“There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming.” -Kierkegaard.
Maybe you’ve had those conversations with your friends, a few beers in your belly or just feeling vulnerable and open for whatever reason, and you asked them: “What if life is just a dream?”
It’s laughable isn’t it? It’s so cliché! Life isn’t a dream, silly! We can reach out and touch it. It’s our wooden or brick houses, our metal cars, the chairs we sit on, the food we eat, the air we breathe. It’s the other people we know, the dust and dirt, waking up in the morning--every morning. It’s work and family, studies, bills, obligations, TV shows, and our parents and friends. It’s repetition and consistency. We have children, they grow up, we get old, we die and then they do the same. It’s verifiable, solid, and everyone we know sees and hears and feels and tastes and smells it too.
I’m not writing this to try to say that this isn’t the case. Sorry to disappoint. But I do want to make a distinction. I want to propose that there are two realities. They often seem like one, and understandably so.
One reality would exist if there were no humans. The Earth would still be a spinning rock in space, orbiting a bright yellow star, ever an unquestioning slave to the forces of gravity and entropy. The trees would still grow, and when they grew too big and the wind blew, they would buckle under their own weight, crashing to the ground with groans and crackles while their branches snapped and tore at neighboring trees until nearby forest creatures startled at the sound of a dull thud as they met the ground. The sky would still suck water out of the oceans and dump it on the land where rivers would flow through sprawling grassland and past content, lazy herds of four-legged herbivores, ever watchful of the predators on the fringes of their view.
The other reality is our own deliberate creation and positive choice. The cars and houses I mentioned before, the chairs, the bills, the children, the music we listen to, religions, ideas, political systems, successes and failures, parties and festivals, friendships and families, books, schools, artistic masterpieces, love and hate are all manifestations of this reality. It is as small as a tiny child picking up a toy and examining it and as large as two great nations going to war.
These two realities merge and interact and play off of each other. The buildings we build and the cars we drive and even us--the human race--occupy physical space and become a part of the landscape. Even the chemical composition of the atmosphere is, in part, a result of this reality. But where did all of this come from?
It all came from the synthesis of thought, choice, and action. The child picking up a toy, driven by curiosity, altered her reality, physically moving something as well as making a new entry in her brain, an entry that may influence her future reality. The two warring nations, driven by complex social and psychological phenomena, decide their future would benefit from the destruction of the other. Political forces, another manifestation of psychosocial reality; emotion, technology, ideologies like nationalism and ethnocentrism--all manifestations of psychosocial reality--merge to create a situation where people’s lives end or are drastically altered and the entire history of the world is changed.
This reality is within our control and it is no less real or significant than the physical, empirical reality that would exist without a human presence.
Of course, it still isn’t a dream. We don’t get to bend space or time or force others to adopt our vision. We are not entirely free. But we are still so incredibly free. All that the human race has ever achieved, as individuals and as a whole, all of the triumphs and tragedies, the beauty and horror was people actively and willfully creating this reality--psychosocial reality.
Everyone realizes this on some level. It has been acknowledged in some form by the world’s great thinkers and artists and is a theme through all of human philosophy and religion. (For a great illustration of this, click the “theme” link and check out the dropdown menu “See the Variety of Names.”)
However, studies and understanding of psychosocial reality still go relatively unacknowledged as potentially useful and relevant, except in some abstract, maybe spiritual sense. The purpose of THEE is to make an understanding of psychosocial reality useful and valuable to us.
What does all of this freedom to choose mean to us, to you? What could a greater understanding of psychosocial reality mean in the “real” world? Let’s explore it together. I don’t want to start with conclusions but it can mean a new life or a better employment situation or a more enlightened society.
- Tom Kershaw
- Hi! I'm Tom and I am a full-time writer, musician, and father to a firecracker of a four year-old. My wife and I lease our house and cars from her in hopes that her considerable talents of mess-making, princess-impersonation, and stuffed animal-whispering will pay off and fund our eventual retirement in the south of France.
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