My son made me laugh. He was creating his own reality in Minecraft which is, for the uninitiated, a sort of video Lego with knobs on. I was watching him harvest the sugar cane he had grown, and I asked him why he had grown so much. He told me he could cut it down and make it into paper. “oh” I replied, “and why do you want to make paper?”
“So I can make lots of books and build a library”
This from a boy who never reads anything.
Why is it that reality is often different from our imagined lives, our dreams and aspirations? Is it that we wish too high, or is it that we live too low?
Later that evening I was watching “The X Factor”. I am not proud, but neither am I ashamed. As a study of human behaviour it’s fascinating but often hugely dispiriting and a little tragic. I have lost count of the number of times that I have heard eager and hopeful contestants declare that their lives will only have meaning should they find themselves progressing in the competition. One poor soul told us that she would only have belief in herself if Gary Barlow believed in her. For ten bonus points, what’s wrong with that sentence?
When we refuse to face reality we do nothing more than store up pain and difficulty. True, we may put it off until tomorrow, but tomorrow does eventually arrive.
I don’t advocate sitting motionless and allowing life to engulf us. In fact, the ignorance of reality is effectively doing just that. Once faced and accepted it is possible to consider options, adjustments and strategies. If I want to be a professional singer but I can’t sing it’s better someone tells me. This doesn’t mean I need to shrivel into a worthless ball. It requires that I look at the motives behind my dream. Maybe I just love the music and expressing myself through song, and if that is my motivation then I can just carry on singing. Who cares if I don’t make a great sound? After all, it’s for me essentially isn’t it? Alternatively I might want to be a singer so I can be famous and have people love me. That’s another thing altogether. The love isn’t real, it doesn’t last and worst of all it’s replacing the love that I really need. The love I get from myself. Nothing fills that hole.
Most of the people I work with have reached a point where reality cannot be ignored but seems somehow insurmountable. With no further to fall there is only up. Reality itself is what it is, whether we face up to it is a choice. But still we create fancy plans to wind our way around it hoping that it won’t catch us out. It always does.
If reality is dismantled and laid before us on the table we can look at its parts, see how it fits together and fit our own selves in around it. We can become part of reality, moving in time and tune with influence, rather than something extraneous that feels awkward and afraid.
The world is wonderful, full of rich experiences, fascinating people and beauty in unexpected places. We often hit difficulty when we confuse reality with our own particular version of it. When something happens our reaction to it is coloured by our beliefs. Our beliefs are formed from all that has gone before us in our lives and so it is unsurprising that we find ourselves assuming that because something bad happened last time it will obviously do so again. It’s not true though, and we are the architects of our own pain and misery through believing it to be so. But for many of us it is hard to break that cycle. The more things hurt us and deplete us the more we expect them to do so, but it is not events themselves that make us unhappy, rather our reaction to them.
Bad things don’t just happen to bad people, we don’t find ourselves in loveless relationships because we are unlovable, and there is nothing wrong with dreaming. When Edison suggested it would be quite a laugh to have immediate light in any space at the flick of a switch I expect someone said “be realistic”. Fortunately he ignored them and used the accurate balance between reality and his own remarkable gifts and talents to make a new reality. That’s what we strive for isn’t it? To have clear understanding of ourselves to the extent that we are able to know what is and isn’t realistic, to change what we can, to accept what we cannot, and understand why we want to change it anyway.
If there is something that you find a constant source of disappointment or pain spend a few minutes asking yourself why is it that you want things to be different. What is it in you that needs to be satisfied? If you look deeply and think carefully you might well find another path to the peace and happiness that you seek. I wonder how Tom is getting on with his library.