Is Reality Real?
We all, or least the great majority of us, know what reality is; we also know that it is often difficult to find and often in contest, but for the most part, whether we admit it or not, even to ourselves, we know what is not real. What is real is the truth and nothing but the truth without rationalization, and alternate definitions and explanations. It is a true thing or situation that exists or has existed, a real event that is happening or has happened. It is the hard, unvarnished facts, the elusive quarry of law and science, the real McCoy, the Truth: a real fact. We all know almost instinctively what reality is, it is what we live with, it is the basis of our technical civilization and we all seek it and use it. Often, however, we choose not to understand and work with it; but to find ways to get around it, to deny it, to escape from it, and to protect our own interests from it.
Actually, circumvention of truth is not something that human beings have invented, it is just an aspect of the existence of life that through our intelligence and interactive societies and cultures, we have come close to perfecting the manipulation and denial of truth. Lies and deception have evolved as an integral part of all life, plant and animal. Yeah, roll your eyes at that assertion, but it is, for want of a better definition, The Truth.
For example, a squirrel, a delightful little beast that lives among us, feeds largely on a seasonal food, acorns and other seeds and nuts, a diet of largess and scarcity. So to protect from want in the future, our little squirrel buries many acorns in the ground around its area. It “squirrels” away as much of the excess that it can hide away from the competition in preparation for times of scarcity. Now if you were to ask, “Mr. Squirrel, where did you hide those acorns?”, and if he could answer, of course you would expect him to say, “Huh, acorns?, I don’t see no acorns, they ain’t around here no more.” and then sit up, put his front paws on his fat little belly and say, “Gee, I’m hungry, you got any acorns on you?” But of course Mr. Squirrel wouldn’t do that, because, well, he’s a squirrel, not a human. His deceptions are instinctive behavior and not calculated lies and deceits.
And in another more direct and dire form of deception, there is the frogfish, a lump of a fish covered with fleshy flaps and appendages that disguise its form and that sits very, very still on rocky bottoms in the sea and looks for all the world like just another rock or sponge even it’s eyes disguised in its coloration. But it is not totally inert, it has a wiggly appendage, the illicium or “rod” developed from the first dorsal spine that has on its end an esca or “lure” that has the look and action of a wormlike small creature that a little fish would find quite appetizing. The great deception of the frogfish is telling the world, “Hey, I’m just a funny little lump grown-over with algae, but look, there’s a delightful little worm here that is yours for the taking, come and get it.” And when the little fish takes the lump up on that invitation and gets just close enough, a huge mouth explodes from the lump in 6 milliseconds, the mouth cavity enlarges in size by 12 times pulling the hapless little fish, who only wanted a little worm for dinner, into a huge maw of the eat and/or be eaten ecology of life on the reefs. Survival in nature is dependent on deception, stealth, secrecy, camouflage, and misdirection, as well as, if not more than speed, keen senses, and physical strength.
Even plants deceive. The plant world is replete with plants that pretend in color, form, secretions, and growth to attract insects, to effect pollination, induce insects to effect pollination, grow spines to prevent grazing, develop toxins to prevent or reduce growth of other plants and invasion of insects, and hide from predation through coloration and mimicry. Plants are the great deceivers in the role call of life on Earth, although some might argue, or observe, that humanity is narrowing the gap.
It is the human species, above all other life, that has the capacity to understand and manipulate reality. Not actually manipulate or change what is real, just the ability within a government, organization, and/or culture to decide what is and what is not reality, and to create a false reality that best serves them. Ever since humanity developed the capacity to say to a wandering tribe that entered their territory, “Just over that hill by the stream is a cave where you can live near fruit trees and woods with lots of deer and rabbits.”; neglecting to mention that that is also where the stream dries up and tigers and leopards live. Lies, deception, murder, theft, embezzlement, defamation, and all manner of betrayal and treachery are the threads that wind through the history of humanity. They are the threads of self interest, individual and family power, sexual conquest, money, and ego. Unfortunately, these threads are stronger and longer than the ties that bind us in compassion and charity. and, despite safeguards, they also wind through the human organizations that genuinely profess religion, compassion, government, industry, and health and welfare. But through it all, however disguised and suppressed, there is reality. The human capacity for deception and manipulation of reality may well be an evolutionary trait with immense survival significance.
Reality, as it applies to humanity, is nowhere as confused and lost as it is in religion. In religion, reality depends upon vague interpretations of history, story tellers, self interests, wishful thinking to the extreme, and evolving cultures through time and change. For example take the following two statements:
God is Great, Allahu Akba (in Arabic), which in Islam, is a foundational declaration of the accepted reality of the identity of God that is the basis for the Islamic faith.
Jesus Saves, is a foundational declaration of the accepted reality of Christianity that defines the belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ that is basis for the Christian faith.
These two religions, Islam and Christianity, in all their sects and divisions, make up the majority of people in the world today, so together they are very significant in the accepted reality of most people alive today. But they are very different in belief and culture. In practice and in their own definitions (unless there are two separate Gods), both statements can not define and describe reality. Only one (or none) can be real. But both claim in absolute terms, and with weapons, that their religion describes actual reality and the other, to be kind, simply does not agree and is in error. In terms of reality these (if other religions and rejection of religions is not considered) are the two options for describing and defining our reality. Which is a correct description of reality? The essence of reality demands that only one, or none, is an accurate basic characterizations of actual reality. But which is it? Wars have been and are being fought over the answer to this question.
But in analysis of the needs of society/government for micro and macro control of society, actual reality must be “managed” to suit the needs for continued existence of the overriding culture. This is a messy process, and actual reality plays a minor role. Politics is the operative factor. Proper attention must be given to religion, at the very least just acknowledgement that religion exists will often be all that is necessary. And even within organized religion, politics always trumps doctrine.
So what is reality? Does reality really exist? If it does, is it always the same? Or can it change depending on the needs and beliefs of people? Is reality the same now as it was before Homo sapiens evolved? Will reality change in the End Times? Will there be End Times? Does reality exist outside of religion? Basically though, this is the question. Is reality real? If you are younger than 50 years old, the future of humanity may depend on your answer.