We are all dreaming of a time when there was no time.

Miyazawa Kenji, Cloud Signals (Kumo no Shingo)


A Letter to Reality

Dear Reality-san,

How are you? Since we’re always together, it’s a little embarrassing to be writing you like this, not to mention how hard it is, but I’ve made up my mind to try. This is the 36th year I’ve been sharing my life with you, Reality-san, and honestly, I don’t know the first thing about you. No doubt you’ll be surprised to hear from me, since I’ve never showed a trace of uncertainty all this time. You might even feel betrayed. I regret never having said anything before now. I should have spoken up earlier. I’ve written one plus one equals two on exam papers, so I believe I understand the meaning of one plus one. But sometimes I wonder if it really does equal two. I believe my body is one thing, but when I scratch my head some hairs fall out. I cut my nails, but they keep growing. You’ve taught me that human beings have something called “mind,” although this “mind” is not just one thing. It can be many things, changing day by day. Sometimes I’ve felt my mind belongs to a completely different person.

   You’ve taught me that it’s a good idea to use a ruler to draw a straight line, right? I like to draw lines freehand, and I remember you saying that outside school it’s perfectly fine not to use a ruler—which relieved me greatly. At school I drew straight lines as you directed, using a ruler. But once, when I was bent over my desk pretending to be asleep, I looked at that straight line up close. I could see that it was the tiniest bit uneven. The ruler-drawn straight line was not actually a straight line.

I considered you my ally, Reality-san. Thanks to you, I could breathe air and live with my family. Of course, I’ve had hard times too, but the moment my problems were resolved I felt grateful to you. I always intended to take all your lessons seriously, Reality-san. However, based on the stirrings of doubt I just mentioned, maybe not everything you said was true after all. There are times I felt you were completely mistaken. That might just be my insubordinate side talking. I’ve even tried to persuade myself that the problem lay with me rather than you. Yet, after stewing in uncertainty, Reality-san, I just couldn’t shake free. As the months and years went by, the distance between us only grew.

   At some point, I happened to meet up with a good friend. I never told you, did I? Sorry about that! Although I did drop plenty of hints, you always insisted that unseeable things don’t exist, and you never listened. So I didn’t introduce you. It wasn’t just one friend, either. There were lots. But you couldn’t see any of them. Actually I couldn’t see them either. It’s just that I could sense them. All the time you and I were together, I could play with them while keeping them hidden. You may have thought you were living with just me, but in fact I began living with a crowd of friends. It was like watching one of those documentary programs that follow an extended family—including you, of course.

   My friends loved to play and hated being ordered around. They pretty much didn’t bother with school. But because I told them that you would important in the future, every day they went to school anyway—rolling their eyes as they fooled around. When they came home they hid from you and played all kinds of naughty tricks. I tried to explain all the things you taught me, Reality-san, but they tilted their heads in puzzlement. They also encouraged the doubt I was beginning to feel. The school day seemed to take forever, but when I was playing with them, the end of the day arrived before I knew it. You said that time flows evenly, but honestly, not a single one of them would agree. They all told me that time expands and contracts. Not only time, but space swells and shrinks as well. I understood this after I started playing with them.

   I mentioned that I visited a park where I used to play in grade school. This was ten years later. I remarked that the park had shrunk, didn’t I? And you got mad and said the park was fifty square meters ten years ago and hadn’t changed in the slightest. But my friends laughed and said, “This place only used to have a slide, and now the sand and the pebbles are different. There’s trash on the ground… if you pay attention you’ll see changes in everything. Lots of things to notice. That’s how space swells. But when you’re grown up, you just see a shabby playground. The plants all look the same. Depending on the sensitivity of your antennae, the size of the ground changes.”

   I had to agree with them. At which point they looked up at you and said, “You probably really do know that space can swell, don’t you, Reality-san…”

   That shocked me. My friends had always dealt with me straight, so from that time on, I stopped trusting you. I ran away from home that very night.

All that was quite a while ago. Not a day has gone by since when I didn’t think about you. I am sorry it has taken so long to get back in touch, but I couldn’t do it until I understood.

Now, finally, I think the time has come.

The text that follows is my attempt to put my thoughts about you into writing. I also introduce my friends.

Since I’m not a philosopher, my writing this discourse might make you angry.

But this is what I think.

Since everyone spends every day with you, their whole lives in fact, everyone is an expert.

I got cocky and named this book Reality Breakaway.

Though I do think that once you’ve finished reading it, you’ll come back.

I never planned to write anything difficult. On the contrary, I’ve just laid out obvious stuff…obvious to me anyway…

I think you’ll understand.

I’ve come to think so.

Once in a while what I’m saying flies off course, but please don’t get mad like usual. Calm down and read it while you have a nice cup of tea.

Reality-san, I want to thank you for spending all this time with me.

Looking forward to reconnecting later…