Synthetic Reality

Following my recent series of posts on Words that Control Us I am now extending the concept to the matter of synthetic reality.

A set of words can invoke a sense of reality in our minds and even bind us as surely as if we were in chains of iron.  Yet that reality is synthetic.  It is synthesised from something other than reality and takes on tangible form in our thinking.

Consider Titles of Office.  One person is called a manager and another is called a janitor.  But they were both born naked and will take nothing out of this world.  The titles describe their responsibilities, but those titles also convey as sense of status and importance, and even a sense of the worthiness of the bearer.

Artificial Persons

Consider artificial persons.  A corporation is only a piece of paper with a name on it.  If no living man or woman turned up to sell or invest their energy into the corporation it would be powerless.  Yet many of us think of corporations as more powerful than the whole community put together.

Imagine having to fight a global, multi-national corporation, or the World Bank, or whatever.  The thought is a disturbing one, because we think of that entity as having great power.  But the entity is actually a fiction.  It is something that was made up in someone’s mind and then put on a piece of paper.  If all the employees went home it would lie dormant.

Immersion in Fantasy

Ps Chris Ong recently prompted my cogitations along these lines in a sermon about how people get carried away with pure fantasy.  People immerse themselves in books, movies, games, virtual realities and fanciful ideas with great zeal these days.

Yet the fantasy world was simply made up in the mind of a writer who created mental images that delight us.  There is no true substance or worth in the fantasy world, except to distract and entertain.

Think of such popular fictional realities as Narnia, Helms Deep and the Shire, made popular by recent movies of people’s fictional writings.  Or consider the new world of blue avatars that has now become part of western mythology.

However, no matter how compelling that world is, and how much we can immerse ourselves in it, or in books about it, or in books about books about it, it has no substance.  It is as shallow as a dream that passes or an imagination that dances in the mind but has no bearing on anything.

TV Ads

I am not a consumer of commercial television and so I was interested to see some recent television commercials in which absolutely fantastic worlds or animated (but real looking) transformations take place.  It seems that the world has become addicted to the super-real, “nothing like this has been seen before” imagery.

However, while synthetic reality has become ubiquitous today, people who know how to encounter and deal with the “real” world are possibly fewer, as people become distracted with the worlds of fantasy.

A top gamer, or one who reads commentaries on the commentaries of someone else’s imaginary world, or one who escapes to the false worlds created in books and movies, cannot build their real world experience on such things.

An Old Problem

Synthetic reality is not new.  Notions of a hero, alter ego identity through which people have vicarious experiences (movie stars, sports heroes, rich and famous) is not new.  Identification with a sports team, star personality, powerful corporate entity, etc gives people a sense of vicarious virtue that is synthetic.

The Illusion of Image

And consider the world’s addiction to “image”.  Image is also a synthetic reality.  The notion is that by improving the image, by style, fashion, plastic surgery, attitude, etc, one can change the reality of who they are.

The statement was made of American Christians that they have as many problems as Christians in any other place, but have learned to slick up their image.  That improved image, of personal presentation, body language, power dressing, etc, masks insecurities, shame, fear, guilt, pride, emptiness, etc, that may be more apparent in other, less dressed up cultures.  But the reality is not different, despite the synthetic reality being projected.

Vain Imagination

Illusions in the mind can be vain imagination, and that can all be a “stronghold” in the mind that is a high thing exalting itself against God and truth.  It can also be a lie that seduces and entraps you with imaginary chains that work as powerfully as real ones.

Illusions of grandeur, fantasies about who and what you are, escape from reality, retreat from real interaction through escapist preoccupations, day dreaming, prejudicial labelling, preconceived notions of what is and what can be, fascination with image, addiction to worldly values, these are all elements of a vain imagination.

In the Mind

The Apostle Paul identified the root of this problem two thousand years ago.  The problem is in the mind, but it’s not merely a mental problem.  Thoughts in our head take on spiritual power that enslaves us.

Paul advised that we need spiritual weapons, not human techniques, to pull down “strongholds” in our mind.  We know the strongholds are in our mind because Paul then lists three descriptions of what makes up the strongholds, and the list includes “imaginations” and “thought”.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:  (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds😉  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” 2Corinthians 10:3-5

Taking Thought

Those who preach metaphysics suggest that natural man has the power to change his thoughts and thus change their life.  They even base this claim on the Bible, quoting such verses as “as a man thinks so is he”.

But don’t be deceived by the Mind Worship delusions.  They are a vain imagination.

Look again at what Paul said.  The weapons we need to deal with the issues in our mind are not “carnal”.  That means they are not of flesh and blood.  You are not capable of breaking the strongholds in your mind by natural means, including by trying to guide your thoughts.

You need supernatural weapons to pull down those strongholds, and destroy those imaginations and thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God.

And remember the words of Christ when He said, “Who by taking thought can add one inch to his height?”

“Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?” Matthew 6:27

Don’t fall into mind worship of give your life to chanting mantras about how you are getting better and better every day.  That stuff is fleshly.  It is “carnal”.  And carnal weapons don’t work on strongholds in the mind.

