June 3, 2008

Welcome to the Real World

I live in the real world. It is a glorious natural world, a world of matter and energy. It is void of magic, monsters, or gods. And yet, I regularly experience feelings of awe, interconnectedness, and transcendence, which some people mistakenly refer to as "spirituality." Life in the real world is filled with pleasure and joy but also with pain and sadness. Living in this world involves freedom, but it also entails great responsibility. There are no reset buttons or second chances here.

We experience great joy in the real world. We fall in love and develop meaningful friendships. Some of us raise children, and many contribute to society in myriad ways. We recognize that our time is limited and strive to make our mark while we can. Indeed, there are many sources of pleasure associated with living in the real world.

In the real world, we recognize that things are not always as we want them to be. Pain exists, nature can be cruel, and all sentient beings will someday die. But we have no use for delusions here, for we understand that suffering is part of existence. That is not to say that we do not experience grief and that we never seek comfort. We do. We find consolation in each other and through our daily routines.

We are sometimes afraid in the real world. We occasionally have frightening experiences we cannot immediately explain. We seek reassurance and safety from each other and find that most fears melt away with improved understanding of our world. The light of science and reason illuminate our way.

We have no use for the mythical creatures our distant ancestors created. These gods, angels, and demons once served a purpose. No more. Life in the real world has improved immeasurably as science and reason have rendered mysticism and superstition obsolete. We recognize that groveling before imaginary beings is no substitute for action and provides only a false comfort.

To be sure, pockets of darkness remain where superstition and ignorance is widespread. Many people have yet to step into our world and remain trapped in delusion. Some cannot imagine any other existence, and others are simply misinformed or afraid. They are not bad people, and we should be able to empathize with their plight. After all, many of us were once in their shoes. Their presence reminds us of how fortunate we are to live in the real world, but it should also prompt us to extend a hand in friendship and invite them to join us in the real world. There is plenty of room here.

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