Stubborn Reality

30 July 2011 No Comment

“Reality is that which when you stop believing in it doesn’t go away.”

So said Philip Dick, the prolific science fiction writer who died almost thirty years ago. I am a sucker for short, provocative assertions like that. I like writers (like T.S. Eliot and George Eliot [no relation]) who use a lot of epigraphs, as I often do myself, and I think I will use Dick’s tantalizing assertion somewhere in my Skeptical Believer work in progress.

My first, easy thought is that it applies well to God. Not believing in God doesn’t get God out of your life, much less the universe. It merely makes you further removed from reality. But of course I can’t prove that. The inverse (?) of the assertion is that believing in something (such as God) doesn’t make it real, which is what any atheist could say in return.

Still, I like the assertion and I think it has wide application outside the arena of ultimate questions. It certainly applies to a lot of political situations, including our current budget debates. It applies in personal and societal relationships and most everywhere else.

I don’t think the principle is particularly helpful in doing battle with adversaries, because both sides simply claim the other is the one ignoring reality. But I do believe it can be helpful in self-assessment, in the quiet of one’s own heart where you can sometimes admit things to yourself that you would not acknowledge publicly. “What do I fail to believe—or fail to act on—that nevertheless seems not to go away?”

Each of us prefers that some aspect of “reality,” simply “go away”–but reality, alas, is famously stubborn.


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