Reclaiming Reality

Pondering the imponderable, as if a fish could explain the meaning of water – we all tend to assume our many layers of presupposed perception of reality is somehow a sufficient explanation of reality. Which is not to suggest that the nature of reality is inscrutable, but rather that it requires a more humble expectation of how what is real might be revealed. Everything that occurs has a cause and effect catalyst underpinning each event – making it a matter of discernment when trying to identify possible causes . . . by placing it in context.  

For instance, if a four year old boy tells us he’s wrestling an alligator, we likely smile at his imaginative sense of play. But if an eighty year old man tells us he’s wrestling an alligator, we rightly become concerned that he might be suffering from dementia. In this way, the unreality of the alligator scenario when placed in context, reveals a clearer understanding of what is actually occurring. But this is a simple example of how context can give us clues – but sometimes the clues are far more complex in the way they are embedded in the context . . . because like icebergs – we all have far more beneath the surface than can be seen.

Consider the psychological dysfunction of codependency — when a child of a drug addict or alcoholic parent is raised in the alternate reality created when shame, anger, and hurt, invariably shapes that child’s default perception of reality. Then extrapolate that out over every relationship that child will ever have as a grownup – what framing of reality do you imagine gets promulgated from such a person? Now consider how we are all broken in similar ways, each of us shaped by our own stories, interacting with the brokenness of others – is it any wonder we might be tempted to imagine a reality that better affirms the life we’d rather live?

Then there is the modern notion that our consciousness is nothing more than brain chemistry reacting to electric current – an idea meant to underscore that a materialist universe is the sum total of reality. But ironically, this idea ends up creating the opposite psychologically effect – where people begin to imagine themselves as disembodied beings who can be equally at home in a virtualized environment as being in their bodies. And this is how we become the avatars our devices have begun to portray us as – in a reality we can simply put on and take off like a set of clothes. Until more and more we become hollowed out by the vanity of our own self-declarations . . . pretending that our actual bodies can be redefined as being whatever we say they are.

This is how a culture ends up ontologically adrift, with everyone speaking their own truth, living in their own reality . . . expecting the rest of us to conform to that reality. How does such an ethos not create social dissonance? Which is why we need to reclaim reality from this deconstructed milieu and we need to celebrate the immutable transcendence of our Christian faith in ways that becomes an invitation to return to the sacredness of their own existence as being made in God’s image. For this is the deepest truth of our existence, that allows us to accept each other as both broken and valuable beyond all measure . . . a perception of reality that invariably fosters forgiveness and redemption.

Remember – “love is what designed you for something more”


More Real

The rationally-minded rely upon order and pattern, looking for hints and clues, so as to coherently frame an understanding of existence – ever assuming that such an external context will render them a tenable explanation for what is real. While others choose a more existential approach, counting on their experiential intuition to make sense of what reality means to them. But regardless of the approach, whether guided by an internal instinct or an external calculation, each one depends on its own process of perception to interpret the ubiquitously persistent questions of how and why we exist — each one, to some extent, convinced that their perception of reality . . . is reality.

This is the predictable process of cognition and emotion, where everything is evaluated on the subjective continuum between the extemporaneous and the over intellectualized – a span that exemplifies the ceaseless struggle of our hearts and minds to be at peace with our own existence. But what if the peace we seek is beyond the limited scope of what the heart and mind can apprehend? What if there were a more primal longing within us,  capable of reconciling what is, with what ought to be – something that wasn’t merely real . . . but was actually more real?

C.S. Lewis spoke of a distinction between what was merely real and what was really real — a distinction that regards the metaphysical (spiritual) as an essential dimension to understanding our own existence. But not as a dimension juxtaposed to the material world; instead one that was always meant, by design, to be in harmony with it. It was in our banishment from the Garden, where we first experienced the crisis of the disharmony of our own existence, because our understanding of ourselves and the world we live in had been broken. So we weren’t evicted from the Garden as part of some arbitrary penalty for breaking some arbitrary rule, rather it was about losing our capacity for living in the full dimensional paradise of Eden.

I have officiated a number of weddings, where I’ve usually shared a brief homely, making a distinction between marriage as a legal transaction, with marriage as sacrament. My point isn’t to diminish the legal aspect of marriage, rather it is to point to the far deeper reality of marriage as sacrament. I point out that those attending haven’t come to merely bear witness to some contractual arrangement sanctioned by the state, but instead to bear witness to the miracle of God binding together two people as one, so that they might share in the joy and hope of believing that God’s love has the power to make something new.

I think of the passage of scripture that likens us to jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7-18), that reaches its crescendo in verse 18 – “. . . as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” The deeper truth, the real reality, all the things that out last and out shine the superficial concerns of our day to day – they all abide in God’s presence, entreating us all to come and remember who we really are . . . for this is the place where everything is more real.

. . . and it’s all there — just past sight