Pardon me if you’ve answered this before but what definition of “reality” do you use when you write?
Cool question. Thanks for writing. While I’m proud of a friend of mine for having created the ‘Kobayashi Maru‘, I don’t want to pull one on you. But in essence the question itself is nonsense from an enlightened perspective. It presumes there is a fixed, permanent thing called ‘reality,’ and it also supposes an absolute point of view, when none is available.
As the famous film Rashomon pointed out, reality is a judgment made from a specific perspective. It is not an objective thing. So the closest universal thing you could say about reality would be that we all create it for ourselves the very same way, using common materials, tools, and abilities. And to that we apply our own unique knowledge. But there is no central reality.
Seeking one, and after a lot of thinking, the French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes realized that the only thing that he could know for sure was, “I think therefore I am.” But what we are is a guess, because we’re asking ourselves, so we can’t really trust our answers. Like that old saying says: “Last night I dreamed I was a butterfly. Could I not now be a butterfly dreaming I am a man?” That is trippy but true.
This means that the only thing we know for sure is that we exist because we’re having an experience right now. But, Really Curious, we can’t even prove you’re you. For all I know you’re a figment of my imagination or I am one of yours. Or maybe we’re both characters in the same dream but we don’t know that. Or maybe we are fabrications in a simulation. It can all seem silly at first, but the more you think about it the more profound it gets.
Doing that meditative process has value because you are in essence taking your perspective apart. This is a very healthy thing to do. The more you think about ‘yourself’ the more you realize that ‘you’ are a construct. Reality is this incredibly massive, awesome, unrealizable everythingness, and we are like filtering machines. We filter out zillions of possibilities and we solidify one to live within by believing in it.
Like the weightlifter I previously wrote about who couldn’t lift a certain weight until his coach lied to him about how much he was lifting, what we believe is where we think the world ends. There were people that did not think Orville and Wilber Wright were ever going to fly. Some people still think Elvis is alive, and others think the world is flat. And they would pass a lie detector on that because they genuinely believe it. So just imagine how powerful that makes the wrong thoughts we have about ourselves?
In reality there is no objective reality, there is only what we believe in. And those beliefs were in turn taught to us by other people who had also been taught a bunch of beliefs. it’s the only reason men wear something is bizarre and uncomfortable as a necktie. So we can torture ourselves with belief of who we need to pretend to be. Or we can infuse ourselves with belief, and then free ourselves to accomplish more.
Because belief is a powerful thing, and because predecessors alter what we believe is possible, humans go faster, higher and farther in every Olympics. Human’s just keep finding new limits to everything. As we change our beliefs about what’ s possible we literally expand the borders of the space within which we can dream. And that doesn’t just apply to Olympians. That applies to all of us.
Reality should be seen for what it is: a flexible self-presentation of what’s possible. Change your beliefs and you change what is possible. And how far that goes is anyone’s guess. So do your best to keep a quiet mind. If you do have any self-conversations about the world, make them be less about what you can’t do it, and more about how you would do it. And in doing so you will immediately expand the borders for what’s possible in your own life.
I do hope you found that very ephemeral description of reality to be solid enough to get some grip on.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.