Having tried every other way to live, human beings sometimes become open to the realistic living of their real lives. Most of us, perhaps all of us, have had to discover for ourselves the dead ends of trying to live out our many unrealistic self-fabrications of reality. As a last resort we become open to the possibility that realistic living is the best-case scenario for our lives, in spite of all the dreadful ups and downs that realism includes.
So what is Reality with a capital R, and what is realistic living This may have become for us the primary question. While answering this question is a lifelong quest, here is a preposterously simple outline of realistic living in five paragraphs:
(1) Reality is absurd, meaningless, incomprehensible. Reality has no purpose that we can discover from the best of our sciences, from years of contemplation, from our best religious heritages, or from our decades of personal experience. Any meaning we have in our lives is something that we humans have created. Whatever purpose in life we have is also something that we humans have created. And Reality will eventually upset, undermine, or rudely smash whatever meanings or purposes that we humans have created. Realistic living means being open to this unfathomable mysteriousness.
(2) Furthermore, in terms of the realistic living of our lives, we are in a maze of guilt. I will put this personally: I have mistreated in some measure every woman I have been married to or deeply related to. I have mistreated every son or daughter that I have been privileged to father. I have messed up in some measure every course I have opted to teach or book I have written. I have taken on foolishness from the general society. I have made messes and done regrettables that I will not attempt to describe. I have done unrealistic things that I do not remember and may never remember. And these many commissions are small in comparison with my more numerous omissions. There are literally billions of good things that I might have done that I did not do and will never do. It would be a joke for me to believe that I could make up for all this unrealism with a few decades of realistic living, or even with a thousand years of realistic living.
(3) Fortunately, Reality is offering me a fresh start in realism at this very instant. All the unrealism that characterizes my past is forgiven. This comprehensive forgiveness is what it means to have a fresh start in realism. The past is a learning experience that may be useful for the realistic living of the present, but the past provides no complete outline for what realistic living will truly require. This fresh start includes the freedom to design what that fresh start in realism will be. Realism requires me to decide my fresh start. But before I do that, realism requires me to accept the fact that Reality is giving me this fresh start because Reality loves me profoundly, accepts me as I am with all my physical flaws and weakness, all my psychological flaws and weakness, and all of my unrealistic habits, tendencies, addictions, and cowardly reservations. Fortunately for me, Reality does not require me to live up to the standards of perfection that I have been taught or designed for myself. A fresh start means a fresh start from where I really am to wherever I realistically choose to go.
(4) So what shall I do Well, a truly fresh start in realism requires that I design for myself, with my new-found freedom, some kind of practice that assists me in living realistically. For if I do not take care of myself in this regard, I will not be able to make realistic contributions to others, to humanity, or to the planet. This might mean joining a Buddhist sangha of devoted meditators. This might mean joining an experiment in resurgent Christian practice. Or it might mean something else. But, I will certainly need to design something communal as well as solitary, for realistic living is a deep project requiring human assistance in staying the course of realism.
(5) Then with my new-found freedom, I will need to design the contributions that I am going to make. Perhaps it is reforming a small piece of the prison system, or sewage disposal, or education, or lawyering, or global warming, or fiscal inequality, or environmental destruction, or religious methods, or some combination of these and other options. These contributions will be small compared with the vast possibilities that confront me. And I will need to make my contributions along with others if those contributions are to be momentum building and lasting. Every contribution is small and every avalanche of change starts small, but all the comprehensive issues of planetary realism are Realitys demand upon my life. My small stuff is chosen by me in the context of this largeness. Such is the meaning and the necessity of realism. My contributions do not make me righteous or make up for all the commissions of unrealism and omissions of realism that I can remember. My righteousness is a simple gift of fresh start by the forgiving Reality that I am now committed to serve.
So there is a sketch in five simple paragraphs of the last resort of realistic living. This last resort is my true bliss. Other paths lead to some form of despair. Had I been wiser, this last resort might have been my first resort. And since it has now become my current resort, I can make it my last resort that is, I can resist my temptations to the additional resorts of unrealism that will surely come my way.
** Please leave your comments aboutThe Last Resortbelow.
***To further explore the work of Gene Marshall visitwww.RealisticLiving.orgor acquire a copy ofThe Call of the Awe,Jacobs Dream,The Road from Empire to Eco-Democracy, or acquire on-lineThe Enigma of Consciousness. Gene is also a regular participant in the Discussion Forum ofwww.storywarrior.net.