Almost no one seriously considers the origins or nature of ‘reality.’ With rare exceptions, we accept the version of reality we are taught.
If we had been at a wedding and someone asks us about it, they are asking about reality. And we would answer them in a sincere attempt to tell them about ‘the wedding.’ But what is our brain including in its definition of that event?
If we answered with the dimensions of the building, or a detailed description of the authority presiding, or if we handed them the program, that would generally not answer the person’s question to us about ‘how the wedding was.’
That’s because we all tacitly know that we don’t experience buildings, or people, or events. We experience how we feel about buildings, people and events. This means the person is more or less asking us for our emotional review of the event.
They want to know what ‘happened,’ and what we thought about what ‘happened.’ That’s what most people think of when they talk about reality. They see it as a hazy combination of an external event, followed by our thought-based emotional reaction to it.
We feel no compulsion to change that view of reality because we’ve got good arguments for it, and the model we use is in many ways ‘true.’ But can that really be all of reality? If there were 100 guests, there would be 100 versions of ‘the wedding.’ Is one of them right, or just some of them? Or are all of them right?
We dismissively ignore this important clue about reality by writing the effect off to, ‘differing perspectives.’ But does that mean that reality is one thing we all share? Or is it made up of many things that we cooperate to create? Or is it something else altogether?
To a designer, ‘the wedding’ might include the architecture of the building, or the decorating. And that is an honest aspect of it. But a gardener might have most of their attention on the flowers, at the expense of noticing the architecture. Yet that perspective would also represent an honest aspect of the wedding.
Another person who is falling in love at the time can see ‘the wedding’ as a beautiful manifestation of the ideas behind the vows. Yet to someone right next to them, who is still in love with the bride, the wedding is one of life’s greatest tragedies. And these are all happening simultaneously.
Whether they are our thoughts are about the physical surroundings, or the ideas being played out there, each of these realities is in a sense ‘true.’ If the wedding was a mirror, it’s like each person’s arrival fractures the mirror into one more part. Rather than feeling the totality of ‘the wedding’ itself, we each experience our thoughts about it, being reflected back to us as feelings and emotions.
To understand how that fact can be used to improve our lives and our society, we have to learn to see the role that ‘resistance’ plays in creating the reality we feel.
PS Many of you enjoyed a column I did for the CBC, with Radio Active host Adrienne Pan. I am sorry to report that Adrienne passed this weekend. She was a wonderful woman who will be dearly missed by many. I will have more to say about this at a later date, but if you would like to know more, here is their story on her. My heart goes out to all those who had the pleasure of loving her.
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.