Rely on Truth

One of the spiritual weapons at our disposal is Truth.  Truth sets people free.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

Now, once again, don’t be fooled by people who say that if you read their book you will know the truth.  Truth is not just some supposedly factual information.  Truth is a person.  Jesus Christ identified Himself by the name “Truth”.

“Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

When you allow the truth of God’s Word and the truth about who Jesus is, as revealed in the first four books of the New Testament (the Gospels), you will be releasing the power of truth into your life to pull down strongholds in your mind.

The Matrix Allegory

In the first Matrix movie we see a chap named Neo learn how to live outside the illusions forced upon his mind by others.  Christians immediately saw in that story an allegory for the freedom we have in Christ to be able to live free from the lies of Satan, the deceptions of the world and the deceitfulness of sin.

And we see that allegory also hinted at in Alice in Wonderland, where Alice rejects the beliefs and impositions of Wonderland and will not let them dictate who and what she is.

The Bible puts it as resisting the devil.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

Your Reality

Who is dictating your reality?  Do you choose to believe whatever you think best indulges your self will?  Or do others force a perception of the world and how you fit into it onto your life?

Have you been deceived?  If you were deceived how would you even know?  Have you ever been set free from a wrong idea?  If not how do you know how to discern truth from lie?

Are the labels used to identify you accurate or are they chains to tie you down?

What does God say about you?  His Word is truth and what the Bible says about you is something you really should pay attention to.

Are you living in vain imagination?  Have fantasy thoughts seduced you and drawn you away from living in the real world where you can actually achieve real benefit as God created you to?

You may not have thought about these issues before, so get onto it right now!

The Un-Charming Prince – “I Kissed the Frog”

Someone who I discussed these recent posts with identified with what I have written and she had a cute way of describing the situation. She said, “I kissed the frog, and he’s STILL a frog!” This is the disappointment many young wives and husbands have about their spouse.

Someone else put it this way. When a man marries a woman he doesn’t want her to change, but she does. When a woman marries a man she wants him to change, but he doesn’t. Either way, both husband and wife find themselves living with a reality that is not their ideal.

One of the traps in the process of marriage is that both the guy and the gal are transformed from one status to another. As boyfriend and girlfriend they live in the reality of being single and full of hope. However, when they become ‘man and wife’ they are both brought through from single-hood to a new personal status of husband or wife. It is almost as if in internal switch is then triggered to readjust them to this new status. Whatever their factory settings are for ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ is what they now being to operate by. So the sweet little ‘girl’ is a ‘girl’ no more. The hopeful boy is a boy no longer. They both switch into the settings which they have been programming since their child-hood, most strongly from the example of their parents and their own responses to that example.

It should never be a surprise that both the bride and groom will change their behaviour once married. So this demands two effective processes at work, for ideal results. Firstly, we should each be aware of our humanity and need to become better people. The most ideal role-model for us all is Jesus Christ and we all need to become more like him, no matter what our religious persuasion. There is no-one in all of human history who is a more worthy example to us all. Each of us should be committed to changing to be more like Jesus all the time. So, when we discover that our internal, automatic settings cause us to behave less like him we should be quick to address that.

The other effective process is for the people affected, especially the spouse, to offer grace and forgiveness to the person who proves to be less lovely than was hoped. An important reason for this grace response is that God will treat us the way we treat others. If we are unforgiving and if we despise our spouse for not being what we want, we are inviting God to refuse to forgive us and to despise who we are. Since we are all imperfect it is very dangerous to engage in despisement of others who are also imperfect.

I counsel couples who are planning to wed, to realise that they may both change in the months following the wedding – if not even in the first week. They both need to be sensitive to this process and to see that they bring themselves to God so that God can teach and heal them, perfecting who they are. They both need to be ready to love and forgive each other, even when the frog stays a frog, or the princess proves to be unworthy of that role.

For those who have chosen to make Jesus Christ their role model there should be no Un-Charming Princes and no tainted Cinderella’s. That is, of course, unless they are still a ‘work in progress’. And I guess, we are all works in progress, eh?

This post is part of a series on the Un-Charming Prince:

http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-thats-me
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/i-kissed-the-frog
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-forgiven

Un-Charming Prince – Forgiven

This is yet another instalment in the investigation of how to deal with the ugly reality most marriages confront, of the husband or wife not being what we want them to be. Susan and I have both experienced this in our marriage and I have spoken to many men and women who have their own story to tell of this phenomenon. At some point in most relationships we come to realise that the other person is less than we hoped and thought them to be. They may prove to have qualities far below what we expected.

I believe that the most powerful Repair Mechanism in marriage is forgiveness. So let me tell you about my own experience of having to forgive Susan. When she proved to be a Tainted Cinderella I struggled, but eventually resolved the situation by applying forgiveness. I think this experience will be instructive and helpful.

In the early years of my marriage to Susan, which took place almost 35 years ago, I was surprised to find that she was not the ideal wife I had expected. I did not realise I had specific expectations until they were not fulfilled. I simply thought that Susan would have the same ideas of marriage as me and would naturally do the things I thought she would. I was mistaken. Susan had her own ideas and her own determination to be and do what she thought was best. When I suggested she do things my way or fit in with my expectations she showed that she had no inclination to do so. She could tell me why her ideas were better and why mine should be rejected.

