You Are That (.org)
The resurrection of my late lamented website (mostly) on spiritual matters.

The Two Meanings of "Realize"

Become aware and BE REAL

[This essay was originally posted to]

The Condensed Version

Realize! means both "to become aware of" and "to make real." Both of these ideas are crucial to the mission of Realize! You Are That.

Wake Up and Make It Happen

The name of this site--Realize!--has two meanings.

The first is "to become aware of." This is the usual meaning of the word. "I didn't realize it was your birthday" means "I wasn't aware that it was your birthday."

In a bigger sense the same meaning implies the idea of "waking up." Spiritually, "realization" is akin to "enlightenment," or even "salvation." Many religions use the metaphor of wakefulness to describe such spiritual awareness. Indeed, the name "Buddha" means "one who is awake." Christianity, too, uses sleep-and-wake terminology: "Sleepers, wake!" and "Awake, my soul, stretch every nerve," say the hymns. And Peter (along with John and James, together three of Jesus' best men) is scolded for literally sleeping while Jesus prayed in Gethsemane: "Could you not watch with me [that is, stay awake] one hour?"

So to realize can mean to wake up to something. But to what? For us, the second half of the equation is our [former] URL: Wake up to the fact that You Are That. Wake up to the possibilities of self-empowerment through culture, the realization of your full potential.

Oh! See that? "…the realization of your full potential." And here is the second meaning of Realize: to make real.

If something exists only in potential form, it doesn't exist at all--it's not "real." The process of something becoming real is its realization. And so, when we encourage you to realize that You Are That, we are encouraging you to become aware of and make real your true self.

Get Real!

Note: The following joke may be offensive to some Christians!

One day, Jesus was taking a walk around Heaven, getting to know some of the new inhabitants.

On a little side street, he found a carpenter's shop. Inside, a bearded, white-haired old man was working away, and occasionally gave a little sniff.

"Awww, what's wrong?" Jesus said. "This is Heaven! You should be perfectly happy here."

"Well," said the old man, "I would be... except for one thing: You see, I lost my son."

"Your son? That's terrible," Jesus replied. "Tell me a little about him; perhaps I can help you find him."

"That's very kind of you," the old man said. "You see, he was a very special boy. He had a miraculous birth, and there were holes in his hands and feet, and..."

"FATHER?!" Jesus interrupted.

And the old man cried, "PINOCCHIO?!"

All right, so the joke is slightly blasphemous. But in fact, the Christological associations of Pinocchio are manifest. Just look at an outline of his story in the Disney film version (the book is vastly different--and weirder):

The First Act: Pinocchio is made as a wooden puppet. His maker, Geppetto, wishes that he "might be a real boy." While Geppetto sleeps, the Blue Fairy arrives and gives Pinocchio life, but explains that he is not real: "To make Geppetto's wish come true will be entirely up to you…. Prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish, and someday you will be a real boy…. You must learn to chose between right and wrong."

The First Adventure: Pinocchio is seduced by the idea of Fame, and ends up being kidnapped into Stromboli's marionette show. When the Blue Fairy appears, Pinocchio lies about how he came to be kidnapped--and of course, the more he lies, the more his nose grows. The Fairy sets him free, and he promises never to lie again. This is the test of Truthfulness.

The Second Adventure: Pinocchio is sold to the Coachman, who is collecting "Stupid little boys--the disobedient ones that play hooky from school" He takes the boys to Pleasure Island, where the boys indulge in selfish behavior. There, Pinocchio learns that "Being bad's a lot of fun, ain't it?" But the boys' misbehavior turns them into donkeys, "making jackasses" of themselves. He is saved by "his conscience," Jiminy Cricket. This is the test of Unselfishness.

The Third Adventure: Geppetto has set out to find Pinocchio and gets swallowed alive by the whale Monstro. Pinocchio then sets out to find him, and ends up in the whale with him. (He can't explain why he still has a donkey's ears and tail, but Geppetto accepts him just as he is.) Pinocchio has the idea of building a smoky fire to make Monstro sneeze. It works, but Pinocchio drowns while escaping. This is the test of Bravery.

The Final Act: Back home, as Geppetto grieves over the dead puppet, the Blue Fairy appears and repeats her original command: "Prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish and someday you will be a real boy!" then adds, "Awake Pinocchio. Awake." He does, and he's a real boy.

Now, look at the temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11. First the Devil tells Jesus to turn stones into bread. Jesus replies that "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." This is Truth: stones are not bread; what God has spoken is true. Next, the Devil tells Jesus to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple--a clear test of bravery. But Jesus replies that one is not to test God; foolhardiness is for fools after all. Finally, the Devil says he will give Jesus all the world if he will worship Satan, an obvious test of greed and selfishness. By rejecting this and affirming his allegiance to God alone, Jesus shows that he is as unselfish as he is truthful and brave--a prototype for Pinocchio's struggles.

And in the end, through dying, Pinocchio awakens "real," that is, fully realized--as did the Christ through his resurrection. In Matthew 12, Jesus referred to his coming death and resurrection as the sign of Jonah: "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Pinocchio's sojourn in the belly of Monstro recalls this "sign," and strengthens the parallel.

More wonderful stuff:

  • The ticket to "Pleasure Island" is the Ace of Spades--the death card--and the Coachman's hair shapes into horns, both indications of a descent into Hell.
  • "Jiminy Cricket" is a euphemistic form of "Jesus Christ" (often used in "minced swearing," like "heck," "darn," and "shoot").
  • Pinocchio's transformation into a donkey recalls images of a rich tradition of magical initiation, from Apuleius' The Golden Ass to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

There are so many more associations in this seemingly "simple cartoon"; perhaps I'll write more on it in the future.

Being. Real.

Returning to our discussion: Are "realized" human beings, like Christ and Buddha and countless saints, swamis, arhats, and others--are they "more real" than other human beings?

Let's shift our metaphor for a moment, from people to places. Instead of talking about Jesus and the Buddha as realized people, let's talk about the realized states that they embody, and how these can be represented as places, termed "Heaven" or "the Yonder Shore." (Please read, if you haven't already, the portion of the essay "Aldous Huxley and the Perennial Philosophy, Part 2: The Two Worlds" that deals with places and people as interchangeable metaphors for "the Other."

Another look at Dr. Huston Smith's chart from the Neo-Perennialism article will be helpful here.

As you can see in the right-hand column, the traditional concept of "Heaven" is that it somehow participates more fully in Being than Earth does (and Hell is precisely Hell because of its paucity of Being).

So, if That World is more real than This (as Plato's Allegory of the Cave would suggest), and if the Christ and the Buddha manifest in This World the "Being" of That World in ways that we can't, then the answer would seem to be "yes," realized people are "more real" than others. The irony, though, is that That World is in fact within us. So it would seem that we are completely real; we just don't …uh …realize it!

So the mission of Realize! You Are That is to remind, encourage, illustrate, support, challenge--whatever it takes--so that more and more people the world over will come to a realization of their "true selves." Through literature, films, homely examples and sublime intimations, we want to bring you to self-empowerment, and to Realize! that You Are That!

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