Are You Really Real?

I came across some beautiful orchids in a mall recently. They had bright purple flowers with pink and orange highlights on long graceful stems punctuated by lush green leaves; it was the kind of perfection that stopped me in my tracks to marvel at nature’s beautiful works of art. My heart sank as I approached, when it became evident that they were plastic. 

“Did they pretend to water those plastic plants ?” I wondered. It was strange, they were still arguably as beautiful, but the fact that I knew that they weren’t real made them worthless to me. 

The scene in the mall was terrifyingly surreal. Above me was an expansive artist’s rendition of a beautiful blue sky with patchy wisps of clouds painted onto the high ceiling. 

Stretching out in front of me under the buzzing fluorescent lights, down the mall’s main avenue was an imitation of a venetian canal, complete with gondolas and boatmen dressed in red and white striped shirts with the typical hats gliding past. 

They poled their crafts down the canal past the main luxury brand consumer stores under this beautiful artificial sky. It didn’t feel real, felt disoriented. I had been wandering in search of truth, and now found myself lost in the twenty first century.

I walked on past storefront windows full of carefully posed lifeless plastic people modeling the latests clothes. The intrinsic value of what these clothes did was no longer of importance. 

The fact that they were designed by someone whose opinion on how clothes should look this year made them exceedingly more desirable. Inside each store, plastic caricatures of femininity in similar clothes worked behind cash registers and counters wearing fake hair, false eyelashes, spray tanned and bleached skin, fake facial features, coloured contacts lenses and augmented body parts. 

A cacophony of hollow sounding fake laughter rang out in the halls as I wandered past groups of people trying very hard to be dramatic and funny. I strode on past the disingenuous smiles and awkward fake politeness. On past false bravado and insecurity masquerading as loud, brash affectations of masculinity. 

I saw others that constantly flashed practiced poses and grimaces of artificial exuberance in front of cameras. When did we start trying to look so happy in photographs? I remembered when old black and white photos captured real people doing real things, just as they were; as if to declare “This is me now?” It felt lonely being surrounded by so many fake people.

Up ahead of me in an open area there was a food court in which the fake people lined up under bright colourful signs for fake food; material from factories, devoid of life, health, love and pride.

My attention was drawn to crescent shaped crowds of people that formed around the bright flashing images on television monitors that told them what to work for and buy at regular intervals in the crowded mall. 

On some of the monitors fake people pretended to be real, while others showed scripted reality television. Some even read the “news.” Highlight reels of fictitious heroism from athletes faking greatness and hard work with drugs stirred some of the crowd into patriotic fervor. Apparently it was a holiday, one of the many ironic holidays that endeavour to commodify the best of human emotions in ways that inhibit their expression.

There was the background sound of music in the mall, but was it really music? It wasn’t played, but rather made according to a formula, the melody cheaply ripped off from the soundtrack of an old movie or ancient nursery rime. The lyrics seemed to be of little importance, and as for the voice, with the advent of autotune it could have been anyone. It was the kind of music that was more about image than sound.

Fraudulent politicians and governments were making false promises and pretended to be everything to everyone. Wars were fought for fabricated reasons. Bogus money was being printed. Phoney religions sought to maximise control and their false prophets made nebulous and magical claims about the afterlife, healing and enlightenment. 

It was like a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. It is only through confidence, individual empowerment and consciousness that one can reemerge from the pervasive fakeness and herd mentality into reality. We are all lost in this twenty first century. Quality can’t be faked, make your life worth living. Are you really real?