This week were going to be looking at something a little more esoteric but bare with me, it will more sense sooner or later! This week were going to be looking at reality, what it is and how it works.
Actually, forget that! Lets start with YOU!
Before we looking into the outside world lets take a look at you.
Firstly, what makes up you?
Is it your hands? Legs? Your whole body?
Basically… No. You are a 3 pound lump of stuff, 60% of which is fat, locked inside a dark cave; also known as the skull. No light, not much sound really. Just darkness and dampness.
So thats you… floating around inside a skull.
I think, therefore I am…
This was a phase used by Rene Descartes when he first began on the journey I’m going to try and take you on. What does he mean by “I think therefore I am”?
Well, in his own words he explains it with, "We cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt….”
Does that clear it up? No? Ok…
Basically what he is saying is that you can doubt the outside world. Ask yourself questions like, “Is the green that I see the same as what John sees?” Or ponder how weird it is that a place you visited when you were a child now seems a lot smaller now you’re a grown up.
These are matters of perspective and individual biology; so in essence you can pretty much doubt everything outside of your own head. It’s best not to though as this can soon lead to total insanity.
Descartes is saying that, yes, you can doubt the existence of everything outside your own head, but it’s what’s inside of your head that’s doing the doubting. Therefore, the fact that you can doubt/think is apparently evidence that you can’t doubt your own existence.
Clear? Still no? Watch this...
At this stage it’s less about understanding these things and more about accepting them, or at least allowing yourself to imagine it. No one really understands what reality truly is but, like Descartes, we HAVE to start somewhere… so that’s here.
So YOU exist, the thoughts about you existing prove that you exist! POW!
So back to reality…
I set up a group chat with several people in my phone book, purely random, just added them, each from a different part of my life and asked,
“What do you think reality is?”
I asked general members of the public, teachers, tradesmen, actresses etc.
Some of the replied I got were...
“Reality is subjective. My personal reality is a mixture of work and feeling tired. Wake up and repeat.”
“There's two types of reality my man: first is the physical stuff that exists, and does so happily without people around. Then there's the reality we construct for ourselves (sometimes alone, sometimes together with others) - all the physical stuff, filtered through our consciousness(es?)”
“Reality is the perception of consciousness”
So, the above replies are pretty much spot on and what you would expect from people when asking them about reality. In essence, what they are saying is this: -
What reality is, is an agreement between the majority about what something is. Actual reality is nothing like what we all see though. What we call reality is a set of things we believe to be the case, working along side what our evolution has dictated we need to survive. For example, we cannot see the lightwaves we need to survive; we can’t see infrared for instance, or radio waves. Largely because we don’t need to.
The reality we live in doesn’t exist separately from us, it is a creation of ours.
Before we go any further, I’d like to give you a quote from the author, Philip K. Dick He once said that, “Reality is something which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away”. So what does this mean, Phil? well, lets take another look at another graphic.
This new graphic shows the differences between Subjective and Objective reality. In the above, we now see 7 people, all voicing their opinion on The Spice Girls. 6 people think they are good, 1 thinks they are bad! Does this mean they are good? There’s numerous criteria we can use to come to a conclusion; we could measure musical ability for example. In that respect, that then the answer is no, they are not good. We could base it on their contribution to the wealth of human knowledge. Again, it’s a no! Here, we are not using any metric to measure how good The Spice Girls are other than profits generated by album sales. If 6 out of 7 people say they are good, then they are good.
This is Subjective Reality, a reality based on opinion or perspective. We need to note here that because the majority of people thought The Spice Girls were good it, in effect, created a reality where The Spice Girls were good. This lead to album productions, tours, mechanise! All of which involved employment of people which, in turn, affected the economy and so on. All of this because the majority of people influenced a shared reality.
So what is Objective Reality and why did I use a quote from a dead Sci-Fi author? Well, Objective reality is the reality that Phil, or any other person, can’t escape from! This would be a concept like fire is hot, and it will burn! No matter how much you convince yourself it wont burn, if you put your hand in a fire it will burn you! The difference being, if 6 out of 7 people decide one day that the Spice Girls are shit, become shit. Nothing about who they are or how they perform would have changed, other than public perspective of their none-shitness! Where as, it doesn’t matter how many believe fire wont burn you, it will.
This will be my final point for this week, although this will seem like a fairly obvious, there is in fact a deeper knowledge to it.
First of all, let me touch on the difference between knowing and knowing! Lets go back to the fire we spoke about, we all know fire is hot and it will burn, but until you burn yourself you don’t know it as an experience, a truth.
This is the difference between being aware of something and experiencing it! It’s the difference between knowing a plane can fly from one place to another, and knowing how.
Anyway, so the first statement I’m going to make is that we don’t see with our eyes. We see with our brain. This is the same as; a camera doesn’t take pictures with its lens, it takes pictures with its imaging sensor and processor. You’re not reading this with your eyes, you’re reading it with your brain, that fatty little 3 pound blob in the dark.
Your entire reality is constructed within the confines of your skull, using a brain which has developed over millions of years and has perfected across species and time! The most wonderful element of this is that the majority of things you see; your car, a book, your house, the chipped Spider-man keyring your son gave to you, all started their existence as thoughts inside other people’s heads. The music we love, the paintings we adore!
This is how the 3 pound blob learned to share and create its own reality! We all wonder at the outside world and its beauty but we really need to look at the inner world; the beauty and infinity of our capacity to imagine and share these things with others!
Remember in an earlier blog how we talked about the evolution of the human brain? The different elements of the brain and what they do? Next week we will take a look at the problem that creates…