Living in the Real World

'Brothers in Arms' is one of the most heart-rending anti-war anthems of the past fifty years.

Living in the Real World

Written during the Falklands conflict between Argentina and the United Kingdom, it tells the story of a soldier’s death on the battlefield. Mark Knopfler uncovers the cause of conflict in a couple of lines:  

We have just one world,
But we live in different ones”

There is, Knopfler asserts, “just one world”, yet people live in “different ones”. We all physically inhabit one planet but our ideologies and presuppositions mean that we view that same world from very different perspectives. This gives rise to conflict.

Our perspective on the world, the lens through which we view reality, is important. I live in a country largely divided between two religiopolitical groups. These groups look at the same historical facts and come to contrasting conclusions. Why? Because each has a bias. Each has a socially constructed lens through which they interpret the world.

Someone might say, “But that makes unity impossible! If we all approach subjects with pre-existing biases, then we can never properly understand the truth”. Thankfully that is not the case. In fact, people change their mind about the world often. As facts are presented, as realities are faced up to, as information is received, minds are changed and truth is discovered and embraced. We all have presuppositions but we don’t need to remain a slave to them.

As a teenager I attended school assemblies. Before the school day began the headmaster would read a religious message or ‘thought for the day’ and lead the school in prayer. Most of what he said was eminently forgettable but I do remember him telling the story of the blind men and the elephant. It went something like this:

Five blind men were walking together when they bumped into an elephant. One put his hand against the leg of the elephant and said, “An elephant is like a pillar!” Another leant against the side of the elephant and said, “An elephant is like a wall!” One had grasped the elephant’s tail and scoffed at the others, “Not at all, an elephant is like a rope”. The fourth’s hand found the trunk of the elephant and, as it moved, he exclaimed, “It’s like a large snake”. Finally the fifth, grasping hold of a sharp tusk, said, “You are all wrong, the elephant is like a spear!”

The intended moral of the story was that we were all like blind men unable to see the full picture. We were being taught that knowing objective truth was impossible; that our insight into reality was, at best, very limited and fragmented. Our headmaster thought it important to teach us the ‘truth’ that we couldn’t know the truth. Very confusing.

However, the author of that little story certainly knew what an elephant was. He knew that the ideas of the blind men were incorrect. He wasn’t blind. He was the creator of the story, and he could see the whole picture. If the blind men could only listen to him, they would have known the truth.

We can only comprehend our world by listening to, and learning from, the great Story-teller, the Creator Himself. Thankfully He has not remained silent. Left to ourselves we fumble around in the dark but “the entrance of [God’s] words gives light” (Psalm 119:130).

It may be that you have bumped up against many incomprehensible things as you have tried to make sense of the world and your place in it. Could it be that you’ve been attempting to interpret reality without the Author’s help? We have “just one world” but, thank God, this world can be intelligible to us. We are not condemned to live in disparate worlds of our own imaginations. God wants us to live in the real world, the world He has created, and to understand it. His word best explains it. Can I encourage you to obtain a Bible and read it?

Photo credit: Benjamin Ranger