“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”


They’ve done it again. Just when you though that entertainment experiences couldn’t get any better, or any more realistic, Sony releases a virtual reailty headset*. It’s so good, it even makes people feel ill when they play. Ouch.

Our perception of reality seems to be changing.

Our perception of reality seems to be changing. Freddy Mercury asked, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”. The better technology gets, the harder it will be for us to tell the difference between what is real and what is computer generated.

But that’s not the only time that we struggle with our perception of reality. Apart from all the philosopical, existentialist arguments and questions (“Do I really exist?” etc) you and I struggle with reality in a different way. Take, for example, arrogance.

Merriam-Webster, the famous American dictionary, defines ‘arrogant’ as, “Exaggerating or disposed to exaggerate one’s own worth or importance, often by an overbearing manner.”^ Being arrogant then, is simply perceiving a false reality – one where I am better, smarter, greater etc than others and then using this false reality to opress others. Ouch. But arrogance is not just detrimental to its victims, but also to the arrogant person himself. Take, for example, Moshe and Aharon in this week’s parasha (Chukat). Moshe has been so patient with our people for so long, has been used by God to perform so many miracles for them, but enough is enough. They cry out for water again and this time, instead of listening to God, Moshe decides that he will be the one to rescue them – not God. Instead of telling the rock to give forth water, as was commanded, he hits the rock with his staff. Water comes out, the people are happy, but something is wrong (see Bamidbar/Numbers 20:2-13). Moshe effectively showed the people that he could provide for them, not God.

Moshe has to pay a big price for his arrogance, for his augmented perception of himself.

Moshe has to pay a big price for his arrogance, for his augmented perception of himself. He and his brother are no longer allowed to go into the Land that God promised us. Because arrogance is a false reality, it can never last. Eventually, it comes crashing down on it’s user and injures them, just like it did to Moshe and Aharon.

So what’s the solution to arrogance. Some might argue that arrogance ends in humiliation, but it doesn’t have to. It can end in humility.

If arrogance is a false perception of reality, then humility is a correct perception of reality. It is a sober, calculated view, taking into account not just ourselves (like arrogance), but also those around us. And also, God.

Whereas arrogance is detrimental to its user and its victims, humility is actually upbuilding. Take, again, this week’s parasha. After the rock/water incident, the people again complain, this time about food. Because of their lack of trust, God sends fiery serpents and many die. But God also gives us a way out – Moshe makes a serpent out of bronze in the likeness of the fiery serpents and places it on a pole. If anyone gets bitten by the snakes, they just have to look at the bronze snake and they will be healed (see Bamidbar/Numbers 21:4-9).

So what does this have to do with humiltiy, you ask? Well, in order for them to be healed, they had to look at bronze snake – a likeness of the very thing that was causing them problems. It was a reminder of their lack of trust and faith in a God who had done nothing but provide for them, not only in Egypt, but since they left there. If they wanted to be healed, they had to admit that they had done wrong, that they had deserved their punishment and that it was only by following God’s way that they could get healed.

Yeshua, nailed to a cross, a symbol of our rebellion against and lack of trust in God.

The parallels with this snakebite bonanza and events that took place thousands of years later are inescapable. In Moshe’s day, the people looked at a symbol of their punishment for unbelief in order to be healed. Later, in the times of the Roman oppression, they would again look at a symbol of their punishment lifted up high for all to see – Yeshua, nailed to a cross, a symbol of our rebellion against and lack of trust in God. Paul writes, “He who knew no sin, becamse sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Yeshua, in bearing all our wrongs in himself on the cross, brokered a way for us to have our sin forgiven. For us to be changed. For us to have a new life. But, just like in the desert, we have to humbly realise and admit that we are wrong, that our sin put Yeshua there and that we need to ask him to forgive us.

Are we willing to pay the price? It hurts our egos to admit that we’re wrong, that we’ve done wrong and that we can’t make it up. It hurts to admit that we need someone to rescue us. How amazing then, that Yeshua was willing to pay such a high price to rescue us while we were his enemies. Imagine how he will receive you now, if you turn to him and admit that you need him!

So, as it turns out, virtual reality is not really something new. We’ve been distorting our view of reality for thousands of years – each of us thinking that we are better than others in some particular way. And yet if we’re willing to put aside our arrogance and recognise reality, we find that we have someone to rescue us from the wrong we’ve done and from the arrogance in our lives. Too good to be true? Is this real or is this fantasy? No, Freddy, it’s not. Ask Him and He’ll show you Himself!

*http://www.welt.de/wirtschaft/webwelt/article128547976/Sony-Morpheus-ist-so-gut-dass-einem-schlecht-wird.html GERMAN VERSION ^http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/arrogant

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“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”