Recently, I have been reading a collection of Philip K. Dick’s short stories. The book is titled, “I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon” (published by Doubleday & Company, Inc. in 1985, ISBN 0-385-19567-2).
The introduction appears to be the text of a talk he gave. In it, Dick states that the two basic topics that fascinate him are: “What is reality?” and “What constitutes an authentic human being?” I like his definitions of both.
Much of what he wrote was his own attempt to answer these questions. In his own words: “Years passed. I wrote over thirty novels and over a hundred stories, and still I could not figure out what was real. One day a girl college student in Canada asked me to define reality for her, for a paper she was writing for her philosophy class. She wanted a one-sentence answer. I thought about it and finally said, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
His thoughts on authentic human beings fits well with something I wrote about with regards to everyday opportunities to show good character (Here). Again, in his own words: “The authentic human being is one of us who instinctively knows what he should not do, and in addition, he will balk at doing it. He will refuse to do it, even if it brings down dread consequences to him and to those whom he loves. This, to me, is the ultimaley heroic trait of ordinary people; they say no to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance. Their deeds may be small, and almost always unnoticed, unmarked by history. Their names are not remembered, nor did these authentic humans expect their names to be remembered. I see their authenticity in an odd way: not in their willingness to perform great heroic deeds but in their quiet refusals. In essence, they cannot be compelled to be what they are not.
It is great compliment to be called authentic, and it is supremely beneficial to know what is and what isn’t real. Good luck to everyone on life’s journey.