STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: A few days ago when I called a local transportation agency, the recorded voice assured me, “Your call is important to us!” I finally made contact with a “real live person” and once we’d finished with business she wished me “a fantastic day” although wishing me a nice day would have been good enough! Only a few years ago, she’d have wished me something like “have a good one,” I’d have wished her the same and we both would have gone our separate ways. The late S.I. Hayakawa (the conservative GOP United States Senator from California between 1976 and 1982 who was a professional linguist) called this kind of an exchange “the language of social cohesion.” That means it is nice safe language which opens up future possibilities, great and small.
This illustrates the ongoing need for cohesiveness in society. It’s easy to dismiss these little nuggets of relationship, but once we focus on them, it rapidly brings us to the realization of some of the factors that cause us to do what we do and say what we say.
From the time we’re very young, we are taught the language of social cohesion: saying “please and thank you”, “God bless you” when someone sneezes, and “excuse me” or “pardon me” when someone inadvertently interrupts or makes a social error. To share, to please and be pleased, and, of course, ”the golden rule” – these are essential staples of our being from almost the very beginning of our existence.
THE REALLY AND TRULY: Throughout my childhood, the search for “the really and truly” was important, but strangely not an obsession. Its special meaning lay in the fact that others had “real” moms and dads while I had foster parents. If someone gave me a toy automobile when I was eight years old, I wanted it to be as close to “real” as possible. I’d inquire, was it a Ford, a Chevy or maybe a Pontiac? When my interest in baseball began at age eight, nine or ten (it evolved), the Yankees were really real because most people either loved or hated them and they were always in that “World Series.” All that was missing, of course, was the rest of the world! Almost as important was the fact that their Class D Eastern League farm club played in my hometown of Binghamton, New York. When Elvis came along in 1956, to me he was the “real” rock ‘n’ roller more than anyone else. Of course I had my own exciting illusions such as witches on Halloween night and Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. (I never really identified with the Easter Bunny, but I loved the candy!) I decided that Halloween witches and Santa Claus slept the rest of the year. I accommodated my illusions by enjoying them rather than wondering about them. If they were illusions, okay, that’s what they were – no argument. Still, as a youth, that which was real was also true – wasn’t it?
NOSE-TO-NOSE WITH REALITY: With adulthood, one invariably discovers that reality eludes the principles and ideals adults so often have insisted were vital aspects of “truth”. In other words, truth and reality isn’t the same thing. In adulthood, reality surrenders to the demands of a logical, materialistic and self-indulgent world. What that boils down to is that whatever you decide is real is, in fact, real! It may be right, it may be wrong; it may be destructive or creative.
When people tell you to “get real!” they are not insisting that you be truthful. It’s a demand rather that you do and see things as they direct you. Political and religious idealists are particularly strident in their demand that you see and believe as they do. Political idealists insist that truth exists in conservatism or liberalism, whichever one they are, and only a fool mixes the two (which is exactly what I do!) American Christians (unfortunately, including President Obama) are constantly asking God to “bless America” ignoring their larger belief that God is the creator of all humanity. As for the rest of “God’s green earth,” apparently, let it be damned!
As for my whining inquiry of a few days ago (“Is my call really important?” “Does this real live person at the other end of the phone really want me to have a “fantastic” day?), the truth is most likely found in Hayakawa’s language of social cohesion. The “realists” among us insist that what’s real is what’s important. They point out that that which is present and obvious constitutes reality even if it is constructed of evasion, denial, and well-concealed lies.
If that which is real isn’t really true, then perhaps that which is truly real awaits all of us in a dimension we are presently incapable of grasping. It may well be that the best aspect of reality is that it isn’t ultimately true!
See ya later. I’m going outside to play now!