Real, UnReal, SuperReal, and Not

A friend recently asked me, “Do you believe in absolutes?”

After a brief hesitation, I answered yes. Not really because I absolutely believe in absolutes (now there’s a paradox), but because a very smart professor taught me to hate the “both” argument, and because I hate saying no.

To defend my hasty yes, I came up with the example of Real and Not Real. Those are absolute, right? Either something exists or it doesn’t.

But not so fast. What about dreams, what about visions, what about beings we cannot see but can interact with? What of the things unseen and untouched, but known nonetheless? I quickly decided that Real versus Not Real is another false dichotomy, an unnecessary duality. There are categories of existence.

Let’s hammer out some definitions, shall we?

  • Real: This is what it seems. The keyboard I’m typing on is real, because it is in the physical world. I am engaging with it. Though you can’t see me through your computer screen, I’m real. You’re real, too, whoever and wherever you are. At least I hope you are, otherwise I may need to have a discussion with a medical professional about my categories of reality.
  • UnReal: These are the things we experience, but not in this physical realm. Dreams. Imagination. Ghosts or fairies, if you want to go there, things that exist in reality parallel to ours and not necessarily beyond our basic understanding and reason.
  • SuperReal: These are the things the spirit experiences in a realm beyond (I hate to say ‘above’) ours. Experiences found in meditation, in vision, in prayer, in trance. Reality beyond our normal capacity to know, but still real. The SuperReal lifts us beyond our basic sensory or even logical experience. Love and faith can fall into the SuperReal. You could call this the realm of the Gods.
  • Not: This is void. If I type a sentence and then delete it, there is void. That sentence is Not. You’ll never know it, but I will. Not is destruction, absence, NOT. Think of The Nothing in The Neverending Story.

These categories are, I’m sad to say, still not absolute. Take the grief example… If someone dies, then, depending on who you ask, there is Not, there is the SuperReal, there is the UnReal, or there’s a blend. A person of faith will tell you they still interact with the person who has gone in the realms of the UnReal and the SuperReal, while a dubious person will just describe to you the Not: the person who has passed is gone, and has left a void. And as someone who has grieved, I know, you take a trip through all of these realms during the grieving process. There is void, but there is also shared experience with the passed in the UnReal, and a belief in the SuperReal to connect us to one another.

All experiences is a process, and the four realms of reality overlap like a Venn diagram.

So now I, through the magic of the Unreal, hear you, a Real person, saying, “But Kristin, why the hell are you talking about all this?”

That’s a good question, and since it’s after 2 a.m., I don’t really have a good answer.

I can tell you this: I have been neglecting the SuperReal (my daily devotionals and spiritual practice) for the Real (planning my wedding, plain old work) and the UnReal (finishing my book, imagining its future). This lack has caused a Not in my life.

The Not isn’t something to fear, but it is something to acknowledge and explore. We can control it, after all. We have the power to willfully move between realms of experience by the power of imagination, of belief, and of action.

Annoying trainers and coaches often say, “You’ve gotta give something to get something.” That’s *Ghosti. I haven’t experienced the gods lately because I haven’t worked for that experience. I haven’t crossed the bridge from my reality to theirs, or even invited them into mine.

When you create a space for something in your reality, you notice when that something is not there anymore. That’s the Not.

The SuperReal takes work. We have to exercise our spiritual muscles to get there. We have to give something to get something.


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