What if a frog had wings? What if hope is the most dangerous emotion? What if daily life itself is an illusion? These are just a few of the "what ifs" that actress and bestselling author Shirley MacLaine contemplates in her new book, What If.... Read an excerpt that introduces a lifetime of questions and speculations on a host of intriguing topics, from the everyday to the esoteric.

It's Good Friday 2013, and I'm wondering what's so "good" about it. It seems that everywhere I go things are falling apart or a mess: wind and rain are turning into superstorms; road rage is an epidemic, maniacs behind the wheel even here in Santa Fe; shootings on freeways in L.A.; emotional terrorism from people in positions of authority in airports. On a daily basis packages are lost, products are defective, repairs never work, workmen don't show up, computers crash, the cable goes out. Asteroids and meteors fall to Earth, and governments are too paralyzed to help their people or themselves. Everyone talks about money all the time and where to get "a deal." People answer questions with more questions. New Yorkers plow ahead down the sidewalks or in the streets, not blinking at crippling traffic or noticing the ear-shattering noise of seemingly endless construction. Angelinos build their fences higher and bury their heads deeper. Nobody seems to talk with clarity. I just want to stay at home either in Malibu or Santa Fe. What is happening? Is this daily trauma of a thousand small pecks a wake-up call telling us that we, the human race, may simply have gone too far for a cleanup?

It's actually become a bad comedy to me: nothing works. Our once-disciplined work ethic has evaporated, and many people seem to be just waiting for time off so they can indulge in another handful of painkillers. People complain about unemployment, but for the most part, they don't like what they do anyway.

Thank goodness that's not my story. In my line of work, I've gotten to be a whole host of other people and I've gotten paid pretty well for it. But the truth is I'm not unique. All of us are really a collection of assorted people. Each of us is a myriad of personalities and identities; most of us simply have not caught up to the richness and complexity of who we really are. I am beginning to believe we are our own best entertainment. To paraphrase that wise man named Shakespeare, we are simply actors in our own self-created plays, believing that the fiction that we fancy is real.