Define Reality - A 10 Minute Play by Beret Finken

(JANE stands center stage holding a ball, while JOHN stands facing upstage behind JANE. JANE addresses the audience.

JANE: Reality: the world or state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them - the state or quality of having existence or substance. 

(JOHN steps out from behind JANE and addresses the audience.

JOHN: Existence: the fact or state of living or having objective reality. 

JANE: Objective reality: how things truly are. 

JOHN: Truth: in one sense, it is what one experiences to be real in the moment... 

JANE: ... while in another sense, it is what one can physically sense and know possesses existence. 

(JANE and JOHN stop addressing the audience and begin speaking to one another - they start playing catch.

JANE: Two opposing viewpoints, but are they mutually exclusive or is it possible for them to exist simultaneously? 

JOHN: I would choose to argue for the latter. 

JANE: And why is that? 

JOHN: Let's take a dream, for example. Picture this: you and a loved one are riding in a vehicle when, all of a sudden, it drives off the road out of your control. You manage to clamber out of the wreckage only to discover that your loved one is still trapped beneath the weight of the car. You are utterly powerless. All you can do is watch as the life slowly leaves them and the light fades from their eyes. And then they are gone. Grief slams into you like a wave and the floodgates are opened. You awaken suddenly to your own sobbing in physical reality, because, to you, your loved one actually died before your eyes, even though it was only a dream. But your grief is real. Your tears are real. The emotions you feel are real. It was a truth shared on two planes of reality. It was both what you experienced in that moment and what you physically sensed at the same time. Therefore, both our viewpoints are shown to exist simultaneously. 

JANE: Your argument is strong... But I have an argument of my own. 

JOHN: Let's hear it. 

JANE: Take our interaction, for example. I speak, you answer. You speak, I answer. I throw this ball to you, you catch it, and vice-versa. We both exist. This ball exists. The reason we are able to interact the way we do is because we exist. Correct? 

JOHN: So far, yes. 

JANE: But now I am imagining a third person. To me, she is real, because I can see her. I know what she looks like and I can talk to her. But if I throw this ball to her... 

(JANE throws the ball to the "third person" standing between JANE and JOHN.

JANE: ... she will not catch it, because she does not exist in physical reality. She only exists to me. If someone or something only exists to a single person, do they really exist at all? If the only person that can make her real is me, then she does not exist to anyone else. In your argument, there was physical proof that truth existed in both dimensions of reality, but there is no physical proof here. Since that is the case, then that makes it impossible for both viewpoints to exist together. One dimension of your reality was not a true reality, even though truth existed in both. The only true reality is the one we live in now. 

JOHN: Ah, so now we are debating not whether both scenarios can exist simultaneously, but rather if one viewpoint may not be true at all? 

JANE: Yes, I suppose that is what I am trying to get at. 

JOHN: In that case, you would throw my argument straight out the window? 

JANE: Yes, I would. 

JOHN: Explain. 

JANE: Well, I agree that my emotions would be real, along with the fact that I am physically shedding tears, but my loved one did not actually die. The "reality" they died in was not real reality. The truth is that my loved one died in a dream, which is a contrived reality, and I woke up crying what is actual reality. 

JOHN: So, truth is not what one experiences to be real in the moment? 

JANE: No, not if that truth happens in a reality that is not the true reality. 

JOHN: And what if I were to tell you right now that I do not exist? Would you believe me? Because if I do not truly exist in the reality you call the "real" reality, we would not be able to do what we are doing right now. 

JANE: Of course I wouldn't believe you. I would call you crazy, because you clearly do exist. I can see you and talk to you and throw this ball to you, which you, in turn, throw back to me. I have said before that the reason we can do this is because we exist, which means that this is the real reality. 

JOHN: But you also said that you could see and talk to that other girl. 

JANE: Yes, but she could not catch this ball or throw it back to me, which you can do. 

JOHN: But the fact that you could see her meant that you were living briefly in two planes of reality, does it not? 

