Opinion: reality — deal with it

By Peter Matthews

Standing in the shower this morning, I was thinking about reality and its different forms.

There’s reality TV, virtual reality, and of course actual reality. At the opposite end of the spectrum from actual reality is denial, often referred to as being up the [Egyptian] river.

I’m sure we are all prone to taking a trip up the river every now and then, and some people seem actually to inhabit the upper reaches.

Somewhere between reality and denial there exists what seems best described as ‘chosen reality’. A person may not necessarily deny that a fact is true, but rather believe, or at least behave and live as though, there is an alternate truth – one which suits them better.

A chosen reality might be a situation where somebody can’t bear the thought of a lamb being slaughtered – those white fluffy symbols of new life and joy which adorn the pages of calendars and Easter egg boxes – and therefore they remove that section of the truth from their mental picture. So now the origin of lamb cutlets is the supermarket shelf, and all is well.

Another might be where a person knows they should recycle used items, but they don’t. For this person, the trajectory of an item once it is placed in the rubbish is removed. This person knows only too well what will happen; it will end up in landfill, but we can leave that part out of our chosen reality because it’s a bit difficult to deal with.

Alice Morgan, a character in the TV series Luther is part genius, part psychopath, and part malignant narcissist but she does a nice line in quotable truths and my favourite is this: “People continue to believe that the future will be better than the evidence of the present can possibly suggest”. That’s a nice summary of what I’m talking about; not so much denial as a choice to believe in something a bit less troubling than the truth.

So, I guess what we all need to do is make a habit of unpacking the too hard basket every now and then.

From an environmental point of view this means sifting through the beer box stuffed with rubbish and separating out the glass jars and beer bottles from the food scraps and non-recyclable refuse. That was something I had to do this morning, having just returned from an idyllic long weekend touring as many Marlborough wineries as our group of five could fit into three days. Dealing with the household garbage this morning wasn’t a pleasant job but if we are to preserve our amazingly beautiful country, and the planet, for future generations we must deal with actual reality, and that’s often a bit more difficult and gritty than the chosen version in which many of us live.

Let’s hear about Waipā’s environmental heroes – Contact Peter Matthews at: peter@noplanetb.nz

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