Defying Reality

On my way to work this morning, I passed an advertisement with big, bold letters declaring: “DEFY REALITY” picturing a man wearing a goggle looking contraption, playing what looked to be a video game. After searching for the ad online, I found this video. The premise of the ad and of the product itself is this: reality is ours to defy and to define.

Societal pressures from D.C. to Hollywood cater to the mindset that reality should not hold us down. It is our job to free ourselves from the shackles of reality. We are told that until we have unimpeded access to drugs, the ability to define who and what we are, and even the “right” to kill the most innocent and dependent among us, we are not truly free. We are slaves to the current reality.

During a time when human beings have more entertainment available to them than ever before, we seem to be rather bored. It comes as no surprise that a product that allows the user to “defy reality” would be popular in our age. Why are we so bored when we have unlimited options to entertain, distract and sedate ourselves?

In the book, “A Turning Point for Europe”, Pope Benedict XVI says that our state of boredom is due to the destruction of our capacity to love. Self-gift and sacrifice allow for the human person to flourish and find meaning. Christ and His Church propose embracing reality in its entirety.

Unless we drive ourselves to insanity, we will always return to reality. If you are high, you will eventually become sober and be faced again with reality. If you disobey the natural law, you (or someone you love) will feel the repercussions.

Luigi Giussani, one of my spiritual heroes, writes in The Religious Sense: “And here is the alternative in which man risks himself, even if almost unconsciously: either you face reality wide open, loyally, with the bright eyes of a child, calling a spade a spade, embracing its entire presence, even its meaning; either this, or you place yourself in front of reality, defend yourself against it, almost with your arms flung in front of your eyes to ward off unwelcomed and unexpected blows.”

Luigi Giussani

We are faced with the option of loving reality in all of its beautiful brutality or running from it. How can we live this?

I do not buy the contention that unless something can be applied to your life, it is useless knowledge. This, however, is very concrete in its implications. Instead of watching a few YouTube videos before bed, what if we read a few pages from a good book or even went directly to bed? Instead of passively avoiding confrontation and waiting for the “right time” to respond to a text, what if we called the person and discussed the issue in a human way? Instead of playing video games for twenty minutes, what if we allowed ourselves to perform a small act of love for those we live with? The possibilities are endless. And these are just simple, small gestures that show our love for life and for reality.

Giussani again: “The truly interesting question for man is neither logic, a fascinating game, nor demonstration, an inviting curiosity. Rather, the intriguing problem for man is how to adhere to reality, to become aware of reality.” We will find ourselves only when we begin living reality intensely: to love.

For a great podcast on Benedict XVI and lethal boredom, listen here. You’ll be glad you did.