I first heard it when I was in college. "That's fine for now, but what will you do when you get out of college and into the real world?" People who are talking about the "real world" usually mean something like the world of jobs and bosses, bills, car maintenance, and things like that. Those folks are using "real world" to mean the world of things that they consider more important than imagination and joy. They seem to think that money is the measure of what is real. Some of them don't consider a walk in the forest to be doing something in the "real world". What makes cement, pollution and dreary work more real than the earth around us, the forest that we live in, the beach and the wind?
Not that we should ignore the things they are talking about. We do have to go to school or do our jobs or deal with diapers, pay our bills, render unto Caesar, fit into the dominant culture at least somewhat. We do have to notice where pollution and nastiness are happening, fight oppression of all forms of Life, and stand up for what we feel is right. Money is real because we have agreed to make it so. The same applies to traffic law. (It is incredible how low is the death rate from motor vehicle accidents, considering that we can move so fast only because we have consented to make a reality out of thin lines of paint on pavement, lights and signs.)
It's just that what is real is more than this. It distresses me when the focus is on human-made ugliness as what is real to the exclusion of beauty, especially when this approach is coming from a Pagan. There is ugliness and there is beauty, and often they are side by side, like the trash at the cliff-edge roadside pullout that ends with a sweeping vista of layers of hills.
Just so, magic is real. Fairies are real. The Gods are real. The Astral is real and so is cyber-space. Our senses may confuse us, but they don't lie to us. If we feel pain coming from scarred land, or love from a meadow, that's real too. The possibility of self-delusion arises when we try to interpret the meanings of what we sense.
What's not real? Television, movies, any kind of fiction, the possible worlds we can imagine but haven't manifested are not yet real, except insofar as they are part of the real lives of those who produced them. Some of them may become more real as people put energy and work into the dreams, and that's part of magic. Some, it is hoped, won't become real. I don't want to live in a world like those in dystopian stories. I have a fantasy of what I think an ideal world would be like, and I give energy to making it real as much as I can, without claiming that it is more real than it is.
I live in the real world, because every life is real.
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