Thursday, May 19, 2011

What is reality?

This is a question that people sometimes ponder. I have spoken to numerous people who have raised the very question with me. Often I have been told that we are all living an illusion and one day we will wake up and realize that this is a dream. Tragically, what some people might simply call a dream is a nightmare for many other people.

Martin Luther King is often quoted for his speech “I have a dream”. Evidently, King did not see the life that he was living to be a dream, and nor did the many people who suffered the injustices of segregation.

The people, who have told me that we are having a dream, in the main, were mostly young adults from middle-class western families who still lived at home and were trying to philosophize about the world and excuse their hedonism (irresponsible lifestyle of recreational sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll). True responsibility was something that they had not really encountered, as mum and dad were still paying the bills.

Responsibility can be pleasurable or painful. Some people enjoy authority and carry out their responsibilities with pleasure. On the other hand, there are people who find the responsibility of authority a painful experience.

Everyone has a degree of authority; even if it is only the personal authority of exercising one’s own volition (i.e. freewill). Exercising one’s freewill also brings with it responsibility.

Freewill means you and I have the authority to say “Yes” or “No” before we act. Freewill also means we ought to be responsible for our decisions, because we will have to give an account of our actions sooner or later. In other words, the reality of our decisions will affect us sooner or later.

Even though we have not really nailed what reality is yet, you are getting the picture when confronted with the idea that “the reality of our decisions will affect us sooner or later”.

People scoff at what Jesus said when speaking to the hypocrites and warning them of hell, saying their worm will never die. Essentially, he was saying the reality of their decisions would torment them.

To be tormented is the worst kind pain. It is a nagging pain. Unlike excessive physical pain that sends a person unconscious, nagging pain is like a throbbing toothache that is unrelenting.

People experience this sort of pain when they are anxious or feel guilty or are reminded of some loss that was important to them. This world is full of pain. Hence, when we feel pain, we know that we are real. Pain is a reality that we would prefer not to know.

Is reality pain? It is when you feel it. But true reality is right now. Reality is always now. If you have no loss, or grievance or problem, or discomfort, then you can enjoy the now, it never ends.

Sometimes the truth about our decisions are not fully realized at the moment we make them. We can be deluded by our own illusions of being someone who does not have to face the consequences of our decisions or actions. In this respect, our now may be a short-lived illusion. Jesus illustrates this in a couple of parables about rich men.

One parable speaks of a man storing up treasures on earth and then when the man decides to retire and enjoy his material wealth, reality hits him when he dies and has to give account of his soul.

Another is the story of the rich man who refused a beggar bread, but when he died the rich man was cast into hell, whereupon he sees the beggar enjoying the privileges of heaven. The rich man employs God to send someone to warn his brothers, but is told that if they do not believe what Moses said, they will not believe if anyone returns from the dead.

Reality is now and the truth is now. Even though you have not yet died physically, the mere fact that you are going to die really means that you are dead, because, if you had eternal life, death would never be an issue, for even if you were killed, it would only be temporary; just like when Jesus was killed on a crucifix. However. Jesus rose from the dead, because he had the power of an indestructible life.

The question is: Are you satisfied with your reality?

If you are not satisfied with your reality right now, it may be worth your while to take note of what Jesus said,"Those who seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness will be satisfied".

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