What does it mean to be real? And why is it necessary, this quiet engine, that runs under the hood of a world where almost anything can be thought of, portrayed – no matter how unreal it is?

The last few years, these are the concepts I’ve been grappling with. Late, I’m sure. I know that when I was around twelve or thirteen, all the YA novels were about “coming of age” or “coming to be real.” I don’t think I really understood what all that meant until I grew to be older. Though I read plenty of stories that centered around finding your true self, I only began to ask myself those questions in recent years.

Realness is unquestionable. It is what is left after everything else is stripped away. Food is real. Shelter is real. Real love is… real. That’s what makes it worth it. And that’s the metric that tugs apart relationships that aren’t founded on it. A metric you can use when trying to make choices in life. In Tao, it is the ever asking question “Is it real? Is it real?” and the decisions based on the answer to that question.

Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!

Bob Marley

In a world of fluff and fantasy and a million different perspectives on life, realness defines the one true path. It’s what makes the tenured doctor leave a lucrative profession to follow their dream of being a chef. It’s the deciding factor between your decision to pay for dinner at the restaurant near your house, or the one twenty minutes away, with the really good nihari. It’s what keeps your best friend in your life, throughout all the ups and downs, because you know the relationship between you is real. It’s the creed you land on after you’ve gone down the wrong path long enough.

A world sick with misinformation, concerned about media over community.

Most of us would have rather money than tangible wealth. And a great occasion is somehow spoiled for us unless photographed. And to read about it the next day in the newspaper is oddly more fun for us than the original event. This is a disaster, for as a result of confusing the real world of nature with mere signs, such as bank balances and contracts, we are destroying nature. We are so tied up in our minds, that we’ve lost our senses and don’t realize that the air stinks, water tastes of chlorine, the human landscape looks like a trash heap, and much of our food tastes like plastic. Time to wake up.

Alan Watts

Desensitization is a real thing. And the stark clarity that comes from a wake-up call is undoubtedly real as well. When the word “pandemic” becomes an everyday utterance. When you realize you’re trading trade a slice of dead tree for fresh fruit at the grocery store. How you can sometimes see the edge of the ink on printed paper, and instead of perceiving agreed-upon symbols, you realize that it is ink on paper. You notice with full clarity the friend who picks up on your body language and offers you a drink of water at the exact moment you realized you were parched.

A focus on reality will change the way you live life. You’ll pack sunscreen in your bag because the sun is a real ball of gas that will burn your skin if you sit outside for long enough. You’ll cherish the moments you have with people you love because you’ll fully know that everyone’s time in this reality is limited. You’ll put the water bottle in the recycling bin instead of the trash because you know that landfills are filling up and the Earth has a finite amount of surface area.

The examples I use are interchangeable but I hope I pointed to the same concept. The real love you have, the real actions you take, and the nature of reality are easy to ignore, but that doesn’t render them false. And one way or another, they’ll keep coming back, almost as to say “It is real. It is real.”

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.

Albert Einstein

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