I don’t recall the detail of a lot of this now; since it was three decades ago and we have worked through many things since then. I do know that I found myself so bewildered and hurt by what Susan turned out to be that I would cry silent tears into my pillow. One day at church my pastor prophesied as he prayed for me and he said, on the Lord’s behalf, “I know the tears you shed at night”. That was an amazing prophetic revelation. I had told no-one of my situation and inner pain. I feared for a while that Susan would ask me about the tears. I didn’t want to tell her that she made me cry.

The problem was resolved very simply. I finally realised that I was despising Susan for being ‘Susan’. OK, she wasn’t the person I thought she was. She wasn’t the person I thought I was marrying. But I did marry Susan. Susan was my bride. I was rejecting and despising her for being ‘Susan’, because I wanted her to be someone else. I wanted a warm and devoted wife whose whole focus was to please me. I even coined the term, ‘Country Kitchen Mum’, to describe the idea of a loving woman who made you feel special and who made you the focus of her life. Susan was not a Country Kitchen Mum.

I finally came to the place, without me ever discussing it with Susan, of forgiving her for being ‘Susan’. I told God that I forgave Susan for not being the woman I wanted her to be. I committed myself to be Susan’s husband, to love her unconditionally, even though she was not the bride I thought I was marrying. I guess I felt a bit like Jacob must have felt being married off to a different person to the one he thought he was marrying.

Once I forgave Susan for being Susan something wonderful happened in my heart. It seemed that my fantasy ideas about the ideal wife I wanted Susan to be just evaporated and all the disappointment and hurt feelings I felt evaporated with them. I found myself on a journey of discovery, to build a very real relationship with a very real person; my wife Susan. At first I had been building a fantasy relationship with a person who did not exist. My season of struggle with the Tainted Cinderella was a vital step toward removing the fantasy notions.

Please note that it is possible for the dream to die and for bitterness and resentment to grow instead. If I had not forgiven Susan for being Susan I could have spent the rest of my life resenting Susan for being Susan. So the journey from the Honeymoon Phase to the Happy Reality Phase requires God’s grace, not just realisation. Forgiveness is the very powerful Repair Mechanism in marriage. Never hold back from using it. And the internal transformation you can enjoy will often surprise you.

This is part of a series of posts on the theme of the Un-Charming Prince:

http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-thats-me
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/i-kissed-the-frog
http://chrisfieldblog.com/topical/un-charming-prince-forgiven

Are You Ready for Reality?

Sarsha & Dijon are deeply in love. She desperately needs him to help her after a troubled childhood. He is totally captivated by the idea of being her troubadour. He is going to make her happy and she is going to complete him. The fantasy has begun and they eagerly marry so they can live their dream.

Many irresponsible months later, after notching up a string of giddy moments and experimental exploits Sarsha and Dijon are going to have a baby. It is one big adventure and it’s just SO exciting to them both. This is their greatest achievement and the fruit of their delirious love for each other.

But after a wrenching year of incredible duress the couple are struggling to maintain their marriage. They DEFINITELY will NEVER have another child. Babies are just SO demanding. The impact of the baby on their free-wheeling lifestyle has been traumatic. The load placed on their flimsy relationship has almost been to breaking point.

What went wrong? Why didn’t the baby fit into the fantasy? Why did the bubble of delusion ever have to be burst? Why couldn’t the baby just do what the parents wanted it to do? Why couldn’t they just continue their silly game with a baby as part of the picture?

What went wrong for this couple is that Reality hit. Their foolishness did not dictate reality, but simply hid their eyes from it. Giddy giggles are not the stuff on which real life is built. Shallow personalities and empty values are straw, no matter what they dress up as.

This couple was not ready for reality, but reality is what they had. Over the next few years they will both mature, even if painfully and haltingly. They will finally come to the place where they see other things than their fantasies. Hopefully that day will come, for their sakes and for the sake of their baby.

Immaturity and romantic fantasies do not prepare people for parenting. And in our highly peer-streamed culture few young adults have shared in the care and nurture of babies and children. Many young mums have never held a baby before their own. Many young dads are ill-prepared for the invasion of a young dependent baby into their home.

Children are a blessing from God and are God’s reward. Yet many people reel in shock under the unexpected impact of a baby in their life. The problem is not with the baby, but with the way our culture prepares people for reality. The “happily ever after” stories and self-indulgent values rob many of reality and undermine their chances of a healthy start to marriage and family.

The reality check which comes from a first child and the work-load resulting from a growing family are what contribute to a person’s maturity. I have heard it said of a young man and woman at times, they have much going for them but will be so much better value once they have been married and started a family. The experience of facing realities which marriage and babies force upon them brings out a maturity and strength that is needed.

I encourage those who have not yet started a family to spend time with those who have. I encourage those who have young children to actively involve children, youth and young adults in the experience of caring for the child. These experiences help bring reality into the understanding, and protect people from the fantasies that would otherwise overwhelm them.