I was out on the balcony a few hours ago, on a rainy autumn afternoon, smoking a joint, which is the reason balconies were invented, whether or not the inventor realized that at the time, when it struck me: nations are not a real thing. Now, in fairness, this was not the first time this has occurred to me and I’m sure it’s not a completely original thought, but bear with me here.
They are not real because the lines between them are just lines on a map and generally the border between one nation and another is something you can walk across, or maybe swim, or if you were a bird you could fly. Hurricanes recognize no borders. Sunlight recognizes no borders. Contagious diseases recognize no borders.
They are only real because we have made them real, and accept, by and large, the laws about who can go where and the traditions about which languages are spoken and all that.
It’s the same with money. Value is real, things do have worth, which may fluctuate according to usefulness and scarcity, but paper and coin money is a total fabrication.
So, I started thinking about what is real and what is not. Marriage is not real. You love somebody, and that’s a real thing, you live together, and that’s a real thing, you may have children together and boy, oh, boy, that’s a real thing. The marriage contract, though, is like nations and money. It means something because we all agree that it means something.
The days of the week aren’t a real thing. Nature does not differentiate between them, and a volcano is as likely to erupt on a Monday as on a Saturday. They couldn’t care less if you want to work or not.
What about language? That’s where I hit an impasse. Obviously man invented, but it goes beyond “We’ve all agreed to accept it and it’s that acceptance that gives it its meaning.” Language is so much a part of our being that we couldn’t just sweep it away and start with something different. I believe we could do that with nations or currency.
So, in this real v. unreal game, language is in a category of its own, language is on the borderline, language is our first step through the portal, the dividing line between the real, physical universe and the universe we’ve built over that one.