Being real is very challenging – are you quite mad?

Monday, 20. February 2012

Most people would agree that the closer you come to reality the more effective you will be: the more alignment there is between what you perceive and what is, the more precise, subtle, timely and accurate will be any interventions you make in the world.

If this is true it flatly contradicts one widespread notion that people hold about their lives, viz that each of us has “my own reality“, “my truth“, “a right to my opinion”. You think you believe this when your own views are challenged but clearly you do not when you compare yourself with someone who is mentally impaired, with a small child, with a horse – all of which are implicitly assumed to be less in contact with the real reality than I am.

Do you see how important this contradiction is? Are you able to entertain the possibility that you could be more real, in better correspondence with the actuality of what is happening in the world?

The commonest way for anyone to avoid the implications of this inflexible truth is to split the real world up into zones. Hence we have financial reality (economics), psychological reality (a vast and treacherous zone with innumerable sub zones), spiritual reality (a lovely catch-all to avoid making accurate judgments about almost anything in life), political and social realities (in defence of who we are and what we do and what is done) and, most damaging of all, the divisions of a zone called ethics into so many subsystems of tolerance, judgement, prejudice and self-aggrandisement that we can almost no longer use the word “good” without a cynically half-held breath of contempt.

Once you start using these sorts of categories (and believe me you do) you have strayed from the reality into my reality and everything you say is totally invalid. It is nothing more than a complex defence of your own position, your behaviours, your omissions, your mistakes, misjudgements and cruelties.

If you do not know this you know absolutely nothing at all.

If you do not attempt on an on-going basis, all day and every day, to wrestle yourself free from the insane insularity of my reality towards an imperfect understanding and harmony with the reality then you are certainly a primitive life form. We will never get there, any of us, but we owe it to each other to try.

And the most important aspect of the one reality in which we all live? Oddly enough, though we strive for objectivity as a general goal we conversely must deploy subjectivity to find the truest and most important aspect of all reality: our empathy, our understanding, our imaginative reaching towards, our love of… other beings.

Sorry, but you cannot have your own reality. You share it with everyone else.

7 Responses to “Being real is very challenging – are you quite mad?”

  1. john paul Says:

    Hmm…start with first principles (or from zero, always), speak last and you’ll know that you’ll be the least phoney (or the most authentic), since truth is often made in the room…not the best of techniques, I admit – since you’ll either have communal silence or be listening to last weeks truth…

  2. Vincent Says:

    It takes me a while to tune into this but when I do, I like it very much. I can see how ‘my reality’ can be a label for an insane insularity. But I can also see that my reality is all I’ve got. Without wrestling myself free from it, I can somehow sink deeper into the essence of my personhood into an awareness which may be shared, at a deep and perhaps unconscious level, by the whole of creation. that is my take on what you may mean by the (one) reality

    Certainly I know that the person who is mentally impaired through severe brain damage may be more in touch with the one reality than I am. I have had the great privilege of witnessing it, at Mustardseed in Jamaica, a Catholic community which gathers up children abandoned in the ghetto, whether at birth or later, who have severe congenital abnormalities. And I believe that creatures much lower in evolution than a horse may live in a state of bliss that no mammal could ever experience. Of course these are untestable beliefs, of no value in themselves.

  3. RealSteveHolmes Says:

    Yes, “my reality” ,must be of vital importance from moment to moment, but what happens when we get the distance to step apart from it and begin to see it critically (or appreciatively, or both)?

  4. Vincent Says:

    Step apart from it to where?

  5. ktln Says:

    Beautifully written. I am largely on board with this. ‘Each to his own,’ is a saying that causes me to turn away. It’s like saying ‘lalalala, I’m not listening’, and it’s an invalidation of whatever you just said in articulation of a shared reality. Sometimes I don’t feel sympathy but I may feel empathy, sometimes I feel sympathy but not empathy. But no fashionably enlightened soul will admit to feeling sympathy these days it seems. It has to be empathy every time. But this is claimed so often, I feel sometimes it’s presumptious. Empathy is to feel something what another feels, not just know it. It is a physical response through emotion. The stigmata is one of the most extreme manifestations of empathy I can think of, illustrating that self preservation demands a degree of separation from trying to fully share another person’s experience. Separation, but not severance. People who claim the freedom as a right to do their ‘own thing’ don’t know what they are talking about. There is no action or inaction that does not have consequences for others, that, as you say, is an inescapable reality. I think we all wander off the path into our imaginative realities, no harm done, it nourishes and rests us, but the pathways of our individual adventures loop sooner or later back to the main pathway, some perhaps more circuitously than others.

  6. RealSteveHolmes Says:

    As far as I am concerned we are all in the same room and we can decide whether to ignore that by staying in our own heads or to reach out towards other people and share with them.

  7. ktln Says:

    Yes. My father was a very nice, dutiful but elusive, highly intelligent man who chose to stay in his own head as much as possible, even though it was not always nice for him in there. He said once he preferred his dreams, and perhaps he could not help it. He had bi-polar disorder from the age of 17, and was often tired, so he avoided taking on the reality of other people as his way of coping. But when he was in the same room, he used to say things that would hit a bulls eye, and I used to wonder at it, that though he had been absent, and not been watching, he all the same, had seen, or at least, somehow seen what was needful to that moment. It was his tragedy, he needed so very much time NOT in the same room.

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