Will the real world please stand up?
an essay excerpted from the book "Scraps and Other Thoughts"
by Stanley Babson
Babson and his family have been coming to Harbour Island for 50
years. He spends his time swimming in the bay and writing philosophical
essays on his musings. Briland Browser sells his books, and all
proceeds go to the the Briland day nursery. Stop by and pick up
The early morning sun peeks up over the horizon and bathes the
harbor in golden rays which seem to undulate on tiny wavelets that
rise and fall from boats bobbing at their moorings.
"Good morning world!" I announce with great enthusiasm
as I pause in my 7 a.m. before-breakfast swim to say hello to the
new day. This is a new, bright, Bahamian day, and this is my wintertime
Bahamian world. But this is not my only world. There are other worlds
that I occupy from time to time. There is my Connecticut world where
I spend the bulk of my time when I'm not in the Bahamas. There I
greet the morning sun at 7 a.m.(no swim). It's still the same greeting
as the early rays of the sun emerge to warm and lighten the field
where bluebird lives. As I announce "Good morning world!"
to nobody in particular, a squirrel leaps from the bird feeder in
fright and darts for the safety of his next not far off. I have
a never-ending battle with this squirrel who pigs out at my bird
feeder and muscles the birds away.
So that is another world. And there are others more transient than
Connecticut and the Bahamas. So many worlds...like the scripture
in the Bible, "In my house there are many mansions." So
too in life here on earth there is a wide diversity of possible
worlds. What then is the "real world"?
To tell the truth...
There was a popular TV show not too long ago where a panel of celebrity
"experts" was confronted with three characters each pretending
to be some eminent personage in disguise. The panel would direct
questions to each of these characters in an attempt to decide who
was the "real" personage. When votes were cast, the moderator
would ask for the real person to "Please stand up." Quite
often the panelists were totally wrong in their selection. So I've
sometimes come to ask myself what is the real world...will the real
world please stand up.
For me this is not too complicated a question, but nevertheless,
it seems to be increasingly muddied and confused as the years roll
by. I've come to realize that what is reality to me may not be the
same reality to someone else. When I look at television shows these
days, I know that this is definitely becoming the case.
As I have my morning wake up swim in the Bahamas, I am not alone
in an isolated vacuum, All around me the world is waking up. Roosters
are crowing, dogs are barking and roaming the streets in search
of I know not what. The Haitian day laborers are arriving by boat
from across the bay to clear brush, do yardwork, and other menial
chores for the large estates up island. Boats are arriving from
Eleuthera across the bay delivering fresh bananas, vegetables, and
fruits, for the street stalls along Bay Street. Much is going on
even at this early hour. There is a certain vibrance and vitality
to each morning activity.
I spy a jogger or power walker trotting along the street, eyes transfixed
on the roadway ahead, ears clamped tight shut with a walkman blaring
forth, or crooning noises from another world...not this one. I wonder,
is our natural reality so bad as to block it out and live, partially
at least, in another world? Do we discard any interest in the roosters
crowing, the wind whistling through the casarina pines, the slap
of waves upon the quay? Do we disdain the beauty of the panorama
of the bougainvillea blooms, hibiscus in all colors and varieties,
the counterpoint of different vegetation...sea grapes, palmettos,
oleanders, the smell of jasmine?
In a similar vein, I must admit to being rather appalled at the
tremendous growth in the video games world. This is a world of make
believe, largely dominated by violence where the video user sits
in a chair staring at a screen and punching buttons to either escape
mayhem and destruction or to inflict mayhem and destruction on others.
Good for the eye and hand coordination surely, but when it dominates
one's own allocation of time spent in life, it often results in
"Let's hear it for the substitute world!" This unreal
world appears to be more appealing and even increasingly so to our
young. Reality is dull.
What then is to become of the real world as it exists outside the
TV tube, the VCR, the computer, the movie theater. Does it have
a future? Will there come a time when it won't be able to "stand
going perhaps from the sublime to the ridiculous, I wonder how many
other worlds can there be of which we have no real awareness yet?
The Hubbell telescope informs us that it has spotted countless new
galaxies, containing billions of new stars outside our known solar
system in our own galaxy. How do we relate to this new information?
Are there other worlds out there beyond what we can conceive of
here on our own puny earth? Are there living organisms out there
more or less advanced than we ourselves?
Mathematically the likelihood of these quesries is yes..of course!
But how can we relate to such other worlds if they do exist? And
if this world out there is an expanding universe, how much expansion
away from what we know here and now can there be? I personally cannot
deal with infinity. I am bound by the finite, the measurable. I
cannot even come to grips with my own well-defined solar system.
How can we deal with what is yet beyond and as yet unknown?
So much for the worlds of outer space. But what of the worlds of
inner space? There are such worlds that we are largely ignorant
of. ..the worlds of bacteria, germs, microbes, anarobes and what
else? The Natural History magazine recently did an article on this
subject which I found startling to say the least. What really got
me was the statement, "The colon is replete with microorganisms
total numbers of which are in the range of 100,000,000,000,000.
Their dense concentration there approaches the theoretical limit
of what can fit into a given space. (I would hope so!) More than
500 different species of bacteria regularly reside in the colon
of every living person.
What kind of world is this inside me? We'd like to think that anything
that is inside of us is pretty well known and subject to our control.
Is this some fantasy or delusion? I find it mind boggling to say
the least. It is really more news than I care to know.
But to show you how the mind works, an extraordinary thought emerges
from all this that tantalizes me. Suppose these many bacteria, germs,
microorganisms are in reality living in their own micro world? Suppose
we, I mean you and me, are ourselves separate universes or galaxies
of atoms or molecules in which these microorganisms exist, move,
live out their lives and destinies. Are there then inner worlds
within us just as there are outer world outside us?
Sleeping dog realities
And taking this thought one step further, is it possible that as
they live out their lives within us separated by the molecules and
matter that make up our body mass, why are not we ourselves bonded
to land masses and water masses within given planetary objects that
in turn serve as molecules in some larger undefined organism that
represent a higher body of living than we know of or can imagine.
Is this really such a strange and disturbing thought? So when I
say, "Will the real world please stand up," I'm really
not sure just what will emerge... what will stand up... perhaps
something far more involved than what I have identified in my lifetime.
And when all of this is considered, I'm not so sure I want the real
world, whatever it is, to stand up. Perhaps it's better letting
sleeping dogs lie. There's lots about the world that I know and
live in that I like... just as it is.
Other books by Stanley Babson include:
- Thoughts While Walking a Tropic Beach
- Thoughts from Two a.m. to Four a.m.
- Thoughts while driving a tractor
- Pools of Thought: a collection of poems
Stanley's father, Stanley M. Babson, began the family writing tradition
on Harbour Island with THE book on "Bonefishing."
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