Remember the popular catchphrase from a while back, get real? The general meaning: you need a reality check. Stop believing things that aren’t true. Although, like another fashionable catchphrase, real deal, it was all relative. Because what’s true or real to one person may not be to another.
For instance, I recently engaged in a conversation with someone who had an entirely different take on real. At the brunch we gravitated toward our little corner of the world and talked shop. Two writers of opposite ilk.
“What are you working on these days?” I asked him. The wheels in his brain started turning as he searched for words to spell out in lay terms his scientific hypothesis which he hopes will aid in artificial intelligence. As he spoke, his countenance shifted from social small talk stance to deep studious mode.
By the end of his spiel I was none the wiser. Because of the language barrier. Once in a while, though, a comprehensible word emerged, at which point I’d stop him for clarification.
Me: When you say, imaginary, do you mean like saints and angels?
Him: Yeah, and like God.
There were a few other words I understood during his talk. Words like “corporeal.” Which, in his vernacular, can be interpreted to mean that only the the empirical is real. A scientific worldview you might expect from a prominent neurologist.
So when he asked about my writing I simply said, “Mary Oliver meets Flannery O’Conner. That’s what I’d say if writing a blurb for my own book. I work on distilling language, painting light and dark pictures.” I didn’t mention that one of the poems in my forthcoming book is called, “How Imaginary Friends Become Real.”
What is Real?
It all depends on who you ask. The neurologist would tell you that it’s how you’re made, as he believes that only the corporeal is real. All else is imaginary. Granted, corporeal is real in the same sense that caterpillar is real. It is what it is, as another popular catchphrase goes, but it isn’t all it was meant to be.
But if you ask the Skin Horse, he’d tell you what he told the Velveteen Rabbit:
“Real isn’t how you’re made. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real…It doesn’t happen all at once…You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Real isn’t how you’re made (in the image of God). Real goes beyond how you’re made. Real is what you become. Real is being who you are while becoming who you were meant to be. It’s being still and still moving.
“It’s a thing that happens to you.” This metamorphosis comes with the divine revelation of eternal love that came to dwell within. That came to transform from corporeal to spiritual, from mortal to immortal. To make you come alive, to make you Real, as he is Real. It’s the mystery that once was hidden for ages and generations: Christ in you, the hope of glory.
What does Real mean to you?