a magician.’
The man on the shore smiled.
‘It is you who are deceived, my boy. In your father’s kingdom there are many islands and many princesses. But you are under your father’s spell, so you cannot see them.’
The prince pensively returned home. When he saw his father, he looked him in the eyes.
‘Father, is it true that you are not a real king, but only a magician?’
The king smiled, and rolled back his sleeves.
‘Yes, my son, I am only a magician.’
‘Then the man on the shore was God.’
‘The man on the shore was another magician.’
‘I must know the real truth, the truth beyond magic.’
‘There is no truth beyond magic,’ said the king.
The prince was full of sadness.
He said, ‘I will kill myself.’
The king by magic caused death to appear. Death stood in the door and beckoned to the prince. The prince shuddered. He remembered the beautiful but unreal islands and the unreal but beautiful princesses.
‘Very well,’ he said. ‘I can bear it.’
‘You see, my son,’ said the king, ‘you too now begin to be a magician.’
And now you might start making a list of the reality distorters in your life. Grab a coffee, take your time, it might take a while.