1. Reality, Language, and Reality Blockers

Article Abstract

According to traditional belief, there is a direct relationship between language and reality understood as objective reality so that language must describe objective reality so that all words must be traced back to objective reality in order to be properly understood. Using the value of real estate as an example, the article shows that there are entities in the world that are as real as anything else, entities that belong to the objective reality but are not objective in the sense that they are independent of the decisions of human subjects. Since there is no concept to describe such reality, the author introduces the concept of reasoned reality in order to point out that while such entities are as real as anything that belongs to objective reality, their existence is decided and shaped by human subjects based on some reasons that they choose. Once the concept of reality is expanded, texts can no longer be viewed as describing only objective reality, but reasoned reality as well so that readers, in order to properly understand a text, they have to pay attention to the details in the text not only to decide whether objective or reasoned reality are intended, but also to understand how reasoned reality is construed by the text. Since ancient writers understood that language can describe both realities, in order to help readers not confuse objective reality with reasoned reality when reasoned reality is intended, they developed a literary device that the article labels reality blocker and is defined as details in the story that make it impossible for the reader to imagine that what is described can happen in objective reality, and in order to illustrate the concept, the article uses two stories, the sacrifice of Isaac from Genesis, and the riding of a donkey by Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on his final week before he was crucified. In analyzing the Genesis story, the article points out details in the story that clearly depart from how things regularly happened at the time so that the reality described by the text departs from the objective or historical reality and is called reality within the text. Another interesting detail in the Genesis story regularly overlooked by both lay reads as well as scholars is that at the end of the story Abraham retrieves his slaves on his way back home but leaves the donkey behind, another departure of the reality within the story from how things regularly happened in the objective reality. The detail about the abandoned donkey in the Abraham story becomes significant as the story about Jesus’ final entrance in Jerusalem – known as The Passions Narrative – begins with the detail of Jesus finding a donkey that he rode as he came to the place where he would be crucified. That the donkey is not mentioned in order to describe how Jesus objectively travelled at that time is suggested by the fact that all gospel writers include a detail that would have made it impossible for Jesus to physically ride donkeys, such as that the donkey was young and untrained for riding or that it was even accompanied by its mother and Jesus actually rode both donkeys at the same time. Such details in the story are called reality blockers because they are intended to alert the reader that what is described in the story is not an objective event – such as riding a donkey for traveling – but rather a reference to another story that describes a similar event, that is, the intended sacrifice by Abraham that was eventually aborted but was carried out to its fulfillment by Jesus when he was crucified.

The concept of reality blocker is not found only in ancient stories, but even in modern day languages, although such reality blockers are implied rather than explicit, and the article uses as an example the sexual language used in all cultures to express violence. The inability of modern readers and even scholars to distinguish between objective reality and reasoned reality has led to the notorious confusion between sex and gender.


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