What Is Real?

“Reality isn’t the way you wish things to be, nor the way they appear to be, but the way they actually are.”
~ Robert J. Ringer

Reality. What a concept. Lost in all of the holy books that we hold sacred in this world is the idea of reality. Accept Christ as your true savior and you will go to heaven (Christianity). Follow the Pillars and you will be rewarded at the Resurrection (Islam). Live righteously and you will spend your afterlife close to God (Judaism). Follow the eightfold path and you will transcend suffering (Buddhism). Your actions determine which of the four levels of afterlife you repair to (Hinduism). Respect all living beings as you respect yourself and you will achieve omniscience (Jainism).  Live in harmony with the world and you will have a long and happy life (Taoism). For every religion there is a different variation of rewards and consequences.The irony is that each one is absolutely sure that it is the correct version of the afterlife. And yet which of us has never had a moment in the middle of a crisis where our belief was shaken? So what is real?

“Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one.”
~ Albert Einstein

Really, Albert? Really?

Reality is the only thing that we can have a firm view of and control over. Our belief systems be what they may. The righteous Christian can believe that he is going to heaven, just as a practicing Buddhist can know that she will transcend suffering with right action. Gurus, holy men, and positive psychologists all have a special formula for you to receive your desired effect. Heard of the “Law of Attraction?” But in the end, all we have is this moment that we are in right now. I could get electrocuted while sitting at this laptop as I type the next line. If so, I will go out doing what I love to do. Thinking, seeking and writing.

Lock: “Goddamnit, Morpheus! Not everyone believes what you believe!”
Morpheus: “My beliefs do not require them to.”
~ THE MATRIX RELOADED

In this scene from THE MATRIX RELOADED, Lock and Morpheus are in the same room. They share the desire to protect Zion from the attack of the machines. They also love the same woman. Yet they are diametrically opposed in their beliefs of what the solution should be. This is an excellent, if somewhat extreme, example of what we all go though on a day today basis. Our individual reality.

Maybe this is a better example. You and I go out to dinner. We are seated in a booth where I can see the bar and you can see the kitchen. I watch as the bartender expertly mixes a cocktail. You watch the cooks arguing with each other in the kitchen. I order us some drinks and as we toast, I distract you. Your smile returns.

As we continue to drink and chat, I notice an old friend walking through the door. I get up to greet him, leaving you to your unimpeded view of the kitchen chaos. As I return, I comment on your sour expression.

Our food arrives. We have each ordered our favorite food on the menu. It is perfectly cooked. Yet mine somehow tastes better than yours. You complain that yours is not as good as usual. The only variable in our experience was the side of the table that we were seated on. My experience was totally positive. I dined with a beautiful friend, I greeted someone from the past, I had a great cocktail and a splendid meal. Your experience was less than perfect because of that variable.

This happens to us every day.

I walk out the door and hop on the bus. My experience is completely different from the person I sit next to. It might ruin her day when I take the seat next to her. I hope not, but I’m sure that it happens.

I am one of three hundred people who walk into the convenient store for a cup of coffee. We will all get the same mix of coffee grounds and water. Yet mine might be too hot, your might be too cold, his might be too strong, hers might be to weak. It’s all a matter of personal taste. It is our personal reality. Three hundred  different people sharing the same experience with different results.

“But if you really thoroughly question everything, if you pursue your questions long enough and honestly enough, there will come a time when truth wallops you upside the head and you will know.” ~ Brad Warner  – HARDCORE ZEN

The only thing we know is the thing that happens in front of us on a minute by minute basis. Even the past becomes fuzzy and subject to interpretation. That is why it is so important to BE HERE NOW. Live in the moment. It is only if you are aware of what is happening to you RIGHT NOW, that you can take advantage of all the possibilities at your fingertips. What happens if you plan for tomorrow and tomorrow never comes? What if the world ends and we all are reborn on another planet in another galaxy? What if we do all end up in heaven? Or what if we just disappear into a void? What do you think about that?

“Be lamps unto yourselves.” ~ Buddha’s last words to his followers.

In other words, shine the light on your deeds and actions. Allow no one else to dictate your reality. Even your parents or your one true love. Worst case scenario, make it a conscious compromise that allows you to keep as much of yourself as possible. If you subjugate your hopes and dreams to the whims of another, there will come a time when you have to make a painful break. Or live forever in misery. Don’t bow to authority. Better to become your own authority, willingly live a righteous life by your own standards. Only you can live your life in this very moment.

So I say, kiss the one you love. Hug your child. Listen to your favorite song. Make a snow angel. Eat that bowl of ice cream. Do a polar bear swim. Throw the frisbee to your dog. Meet a friend for dinner. Read your favorite author. Write an epic poem.

Just Live. And be aware of that you are Living.

Until next time,

Your Brother T

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