Okay, is a dollar a real thing? In a sense, yes, but in another important sense, it’s illusory. The piece of paper we call a dollar, in other words, is a piece of paper, but the value we attribute to it can be called into question. Indeed, any monetary system is like this — at its base it is only an agreement between two parties, and if either party decides that they don’t want to play the money ‘game’ any more, then the money loses its illusory value. Money can add some interesting boons to our lives, yet it’s sobering to realize that because of money people kill people, and let others starve, and commit suicide.
What about other things we consider ‘real’? What about national borders? Consider the numbers of people who have killed and been killed to preserve an imaginary line. Can these truly be the actions of a civilized race of beings?
It’s interesting to look at all the elements of our civilized world — our laws, our mores, the importance we place on social status and fame and the colors of our skin. It’s not difficult to see that these are human conventions — nothing more than lines we’ve drawn in the sand. And because of those lines, many people suffer.
Surely there is a better way?
We create our own suffering by the lines we draw. When our husband or wife comes home and is angry or stressed, it’s easy to draw lines around them — lines of expected behavior — and to become angry with them because they’re not acting as we expect them to act. Yet it might be a simple hug, an act of acceptance, that makes that anger or stress evaporate.
These are but superficial examples, because when we begin to consider what is real in life, we eventually are confronted with addressing the word itself. What do we mean by ‘real’? This is where we may discover an amazing treasure — the realization that almost everything we considered to be solid and real is only a game of imagination — a grown-up version of play. What we’re left with is the essence of life — the unnameable, perfect essence of this very moment.
This riddle is no good if you don’t play it out by yourself. It’s a great topic if you’re sitting among a circle of friends. It’s enlightening to ponder on your own. What is real, and what does that word truly mean to you?