What is the relationship between the real world and the invisible?
First, I suppose we must grant that there are two distinct worlds. I trust we all can agree that there is a “real” world–that is, the sum total of all physical, quantifiable realities: the known universe as defined by three dimensions, time and space (theoretical physicists and cutting-edge cosmologists please stay out of this discussion–but then, I don’t guess you’d be reading this blog, so your objections are withheld by default).
But about the other “non-real” world, I would expect considerably more debate. First of all, one might ask, is there anything not real, not confined by three dimensions and time and space? And if you grant that there might be something else, open that Pandora’s Box of possibility, then how many non-real worlds could one postulate? Why only one? How about two or seven or thirteen or six hundred sixty-six or a quadrillion (a number even greater than the U.S. National Debt)? And if the non-real worlds begin to multiply, how do we stop them? I mean, by definition they exist outside the laws of the physical universe, totally beyond our control. They could appear, or disappear, endlessly.
O.K. Let’s bring this post back around to some semblance of order. The non-real worlds may exist outside the laws of the physical universe, but within the world of jeffreyandersonfiction I have total control and final say. And for purposes of my initial question, I propose that we allow that there is a non-real domain and that all aspects of it can be gathered into a single if complex realm, perhaps as diverse as the real world but united by the defining attribute that all parts lie outside the laws of the physical universe. As such, the non-real world might be defined by such adjectives and metaphors as invisible, incorporeal, spiritual, transcendent, metaphysical, sublime, divine, ethereal, mystical, God, gods, heaven, hell. The number and variety of adjectives and metaphors for the non-real realm suggest at least our language’s inadequacy to circumscribe and define it (language being, after all, a product of the real world), and perhaps our wide-ranging understanding or belief in it: Is there anything else out there? If so, what is that else like?
But as one who has always, far back as I can remember, taken that else for granted and spent much of my life engaged in and with that else (and thereby outside of time, though my physical body doesn’t seem to have shared in the privilege), my current interest isn’t so much what is the else like? (those insights have appeared, and will continue to appear, according to a schedule outside of my will or planning) as what is the relationship between the two disparate worlds? This question surely has meaning for anyone who grants the existence of an invisible world; and, based on a quick glance at a list of top-grossing movies and bestselling books, the idea of a realm and powers that lie outside reality has a near stranglehold on our collective imagination (and hope?).
So what is the relationship between the two worlds? Does one impact the other? Do they ever overlap? Religion and art are the two areas where humans have, throughout history, sought to connect the two realms. Religions have crafted belief structures, traditions, rituals, habits, and dogmas in an attempt to create or codify overlap between the realms, and from that overlap perhaps connection, communication, understanding, and, most importantly, assurance–that the invisible realm is not hostile or indifferent, that it is defined by attentive and loving (if at times judgmental) benevolence.
Art through the ages has been every bit as intent on discovering or defining a connection between the realms, and has often used religion as a jump-off point (whether the religion allows such expression or not). But artistic expression has been much more diverse and divergent in its speculations and outcomes, showing as many (or maybe more) terrifying visions of that other realm as consoling ones, and a far more inventive imagining of possible overlaps and connections. (Go to an e-book webpage–there’s a link highlighted in my previous post–or Netflix and type “paranormal” into the search form if you don’t believe me!)
But what does all that chatter down through the millennia, raised to a deafening roar in our infinitely connected age, mean for each of us trying to understand the mix of visible and invisible, real and surreal, physical and transcendent in his or her own body and soul? In the end I think all that noise is too much–as in too much distraction, too much enticement, too much manipulation, too much confusion–and therefore amounts to not much–not much insight, not much understanding, not much reconciling of the two realms into a single cogent outlook and ethic.
So what is one to do? Listen–not to what is out there but to what is in here, as in inside you. The two realms do overlap, but not in the church nave or the magnificent waterfall or the Renaissance fresco. The two overlap within your heart. And if that overlap is uncovered, accepted, explored, and deciphered (that’s a lifetime’s worth of reflection and growth reduced to four verbs!), then (and I would venture, only then) will the overlap residing in the nave or the waterfall or the fresco have true meaning and resonance.
Then you will be able to hear the harmony formerly lost in the cacophony out there because you heard that sound, and got to know that sound, first in here, within your heart.