Life is real

November 22, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More

After a business meeting in Boston last week, I had two extra hours before I needed to head to the airport. I decided to visit a few historical sites on foot by following Boston’s “Freedom Trail.” At one end of the trail is the “Old North Church,” from which the patriots displayed two lanterns to give warning that the British were about to attack “by sea.” img_0322

As I was approaching the Old North Church, I had an odd thought: The Old North Church really exists. It’s not just part of a concocted story like Harry Potter. You can walk up and touch the bricks and feel the history in your fingertips. You can trace the history of the church through hundreds of authentic letters and other writings. You can say with great confidence that the Old North Church played a real-life role the Revolutionary War.

Because I am a lawyer and a writer, I spend a lot of time thinking of abstract ideas. For that reason, I often need to remind myself about some of the many parts of life that really happened.  Maybe I also need to remind myself that some things are really real because entertainment has become such a central part of our lives. When Americans get together, they often bond by discussing television shows and movies.  These works of fictions are so often discussed that they seem to rise to the level of “facts.”  But our world mostly depends on real events that dramatically affect our lives.

On the flight back home from Boston, I started thinking of some of the other amazing things that actually play critical roles in our lives. They aren’t just stories in history books or science books. For instance, World War II really occurred. It wasn’t just a movie. There are cemeteries filled with the bodies of the soldiers that died in that war. Consider also, the importance of large-scale immigration to the United States over the past centuries. Without that mass movement of people to the United States, most of us wouldn’t have been born. The scale and the details of many real life events are more amazing than anything any fiction writer could conjure up. Here are some other important facts that I am generally amazed at whenever I take the time to remind myself that these aren’t simply stories:

  • The Greeks really built an extraordinary civilization, as did the Maya and the Egyptian.  These aren’t just yarns spun by museums and authors.
  • We’re floating in space and there are stars under our feet too.
  • The sun is a giant furnace that really does light and heat the earth, and someday the sun won’t exist.
  • The universe is expanding in rapidly in such a way as to suggest a Big Bang, which was a time when there was no Earth and no living things.
  • Human beings are animals, and we run in large flocks. 40% of our DNA matches the DNA of lettuce.
  • All living things are related.
  • We don’t have any credible users’ manual for living life on earth.
  • We are far from rational beings.
  • Despite its unfathomable complexity, including the fact that it is constituted of many billions of cells, the human body works.
  • Almost all human cognition is subconscious and it is driven largely by emotions, addictions and instincts.
  • There really are 7 billion people on our planet and we are rapidly exhausting the planet’s resources.

I often need to remind myself of these things. I get too distracted by day-to-day aspects of my life, which causes me to take all too many things for granted. Thus, I need to remind myself that much of the world around us is really real, not just a story.  This is almost embarrassing to admit, but I often enrich my life by consciously acknowledging the obvious.

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Category: American Culture, History, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    The Old North Church is real, but Johnny Tremain (whose name is inextricably linked to the church in my mind) is not. This is an example of how early teaching can warp perceptions of what is real. Tremain has been used since 1943 to teach children the highlights of the American Revolution. Tremain, like Forrest Gump, has an infirmity yet is thrust into high profile situations of historical significance.

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