Monday, 7 May 2018

What is real?

I love the show Westworld.  I could talk about my love for it for days but we don't have time.  To give you an incredibly brief summary of what the show is about, it involves many characters who are questioning their reality.

I have just started the new season and there is a quote I want to discuss (avoiding spoilers so don't worry if you're not up to date with the show).  This may not be the exact quote, but it's something like this:

Person A: "What is real?"
Person B: "That which cannot be replaced."

Naturally, the minimalist-content-making part of my brain went wild at these words.  "That which cannot be replaced".  Although this probably isn't an intentional nod to materialism, it rung out to me as a pretty good measure of what matters.  What is real?  What is truth and what is important?  Every material thing in our lives can be replaced; our clothes, our furniture, our electronics.  But people, experiences, thoughts, relationships, our planet - they can't.  They are real; they are what matter.

You could argue that there are material possessions that hold sentimental value and these things cannot be replaced; the jewellery your grandmother owned or the birthday card your daughter made for you.  This is where we must try to remember that the feelings we attach to an objects are different to the object.  You could sell the jewellery and recycle the card but the love you felt does not die.  The love is real.  The objects are not.

As I type this, I am looking at my cat.  She is looking out the window at the birds on the roof opposite.  It breaks my heart to think that there are some people in this world who think that she, a cat, is something that can be replaced; a mere possession.  I think it wise to make it clear at this point that no one has the right to measure the worth of anything alive; anything with its own consciousness.  Her entire world exists within her just as mine does; just as yours does.

But perhaps it is a useful question when we consider the value possessions things have in our lives: can they be replaced?  There are many things I'd rather not replace, certainly, but it is a helpful tool to remind me that there are things that matter more.  There are things that we cannot replace - things that need our care, our time and our consideration - and I, certainly, spend too much time worrying about things that are not real.

Carmen x



  1. Hi Carmen,

    thank you for this post, I read it last night and it make me think a lot.

    Yes I think there's a truth in it : what is real cannot be replaced.

    If we dig, we could say then that we would not be willing to put a price tag on what cannot be replaced.
    (Like me, I think you would not be willing to put a price tag on your cat, no ?)

    And if we dig deeper, we could say that everyone health, everyone's life, the sun, what make us be able to live, to survive, cannot be replaced. I mean, I would not put a price tag on my life.

    But, that's what we are doing in our societies.
    We don't put a price on the sun yet, but we already do it with water.

    We could argue "it's normal". But it wasn't always considerate normal to pay to be able to drink water, a fundamental right (we can't live without it).

    Like societies did not think in general that it was normal for women to have the right to vote or that nurses have to be paid for their work (they were all women at that time...).

    What I'm trying to say here is that we can push the concept of "what is real cannot be replaced" to reveal what is truly fundamentaly important for us. What should be normal. What should have a price tag on it or not.
    Because if something has a price tag, it means it can be replaced by money.

    Not everything should be see as replaceable by money, a lot of things that actually have a price tag should not have one.

    It's not because the society and the general thinking is one way that it cannot be otherwise. It's not because the society has some values that we need to have the same.

    We have more power than we think.
    We have a lot more of choice than we think.
    We can vote when asked too when we chose a candidate at the election, but we can also vote everyday with our choices, our words, our behavior.

    I don't know if you see/think what I write make sense (not that easy to develop in french so more difficult in english for me ^^)

    have a nice day :)

  2. Hi Marine!

    Thank you so much for your comment. It hadn't even occurred to me that, when we give something a price tag, we are saying that it can be replaced by money! That brings a whole new angle to this topic that I hadn't even begun to dig at!

    I think you could even stretch that point further and say that there may be a link between acknowledging that something can't be replaced and acknowledging your own mortality. Time is another one of these weird, abstract concepts that we have put a price on. So we surround ourselves with things that can be replaced to avoid confronting potentially challenging issues.

    And it made lots of sense to me! I love the way you think, Marine. Also, your point on paying for water leads me to ask you if you've ever seen The Lorax? It holds up a chilling mirror to society while still being a glorious, colourfully entertaining film. Highly recommend it.

    You've really got me think, Marine. Thank you. Hope you're having a lovely day x

  3. Hi Carmen,

    thanks for the answer, I'm glad what I wrote make some sens to you and no, I haven't seen The Lorax, thank you for the recommendation !

    "acknowledging that something can't be replaced and acknowledging your own mortality"
    So true ! Time is so weird, like many things, we dismised too much is value, even when we know it has immense value. But we often exchange our so precious time for many things that don't really matter, that are not that important.
    Like things because we get to buy things with money that for the vast majority of us we have previously exchanged for our time.
    And sometimes, we realise that we spent time working to get money to buy things and... time to enjoy life. Like somebody said, it can seem silly to spend 5 days of week (working) to gain only 2 days (of time to enjoy our life). It's not that simple since we have 2 days + the money but when I heard this, well, it touched me you know. How much do we value our time, our precious life that has an end (we all know it but often act like we don't).

    I wish you a great week-end Carmen :)


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