“REALITY”

July [2] 2008

With age, hair grows thin and truth thinner.  You eat less but gain more, you rise higher but fall harder.  You are semi-literate in popular culture and your children are smarter than you. You require reading glasses, post-lasik.  It’s how it goes, you’re powerless to oppose it.  Sex and death remain your constants, but their order of importance will vacillate.  You crave the comfort foods of preadolescence–cheese and baloney.  Adventure is going outside for a walk, or perhaps, shopping at Sears for cedar hangers.  Happiness is a virtual colonoscopy. How you ask?  How could it sink to this? The answer is quite simple: because of reality.

Take a look—reality is responsible for some very bad things: country music, political lobbyists, tainted spinach, reality tv,  and so forth.  Oddly today, it is no longer fashionable to stand up against reality, give IT a piece of your mind, or ruffle its feathers—that is, not unless you wish to suffer the brown stain of cynicism like a very bad mole.  As we know, cynics are those who never made it to the dance and resent the fortunate ones who did.  They are champions of the re-invented past, and bear long-standing agendas for reality–like their resentment of smaller nations, men’s yoga shoes, or perhaps, Al Gore’s Oscar, or Richard Gere’s Dharma talks—and so, endlessly they complain.  George Carlin, may he rest in peace, was not a cynic as a comedian. Big difference. For example, global warming and economic collapse don’t strike terror in the cynic’s heart so much as AGITATE his hatred of the present, unleashing his commitment to whining about what is like a red badge of courage.  By the same token, one must not lose sight of the fact that cynics are themselves hard-core “believers in reality,” and consequently, carry little weight in the larger scheme of things. Their confidence in the past masks a pig-headed stupidity that is blinding.

 

Not What IT Seems

Yes time speeds up with age, it’s true, but not so dramatically as the perception of NOVELTY winds down to a crawl, distilling out those long mental lapses that once speckled your passage through the magic kingdom of “youth,” the age when hormones and fantasies ruled the roost.  No longer do Star Wars trailers portend hope. Why, you ask?  Why the all denial and disorientation?  Why give to youth all the fun and the fanfare?  Plain and simple: because of reality.

Reality is the secondary gain of failed imagination.  Young children and creative geniuses find it uninteresting; it suffers a deficiency of wonder and absence of ancestry, yet based on the modern “voice of reason” this same “reality” is without rival the most protected explanatory principle of our times.  Simply by invoking its name, “It” explains why things are the way they are (and why they cannot be otherwise). Why do we eat?  Because of reality.  Why do we fight?  Because of reality.  Why do we snorkle?  “Because of…” (Not so fast young lady…)

 

We’ve Heard It All Before

Reality is a very old story, a virtual feeding tube, to the homilies of human limitation and disappointment.  Ingenuously, the “nothing new under the sun” mentality—the “I’ve seen it all before” mentality– utterly soaks in THE RAYS of time-honored, let’s take a nap, reality.  “Why it’s always been this way.”  You say. “Nothing ever changes.“ “Why fight the inevitable?“  Reality is chief.  It wins in the end. “NEXT…”

Moreover, when the time has finally arrived, and you must make your passage to the other side, you (who have fought all the battles and taken all the abuse) cannot even cash in on the fruits of your hard labors– say to purchase a small townhouse and a few lousy season tickets to The Garden. “What’s the big deal?” you say. “Why the hell not?” The answer should by now by obvious: because of reality.

 

“God”

In this age of material verification whether macro, micro, or nano, “reality” has replaced God as the final arbiter of truth, the big cheese, and ontologically, this “upgrade” may actually be an improvement compared to the “first designer” approach. In the wake of His recent “retirement” (disappearance due to death) reality’s stature in explaining all that is (and can ever be) has risen to nearly absolute, infallible, omnipresence heights—but (and this is where the comparison ends), in some circles It now has become its own brand of absolutism, and this should frighten us.  “Reality” is now considered “potentially effable(knowable),” albeit, in the registries of sophisticated instruments of science that you and I are too dumb to decipher.

“We now see ‘It’ up close and personal,” boast high-ranking priests of New Science, from the sacred chambers of their molecular neurobiology centers.  And with respect once only deferred to Him, The Big Guy, we now deferred to It (without gray beard or home in the sky); today, every moring we awaken to It, plan our days by It, adapt our instincts to It, set our goals within Its limits, and indoctrinate our kids to Its laws. What a country!

Curiously, the New God of “reality” is conceptualized as existing completely outside of our experience.  Bummer. “The truth is out there” the empirical theologians insist; It’s composed of molecules, truisms, and physical laws that don’t much pertain to us personally, (As it turns out, We are merely “Its” accidental hosts and “epIphenomena”).  Oddly, few seem bothered by our demotion to secondary, “side-effect status.”   If it’s the way it is in “reality” then we’re good with it.  In this scheme of things, we are more like the legal disclaimers obscured in the small print of prescription bottles for pain relief.  “Not responsible for adverse effects due to non-compliance, contraindication, or misuse.  May produce side effects of nausea, headache, and loss of identity.”

Of course, in the New Arrangement, “reality” can hardly be blamed for our stripped-down feeling when it comes to personal relevance and authority.  Nor is there much we ourselves can be expected to do about Its lack of effectiveness in human affairs.  Our opinions are excluded from its laboratory, and reality Itself is nearly oblivious to our movements much like the family cat staring vacantly past the live television screen, our subjective experience doesn’t really exist from its side.   {Essay continued in REALITY 2.0, see Ideas]

© ART ROSENGARTEN, PH.D., All Rights Reserved.  

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