JANE: No. Yes? No... The reality she existed in was not real reality, so I was still only living in one reality: the true reality. 

(There is a pause. JOHN can tell that JANE is now grasping at straws.

JOHN: What if you are making up this entire scenario, but you are unable to admit it to yourself? That would make your argument that reality is only what can be physically sensed invalid. 

JANE: You're right, that would make my argument invalid. But I know that you are real. 

JOHN: How can you be so sure? 

JANE: The same way I know that I am real. As Descartes once said, "I think, therefore I am." No one is doing my thinking for me. 

JOHN: And how do you know that I think? If you were, in fact, making this whole thing up, it would be you doing the thinking and not I. And if you were the one doing all the thinking, that would mean you share both your viewpoint and my own. So, you would really think that truth has multiple dimensions. 

JANE: You are infuriating... But also correct. If I were making all this up, that would be true. But I know that you are real, even though I cannot prove that you are. Just as I cannot prove that I am real, and how I cannot prove that anything else is real. At this point, it is left up to faith, which cannot be explained. 

JOHN: So, now we have reached what logic cannot explain. 

JANE: Yes, we have. 

JOHN: But if logic cannot explain it, does that make it real? 

JANE: Yes, there are some things that are real that logic cannot explain. 

JOHN: Such as? 

JANE: Like I said before, logic cannot explain existence. It also cannot explain emotion, and emotion does truly exist. 

JOHN: Can you prove it? 

JANE: Well, when I feel emotions, I know I am feeling them. Emotion exists in true reality. 

JOHN: But if emotions are completely subjective, meaning that no one else can feel your emotions for you, doesn't that explain exactly what you were saying before? If something exists only to a single person, does it really exist at all? 

JANE: No, this is different. It's true that no one can feel my emotions, but they have emotions of their own, whether they can be explained or not. Emotions exist to everyone, but you can only ever feel your own emotions. They are universal, and yet totally exclusive. 

JOHN: Okay, I agree. But how is talking about emotions helping you prove your point that truth is only what one can physically sense and know possesses existence? 

JANE: I was getting to that. 

(JANE gets shy as she is about to make her next point.

JANE: This is going to prove that you exist. 

JOHN: Oh, is it now? And how are you going to do that? 

JANE: So, we have already agreed that emotions exist in the real reality, right? 

JOHN: Right. 

JANE: Since emotions exist in the real reality, feeling emotions for someone would put that person in real reality, as well. Emotions lead to actions, and if one acts upon her emotions in a way that can be physically sensed, then that means the object of her action must exist in the real reality. 

JOHN: What are you--? 

(JANE cuts JOHN off with a kiss. JOHN is momentarily surprised, but shakes it off and returns to the discussion.

JOHN: That doesn't prove anything. 

JANE: What? How can you say that? What just happened was physically real. My emotions for you are real. That means that you are one hundred percent real. 

JOHN: No, it doesn't. Like I said, you could be making this whole thing up, but you just don't want to admit it. You can invent whatever reality you choose for yourself and you'd never know if it was the real reality or a fake one, because you can make it as real as you believe you need it to be. But if this is indeed a fake reality, isn't it real to you? And wouldn't that make truth being what one experiences to be real in the moment correct? 

(JANE is exasperated at this point.

JANE: No! I can't let you tell me that this is all a lie. And truth is not what one experiences to be real in the moment. Truth is what physically exists. It is what I can touch and see and taste and smell and hear. 

JOHN: And how do you know that you can trust your senses? 

(JANE, out of arguments, stares at JOHN in dismay.

JANE: I can't prove anything, can I? 

JOHN: No, you can't. 

(JANE pauses again.

JANE: I know that this is real! If something does not exist to everyone, then it does not exist at all! That is the reality of truth! 

(JOHN disappears as JANE throws the ball at where JOHN was previously standing. The ball bounces and rolls across the ground until it is finally still. JANE stares at the ball for a moment, then turns to face the audience.

JANE: But who am I to define reality?


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