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What is Reality????

Returning to my original pressing question at the start of class last week: What is the opposite of reality? Is that what The Game is about? I’ve just googled ‘the opposite of reality’ and Oxford returns ‘fantasy.’ Further options include unreality, delusion, illusion, falsehood, and misconception. But are these things not also part of reality?

Oxford returns the definition of reality as ‘the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.’ “Oxford says this, Oxford says that,” and who decided that Oxford was the authority of meaning in language? Language is a tool for communication, but can we establish languages for ourselves or a discrete group of peers and retain sensibility to the world at large? How can we stretch the definition of reality to suit our purpose? What does it mean when someone thinks or acts “realistically” or is a “realist”?

The portion of the Oxford definition that really confuses me is “as they actually exist” because I think I tend to conflate reality with the real world. I can fantasize about sunbathing in Central America, which is outside my reality, but is still something attainable in the real world. Is reality confined to the immediate things around us everyday? (What is the opposite of the real world?) Is reality confined to the immediate moment - the present? Is history reality? The future certainly isn’t.

Reading the excerpted SUM tales, my mind flashed back to the time I dated an actor and became confused about the presence he acted for the public. In private he was dark, anxious, and suffered from depression, yet it could all be masked on cue. He was very good at presenting his idealized self. Were his two personas both part of reality? Now we should create distinctions between personal and global realities.

I watched The Game this morning and was absolutely blown away. It was as if the SUM excerpts had come to life and there was a film within a film: Nick’s personal reality during the game is a global illusion. The deception felt so precise and the video montages throughout the film (a clear reference for Succession) seem to ground the story because history and documentation feel like indisputable reality. I really believed NVO had sealed his fate at the end (I can be quite gullible) and was really impressed by the storytelling. How else can we craft illusions for the audience?

7 weeks is an awfully short time to be examining the depths of reality. What are some ways that we can challenge reality? Well, reality is especially potent when juxtaposed with its counterparts: idealism, fantasy, illusion, and even falsehoods and delusions. How many different ways can we conflate illusion and reality to the point where they’re indistinguishable? And as illusion becomes closer and closer to reality, add greater and greater illusion.


Reference Material:

Excerpts from SUM: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman; ‘The Cast’ and ‘Incentive’

The Game (1997); dir. David Fincher

‘Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?’ By Nick Bostrom

The Girl Chewing Gum (1976); dir. John Smith

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