Real Reality

I'm reading a book right now by Chuck Palahniuk called Haunted, a strange story about a bunch of writers who have gone on a retreat, only to find themselves locked in an old theater with no windows, limited food, and no way out.

Sounds kind of disturbing, doesn't it? Well, it is kind of disturbing. But then, Chuck Palahniuk is known for writing on disturbing subject matter--he's best knows for writing the book, Fight Club, on which the movie of the same title is based.

So, why am I reading this book? Because I like disturbing subject matter? Not really.

I'm reading Haunted (aside from the fact that's it's an engaging book) because I believe Chuck Palahniuk is a window into the world of our culture, especially the world of Generation X and younger. A world filled with despair and hopelessness. A world that is desperately searching for meaning beyond itself. A world that wants more to life than just wealth and good looks.

The book itself is made up of short stories "written by" the writers who are stuck in the old theater.

Last night, I read a story called The Nightmare Box, in which a young woman looks into an antique box called a Nightmare Box. The Box itself continously ticks (like a clock), and then at some random point stops ticking. When it stops ticking, the first person to look into the box sees something that drives that person to utter despair.

What is it that people see in the Nightmare Box? What could be that terrible, that awful, that horrifying?

By the end of the story, we learn what the Nightmare Box reveals:

It's something that goes beyond life-after-death. What's in the box is proof that what we call life isn't. Our world is a dream. Infinitely fake. A nightmare.

One look, Rand says, and your life--your preening and struggle and worry--it's all pointless....

All your problems and love affairs.

They're an illusion.

"What you see inside the box," Rand says, "is a glimpse of real reality."

I don't know about you, but I see truth in these words. When we understand "real reality" we discover that all our "preening and struggle and worry--it's all pointless."

But what's "real reality"? If we caught a glimpse of "real reality," would it really lead to despair? Or would it lead to hope?

I'm also reading another book right now, this one by Dallas Willard, called The Divine Conspiracy. In this book, Willard delves into the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount (or, as he calls it, the Discourse on the Hill).

In his chapter on the Beatitudes, Willard challenges the common notion that the Beatitudes are instructions on how to live. When Jesus says "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," Jesus isn't instructing us to be "poor in spirit." Jesus isn't saying it's a virtue to be "poor in spirit."

On the contrary, Jesus is saying that the "real reality" is that those who are "poor in spirit," those who are "spiritually bankrupt, deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of 'religion'"--theirs is the kingdom of heaven!

Here's how Willard puts it:

Those poor in spirit are called "blessed" by Jesus, not because they are in a meritorious condition, but because, precisely in spite of and in the midst of their ever so deplorable condtion, the rule of the heavens has moved redemptively upon and through them by the grace of Christ. (italics Willard's)
See, that's "real reality"! Jesus has brought into the world a new "real reality." A reality in which the kingdom of heaven is here! Among us. With us. In Jesus.

We are living in the midst of the kingdom of heaven because Jesus has brought it near. And all can experience that "real reality" because of the grace of Jesus.

So here's the question: Would the Nightmare Box really lead a person to utter despair?

I don't think so. Not if it revealed the "real reality" that Jesus revealed.


J. K. Jones said...

Good post. I’ll have to get and read the first book you mention.

I think the glimpse of real reality would drive many to despair. If I did not have faith in Christ, a certain trust that He paid the penalty for my sins and credited me with a righteousness not my own; I would be driven to utter despair by the reality of my own sin and selfishness. How could anyone stand before the reality of God and not be undone (Isaiah 6:5)?

Markus Watson said...

Great point, J.K.! I guess you could argue that that was Isaiah's response when he saw the LORD in the temple.

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