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The dispute is not between reality and fantasy, but between meaning and nonsense

For many years, in the context of my studies in philosophy, theology and comparative religions, I focused on understanding the difference between reality and fantasy, between what it is and what it seems to be, between what is present and what appears. And although those efforts were sincere and academically valid, and some results were achieved, they were also unsatisfactory.

The reason is quite simple: distinguishing between reality and fantasy means being predisposed to decide and express which is which, which in turn means accepting a certain scale of values in which the real, precisely because it is real, deserves greater attention and appreciation than the fantastic.

If we all lived all the time within what we accept as real, we would not only be slaves of that reality, but we would not even know that we are slaves and, therefore, we would do nothing to free ourselves. In that sense, imagination (not to be fully identified with fantasy) has a liberating effect.

Therefore, looking for the difference between illusion and reality is, in short, looking for that element or idea that serves as a point of support to overcome both, without getting rid of any, but keeping them in a constant dynamic interaction of unresolved ambiguity. Said with an example: virtual reality is no less real than real reality simply because it is virtual.

But, assuming that the old dichotomy between reality and fantasy can be overcome (and everything we now call "artificial" or "virtual" invites us to do so), what lies beyond that dichotomy? What lives in the center of the unresolved ambiguity that is presented as such and that does not want or seek to be resolved or overcome?

Perhaps the issue, then, is not what is real and what only seems to be, but what makes sense and what does not. But then we enter a dangerous area: if we want to know if something makes sense, we must first define the meaning of meaning, which can lead us to an infinite regression in which we will never find a primordial turtle that will serve us as a solid foundation.

In other words, all meaning is, as far as we can know or imagine it, contextually and historically determined. Laws regulating vehicle traffic only make sense in a context of mass use of trucks and cars. In the same way, the laws that in the Middle Ages regulated the entry of horses into cities now make no sense.

And what we say about the laws can be applied to almost human activity: education, justice, government, religion. All these activities make sense (or seem to have it) in a certain context or paradigm. But what happens when that paradigm disappears, and a new reality emerges?

An obvious and widely spread response is to hold on to the present and the past as the source and basis of meaning. But as Milton and Proust taught us, paradise and time are already lost. Holding on to them is nonsense.

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