The Real World is, among other things, the place to which people half-jokingly say they are returning after a holiday or an interesting weekend. You might hear an edge of resentment, but you might sense a little relief too.
There are as many ‘Real Worlds’ out there as there are people using the term. Lately I’ve had a creeping suspicion that the Real World doesn’t exist at all, except in the way that you define it. Just try and come to a consensus regarding this with five strangers. But let’s move forward, shall we?
Common to all definitions, I think, is that it’s a place where you assume only limited control over your life, where you willingly subordinate your capacity for choice to forces around you. The more you tend to exercise choice, the more malleable you probably see ‘reality’, and the less likely you are to use the term in a non-ironic way.
Does not using the term make reality less real? No, just as using the term doesn’t make your version of it more true. Whatever it is, it’s something we all swim through, but you gain no points by fixating on the strength of its flow at the expense of celebrating and exercising the power of your own choice.
To the extent that we do entertain the notion, is the Real World anything more than a place where we can use our control in the name of establishing comfort or some worthy end, a livable foundation, then having done so, absolve ourselves from expending further effort by claiming that variations from/on that life are out of reach?
Maybe you are thinking: ‘Let’s see you try to raise children without a ‘livable foundation’. Look: the ‘livable foundation’ is not a problem unless it’s a foundation too for laziness, or fear of broadening ourselves and our lives (character traits which might also set a poor example for your kids, incidentally…). Build what you will, but having done so, keep in mind who is most responsible for the construction in the first place.
There’s a danger in ascribing/applying a term like ‘reality’ to our lives or a general benign process within which we function. The danger is that it might unnecessarily give the concept a momentum or power in our minds that opposes our intent, and the road to more freedom has enough twists and turns as it is.
The Real World: where would you be without it?