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By Blaney Pridgen
That we have different realities is the only reality. Our individual perceptions of reality are conditioned by our experience of what we believe to be real. These perceptions are affected by family of origin, education, economic opportunity, religious convictions, and the culture and subcultures in which we live and move and have our being. This is not only the way it is for each individual person, but also for large groups and collectives. Every generation, century, and historical epoch operate under different perceptions of what is real, what is debatable, and what is not. Religions embrace differing realities. Historical realities are conditioned by whoever is recording those perceptions and why. Laws of physics and nature may seem to state immutables, but even they are subject to new findings and new theories and individuals and groups who will inevitably disagree about the reality of them all. What we want to call ultimate reality is only real because we must accept the limits of perception and walk humbly with our God and each other.
Take for example, the current Republican and Democrat parties in our current political challenges. I believe Republicans and Democrats live in different realities. They not only have different opinions, prejudices, and notions of matters; the two seem to occupy different realities, that is as a collective not as individuals. Furthermore, the two parties taken together seem not to accept that a significant minority of the citizenry live and move and have their being in a third political reality. I can make the same case about religious institutions of any religion. Amongst Christians at large, denominations tend to live in their own realities, indifferent to the rest, if in fact not hostile and mean-spirited. All religions set up shop in a social construction of reality and call it the revelation of ultimate reality. I suppose this is all acceptable in politics and religion, as long as we exercise humility and charity in purporting what we believe is reality and not slander or murder each other in the process.
Once upon a time, there was a large barnyard, a real one, inhabited by the usual livestock like cows, chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, geese, etc. Also, there were nonstock freebooters like snakes, toads, mice, cats, an owl, and the occasional hawk or fox. They inhabited the barnyard. They had different ideas about each other and different notions about their freedom, dominance, and worth. The owl and the bull were especially aloof. The chickens and geese were too loud. The goats and pigs had social problems. The cows occupied too much space. The snakes, toads, and mice could only come to some agreement about the cat and little else. All of these nonstock freebooters rejected the idea of needing a farm, but they lived off it nonetheless and were downright sneaky about it. And, oh yes, there was a dog who was and was not one of the farm animals. Dog moved among them in strange and unusual ways, not as predictable as the rest. Except at herding time and standing guard, dog had the primary purpose of being a companion to the farmer. Dog knew the farmer better than the others did. And the farmer fed and cared for them all. You know where this story is going. Life is a barnyard. We need to figure out how to get over it and get along. The farmer expects this.
That we have and live in different realities is the only reality we can effectively depend upon. Short of acknowledging that and creatively coping with that with grace and dignity, we shall descend into a chaos no one wants. These United States of America have had the genius of coming together as foreigners in a foreign land and indeed foreigners to each other in the process. We have not always done so with grace and dignity; yet, we have prevailed thus far. As we pray for America, let us unite in praying that we continue.