Moving to Freedom, .Org

Reality Is Make Believe

antarctic, public domain from project gutenberg

What if George W. Bush’s people were right? What if reality is whatever we want it to be? We snorted and countered with “reality-based communities,” but I wonder…

Richard Bach created his own interpretation of reality, and many of us loved it.

“Listen!” he called across the gulf between us. “This world? And everything in it? Illusions, Richard! Every bit of it illusions! Do you understand that?” There was no wink, no smile; as though he was suddenly furious with me for not knowing long ago.

None of this is real.

Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion. Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

But in the end, there is a real world, isn’t there? We have to work and make a living, and it’s usually unglamorous. There’s so much unpleasant work to be done. Someone has to clean the toilets. We cling so hard to this belief, myself as much as the next person.

The practical difficulty of paying the bills makes it hard to understand or remember that reality is just an illusion we’ve agreed to believe in. If we had eyes to see, we could do something we love. We could let go, and trust that everything will be okay.

Maybe the robots will end up doing all the dirty and tedious jobs, and leave us free to pursue our artistic visions, or watch soap operas all day, or whatever we want to do. But as you might have noticed, there is a lot of resistance to the idea of doing whatever you want. Today, because people feel resentful at being coerced into supporting the “moochers,” and in the future, I imagine because the ones who own the robots will still feel resentful.

So what are we to do? Can we choose our own, more agreeable reality?

Perhaps it only works for a few people in power, a small privileged class, a few lucky artists to be allowed to create their own reality. For the rest of us, we have to be content with moving the stones into place for the great pyramid. Our toils will only serve to contribute to the monuments of the people that matter. We don’t build pyramids anymore, but we have our stadiums. We buy the baubles that pay for the yachts.

It plays out at all levels. We may not be a job creator, but we are grateful for whatever station we’ve climbed to, or were born in. We regret, but are relieved we don’t have to suffer in the mines below.

I prefer a different reality. I will imagine it and then live in it, and it will be real enough for me.

Much of our reading, much of our labor, seems mere waiting: it was not that we were born for. Any other could do it as well, or better. So little skill enters into these works, so little do they mix with the divine life, that it really signifies little what we do, whether we turn a grindstone, or ride, or run, or make fortunes, or govern the state.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson