Thursday, April 9, 2009

Does All Reality Relate?

Reality and relate are practically acronyms. The first five of six letters in the word relate are also in the word reality. Coincidence? I think not. To imagine that all which concerns “relate” is within “reality” is not difficult, for how can there be any true relationship except with someone who is real? You may admire a picture, but you can’t relate to it. Even if it stirs emotion, that emotion is all on the side of the observer. The picture does not sigh or cry. Everything in the material world is like that. Materials are just lifeless pictures. No relationship can exist with them.

So relationships have to be real. What about the converse? Does reality require relationship? It would seem that it does not. A picture is evidently real, but we cannot relate to it. But someone creates a picture with a purpose. If the picture is a gift, then truly the picture implies a relationship between the giver and the recipient. But what about sand? Isn’t that reality without a relationship? How do we know? Couldn’t sand, like a sandy beach, be part of the gift of reality to us? In fact, as far as we know, isn’t all of reality a gift from God? Perhaps it is all just like a picture, but a person gives us the picture and we have to decide how we are to relate to Him. We can choose to acknowledge Him, be grateful to Him and seek His counsel. Or we can choose to ignore Him, shun Him, and disobey His instructions. The choice is up to us, but it still is a choice about a relationship. That is what reality is all about: relationships.

Is a relationship with God equally obvious to everyone? No more so than other relationships are equally obvious. Think of an autistic person. He may not be able to relate to other people, but his disability does not mean that relationships are not real. We can still relate to him. How, though, do you convince the autistic person that relationships are real? You can’t! Otherwise, he would not be autistic, but rather someone more able to relate to others. Now, think of an atheist. How do you convince her that a relationship with God is real? You can’t! Otherwise she would not be an atheist. Atheists are just autistic with respect to relationships with God. Their disabilities do not disprove our relationships.

I’ve described a reality/relates connection as almost acronyms, as syllogistic synonyms, and as allegorical to autism and atheism. How do the words reality and relate differ? Reality has two letters not in relate: I and Y. To me, these two stand for I and you, both referring to how we relate to some specific person, one at a time. When we stop relating to people as persons, we get farther from reality. Of course, the big you is God. Our reality is simply wrapped up in our relationship with God even though we may attempt to open the gift without seeing the wrapping or the giver. How ungrateful of us.

Likewise, the word relate has just one letter not in reality: the second letter E, which can stand for everyone. The first question a human asked in the bible was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” By the time of the New Testament, the question became: “Who is my neighbor?” Stated another way, to whom do I owe a relationship? The answer is everyone. We are all neighbors. We are all brothers and sisters. We are all related. We are all responsible for each other. Black and white, rich and poor, born and unborn, we are all our brother’s keeper.

Our understanding of reality and relationships is not static. To some extent, our understanding of both grows over time. It may regress, however, such as by addiction or senility, but otherwise our appreciation of the importance of both can improve over time. What can be harmful, though, is realizing too late the importance of relationships we’ve cast away. Take, for example, abortion. Typically, when a young mother submits to an abortion, she does not appreciate the value of the relationship her child will provide her nor does she realize how much she will regret the lost relationship with the child she never saw. This relationship reality is the least understood characteristic of the abortion decision. The mothers learn too late that they may have ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands, but never an ex-child. A mother is a mother forever.

Descartes founded his philosophy upon, “I think, therefore I am.” We do far better to acknowledge, “He relates, therefore we are.” We cherish our relationships more and more as we grow. We learn that relationships are the only realities which are eternal. All we really have, all that is really important, are relationships. We ache to relate.

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