You wait a lifetime to meet someone who understands you, accepts you as you are. At the end, you find that Someone, all along, has been you.
What makes a great quote? It stops you in your tracks and causes you to wonder if it doesn’t relate to your own life. It can make you question your past actions—or change the way you view what you’re doing in the present and what you might do differently in future. Donald Shimoda has a ton of these thought-provoking kind of quotes which you’ll find sprinkled throughout this story.
You do not exist to impress the world. You exist to live your life in a way that will make you happy.
Shimoda is a fictional character in the book Illusions by Richard Bach, an author best known for his more famous (and I think less compelling) book Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I’ve read Illusions a half-dozen times and after bouncing around various travel bags, my paperback copy is now coming apart at the seams, held together by a thick rubber band.
Every person, all the events in your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.
The book revolves around a character identified only as Richard, who bears a great resemblance to the author. At some undefined time in the past, Richard is crisscrossing the country in his biplane. He works as a “barnstormer,” offering joy rides to local residents for cash. During his travels, he crosses paths with a fellow pilot, Donald Shimoda, who works the same trade. They quickly become friends.
Lean into your fears, dare them to do their worst and cut them down when they try. If you don’t, they’ll clone themselves, mushroom ‘til they surround you, choke the road to the life you want.
As they begin flying together from town to town, Shimoda reveals himself to be more than just a skilled pilot. He possesses preternatural powers and dispenses an unusual brand of wisdom, much of it related to challenging the status quo and dispelling the “illusions” we buy into during our lives.
Eventually, Shimoda is revealed to be “a messiah” who has lived many lifetimes. He shares his wisdom with Richard, a potential messiah-in-training. They have some fascinating conversations, though some of the most interesting insights come from a book within the book titled The Messiah’s Handbook, Reminders for the Advanced Soul, which Bach later published as a standalone book and is also quoted here.
If God looked directly into your eyes and said, “I command that you be happy in the world, as long as you live,” what would you do?
You’ve all learned something that someone somewhere needs to remember. How will you let them know?
So why has Donald Shimoda struck such a chord? Illusions is crisply written and a quick read, with just the right blend of story-telling and spiritual insights. Like another of my all-time spiritual favorites, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, it gets you to see the world from a fresh perspective and look at your own life in a new way.
There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.
The book also stresses an important point that we all might take to heart: Wisdom that is gained should not be coveted by its owners but needs to be shared with others. It explains Shimoda’s presence in Richard’s life; he has come from another plane of existence to pass along vital life lessons.
What you knew before you were born isn’t lost. You only hide it ‘til you’re tested, ‘til it’s time to remember. And sure enough, when you want, you’ll find some odd, funny, beautiful way to find it again.
Another reason this book stands out: There’s an ingenious story-telling device where the last page of the book, a handwritten note, brings you full circle back to the first page, something you have to see to fully appreciate. But what brings me back to Illusions again and again are the small truths scattered throughout the book that get you thinking about life and your place in it.
Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you’re alive, it isn’t.