by: Shmuel ben Shlomi
In an early scene from the film “The Matrix” the character Morpheus asks another character named Neo, “What is real?” We will take a look at that very poignant question in this essay.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “real” as ‘actually existing or happening: not imaginary; not fake, false, or artificial; important and deserving to be regarded or treated in a serious way; having objective independent existence; being precisely what the name implies; behaving or presented in a way that “feels” true, honest, or familiar and without pretension or affectation.’
[NOTE: That one word “feels” in the Webster definition negates it as being objective and turns it into a subjective analysis - thereby making it fall into the realm of assumption.]
Wikipedia sums up “real” as ‘the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent within a system, as opposed to that which is only imaginary. The term is also used to refer to the ontological status of things, indicating their existence. In physical terms, reality is the totality of a system, known and unknown.’
A few synonyms for “real” or ‘authentic, bona fide, certified, genuine, honest, right, sure, empirical, actual and true.’
Antonyms for “real” are ‘counterfeit, bogus, fake, false, alleged, assumed, supposed, conjectural, hypothetical, ideal, theoretical, sham and fabricated.’
As can be seen from the above attempts to define 'real' we run into all sorts of problems, mostly related to the limitations using human language can bring. When we take all the definitions, synonyms and antonyms for “real” it can best be summed up as:
‘In the here and now, for the individual and the masses, real is what is experienced by a person or persons (collectively) regardless if that experience is subjective or objective.’
So again, we ask the Morpheus question: “What is Real?”
From a Jewish perspective “real” is not a thing at all. It is an experience and can best be described as ‘the experience of being.’ A ‘sense of living and doing.’ Real, or Reality, is not a “thing” to grasp or even fully be understood, it is the very act of living, doing — BEING!
In another scene from "The Matrix," after Morpheus and Neo had finished a martial arts workout within the matrix simulation itself, he asks Neo who is panting for breath, “Do you think that's air you're breathing?” The point being, it wasn’t the air or even the act of breathing the air itself that was real, but the act of doing/being within the experiencing of the act that was REAL.
To quote the Torah, “In the beginning God…” Before the beginning and in the beginning there was only One “Real,” One Reality. God! All that is, was, and will be has its beginning in that One Reality. Things are not now, nor have they ever been ‘real.’
The only real is what is experienced in that One Real. What then is that One Real we generically call God? That Reality has given us the answer already and it is found in the Name he revealed to Moshe (Moses) — and that is YHVH (יהוה) - I will BE that which I will BE.” Not - ‘I will be this thing or that thing’ but, I AM! I AM, what? - you may ask. I AM Real — I AM Reality — I AM Isness Itself!
To know and experience the Real is to know and experience The One Reality — God. That is the only Real in existence then, now, and forevermore.
How does one experience this One Reality? For Jews we have come to realize this Real through embracing the Torah (The written and oral Jewish teachings of Moses). Others claim various routes or paths to this Enlightenment of Reality.
The simple fact of the matter is REALITY is purely objective but the path to that REALITY is very subjective. Which path is correct (real) or not is not up for debate here and should never be because of its subjective nature, thereby making it a moot point of discussion leading to nothing but division among people. REAL is not a source of division because objectivity is never divisive but is universally uniting.
“What is real?” God is REAL. It is within that REAL we all live and move and have our being...our real. How we subjectively find that One Objective Reality is the path to the REAL for each of us. Happy trails to you.