Welcome to the Real World
Once upon a time I began to realise that there was a place known as ‘The Real World.’ I don’t know when this place began to be called this, or indeed, why the people who live there gave it its name but that is how it seems to be known by all who inhabit this strange land.
There is, I discovered, nothing particular or unusual about the folk who live there. Nor is there anything remarkable about the clothes that they wear or the places that they live. In fact, most of them look and sound so very similar to you or me in every respect, that the only way you would recognise that someone hails from this land was if they were to tell you that that was, indeed, where they came from.
But, once you have trained your ears to listen out for the phrase ‘The Real World’ I am sure that like me, you will discover that there are many more of these people among us than one might expect. And like me, you may find them making themselves known to you in the most unlikely places.
For the most part, these folk are usually not actually in their world when they are talking to you. They are probably, or rather, hopefully, taking a break in your world, sharing a friendly conversation or an activity or maybe just relaxing and enjoying your company. (In fact, there does seem to be a strong connection between how much they are enjoying themselves and the likelihood of their revealing their origins.)
I say that they are not present in that world of ‘The Real’ because usually the giveaway statement or phrase refers to them having to “Get back to…” or “Return to…” it. It’s clear that although they may not mention it at every opportunity, they nonetheless have a strong bond to the concerns and interests of their homeland and cannot be away from it for too long. Some, to be fair, will include a sense of regret – they would love to stay with you in…wherever the hell you are…but, well, the call of their own turf is simply too strong to resist. Sometimes they may be bolder and firmly declare themselves as belonging to this group and will aggressively state “Well I am living in in the Real World…” or “For those of us who Live in the Real World…”
Now you may, like me, find that initially these statements can make one feel quite uneasy. You may find that you begin to feel uncertain, or even insecure, about your own position. ‘But I thought, foolishly, that this was all the Real World!’ If there is such a place as ‘The Real World’ then where on Earth am I at the current moment? Am I living somewhere else in the universe and just haven’t noticed? You may even be a little chagrined to discover that apparently lots of other people have been included in this alternative reality and you haven’t. When was someone going to let me know that the rest of the human race had a change of address?
This is probably because of the way in which the Real population (I have looked for a suitable collective noun but have been unsuccessful) look and speak when they mention their homeland. Usually it is with a sense of gravity and sobriety; the air of one who knows better than you but has been too polite, or patronising, to tell you so until this moment. But even when uttered with warmth and a smile, the distinction remains – you are here …wherever that may be… and they, well, they have a portal to somewhere else that you really should have noticed, but so far haven’t.
But fret not. Don’t allow yourself to feel too left out from this ‘special’ place. If you listen really carefully, observe their behaviour and make good use of the powers of deduction and inference I am confident that, like me, instead of feeling somewhat belittled or deflated by your non-inclusion, you will instead come to treat their statements with bemusement and perhaps a touch of pity.
You may notice, first of all, that The Real World is a realm full of non-events. “Well, that wouldn’t happen in the Real World.” “That couldn’t happen in the Real World.” Or, on a personal note “Those of us who live in the Real World could of told you that…(insert a possible occurrence here) would never/doesn’t/doesn’t ever/couldn’t ever/hasn’t/has no chance of…happening. (Now it would be churlish of me to say that our visitors were just being negative. Just imagine yourself in their position if you can.) It may well be that in the Land of Real many things do not happen.
That being the case, they may be excused for not being open to certain ideas or possibilities that they encounter over here…wherever it is the rest of us live. The hold of the Homeland must be really strong for, despite many unexpected, idealistic, romantic and philanthropic events regularly occurring on our side of the fence (…if we ever find out just where that is…), they can still be heard proclaiming the fact that, surprising though these events may be, they wouldn’t take place in their backyard.
However, that is not to say that The Real World is lacking in energy and imagination. Oh no, quite the contrary. The Real World is full of industrious and busy people engaged in an unceasing circle of industry and production, to which all their faculties are most powerfully engaged. To attempt to conceive of the breadth and depth of projects, initiatives, ideas, innovations, explorations, invention, execution, organization and fabrication is a task beyond the mortal mind. There is simply no end to the amount of things (or ‘stuff’) that these hard working people are manufacturing, day in, day out, night on night as our world turns.
That is all good, you say, for we all need ‘stuff’. We need stuff to eat. We need stuff to wear. We need stuff to keep us safe and healthy. We like having stuff that just makes things easier or stuff that just makes us smile.
I completely agree. I too am a happy partaker of ‘stuff.’
No, what reassures me that The Real World should not be on my list of places to emigrate to is the consideration of all the things that the good people of Real World cannot manufacture for me, twinned with the realisation that, sadly, they often don’t even know these things are missing from their green and pleasant land.
What’s on my list?
Well, I say they don’t realise that these, to me the most valuable of all human necessities, are in fact completely beyond the realms of their kingdom. Actually what adds that little touch of pity to my interactions with them is that, on occasion, they do notice. Usually on holidays such as, say, Christmas, when for so many of them it becomes apparent that living in the ‘World of Stuff’ (you can see now why they prefer to call it The Real World) has not been able to furnish them with 1, 2 or 3 on even the most expensive Christmas list. (I have even overheard some of our visitors bemoaning how ‘commercialised’ and ‘consumer driven’ it has all become, without pausing for a moment to consider the unyielding commitment their Real World shows to 365/24/7 industry. Ah, the pathos.)
Or perhaps they simply find themselves uncomfortable with the experience of visiting another country, a country where valuing Time with the ones you Love and striving to live in Peace with one another are prerequisites for an extension to your visa, and yearn to return to the familiarity of producing…Stuff.
Stuff is fine, and I’m quite happy to spend some of my time either using it or making it happen for others. But please, don’t grace it with the term ‘reality.’
I can sense the parting of the ways, each to return to their own realm. Some may read this and agree. Some may read this and think that, perhaps, they need to allow 1, 2 and 3 a little more priority in their land.
And there are some, we know who they are now, who will dismiss it. They’ll nod sagely, maybe with a touch of regret, but will still say, “Well, some of us have to live in the Real World.”