Fact? Or Fiction?

What in the world is reality TV? From what I’ve observed it is when a TV camera and crew follow around real people and record the some times moronic crazy things they do. This is in turn produced into a show to entertain other people who ponder if people really do live like that--some times agreeing that it could possibly be true and other times concluding that it is fiction.

How do we decide what is real and what is not? What constitutes “reality”? If you look the word up in the dictionary, which I just did, it states that it is a fact, something that is true. They are many examples given to demonstrate how we use this word. We’ll say, “The reality is, (fill in the blank).” When it comes to our lives, however, there is not just one reality. Just go around and ask a few folks.

Talk to someone with a child with Autism and you will get one answer. Their reality involves difficult choices regarding childcare and planning the future of their child. Talk to a parent of a child musical prodigy and they will have different views of parenthood including a whirlwind of trips for musical lessons. Talk to the parents of twins, triplets, etc, and find out what their reality looks like, especially when they’re babies and its 2:00 am!

These are easy example to look at to understand the idea that each one of our realities is different from someone else’s. Not only that, our reality changes over time. Just think of those triplets growing up, or the child with Autism at the age of 20.

Now make a slight shift to the spiritual realm and imagine how different each person’s view of God is. Depending on the spiritual tradition one was raised with--or the lack of any spiritual tradition--one will have a completely different view of God. What were their experiences in life like? Have they experienced hardship, affluence, ease, or difficulty? And to what extent have they experienced them? What were they taught about God? What were their experiences like with religious people that claim to represent God?

A person who has experienced clergy abuse will have a different picture (reality) than someone who has only experienced strong, ethical spiritual leaders. A person who has experienced an abusive father will have a different picture (reality) of a Father God, than someone who has had a loving earthly father. Someone with a strong spiritual mother will have an easier time understanding the feminine aspects of God, than someone who has not.

As you see, there are an infinite number of factors that go into defining our reality. When we assume that our reality is the only “right” one, we have just exposed our ignorance. Growing spiritually means that we start expanding our awareness or consciousness of the fact that all people have differing realities. One is not more “right” than another. A person’s reality is how they currently see and experience the world.

The good news about this for each of us is that we can continually be expanding our awareness (consciousness) or reality. Think of the life of Christ. His reality was one of such an intimate connection with His Father that He could speak and a dead person would come to life. Think of Lazarus, whom Christ raised from the dead and how his reality was different than anyone else’s because of his experience of having died and then been brought back to life.

Just looking at these two lives makes us realize that if we spoke to theses two persons about their experiences and then compared them with ours, we might be tempted to discount their story because it was not replicated in our own. Might this be a reminder to us to be a little more humble, a little more generous, a little more tolerant in the way we view others? In Native American tradition, this is at the heart of what they call The Sacred Viewpoint of All.

Everyone’s life is real. Even those we feel are mentally out of touch, politically incorrect, diabolically wrong, or morally corrupt. We all have room to grow. No one has all the truth. I am not better than you. You are not better than me. God loves us all equally.

We are each a reflection of some aspect of the Divine. Considering this, let us embrace the admonition of Christ, “To love your neighbor as yourself”. In other words, accept the reality and journey of your fellow travelers. I may not understand it, it may not reflect my own experience, but it is just as real and they are just as valued and loved by God.