I find the lack of reality disturbing. You should, too.
The 21st Century zeitgeist is precisely this whole idea that there is no ultimate reality. At best, we can have consensus reality, an agreement between a sufficiently diverse, numerous, and qualified body of the human species on a specific set of qualities and measures that determine what’s “real” and what’s “imagined”.
It would be fine if this was just limited to metaphysics and psychology, but there’s no way such an inquiry can be contained inside of any one discipline. All disciplines are invented by the human mind, and do not exist in “nature”: that is, the “outer” world of five senses, three dimensions of space, and one dimension of time.
Problem is, that “outer” world of four dimensions only occurs to us through five imperfect biological senses that we have always known are susceptible to error. Consensus reality helps with this – this is why scientists must subject their data to peer evaluation and confirmation – but in the end, there is still a margin for error, no matter how slight, in how humans define their “reality”.
I learned a new term at my seminar recently: an “agreement reality”. I have no idea what Landmark’s actual definition of the term is, and for the purposes of this thoughtpiece, I don’t care. All I know is that it’s connected to Mount Everest, Roger Bannister, and the boiling point of water in a stovetop pot. An agreement reality, to me, is synonymous with consensus reality.
Often, it takes just one highly publicized breaking of the agreement to open up space for the advancement of all humanity. You look at them and it’s almost as if the vast majority of people were hanging back for a second and third breakthrough, just to make sure the first wasn’t just a fluke.
A Watched Pot Always Boils
Mount Everest was all but unclimbable until 1953. After 1953, a few more made the ascent. Soon enough, dozens of people were conquering Everest every year.
No one could run a mile in four minutes. When Roger Bannister did it to great fanfare, six people broke the four minute mile the next year.
A boiling pot of water on my stove will shimmer, then ripple, but as soon as I see one bubble, three more appear, than ten, and then it’s roiling, all within a few seconds.
But people aren’t physical objects. Surely some partisan of a Newtonian reality is reading this and finding everything wrong with these metaphors, but that’s just it: you get the idea. Really, you get the idea, because it’s all a series of shared ideas about the world: it’s all made up. And today, that’s what the cutting edge of scientific inquiry is saying is the truth of the matter (indeed, the truth of all matter).
You create your own reality. How much scorn and rejection have those who have made this statement endured at the hands of the very scientific community that’s now taking a fresh look at the nature of reality and thinking “hmmm……”? Could the the scientists simply be the last ones to get in on the joke? Could the mystics and shamans of thousands of years ago right up until 2015 have gotten to it first by other means, using other languages?
Recently, scientists proved the observer paradox via actual experimentation. They’re even fashioning a test to see if the entire universe – from the smallest atoms making up the lettuce leaves in your Caesar salad to the most distant proto-galaxy in the Ultra Deep Field – isn’t some computer simulation cooked up by our descendants from far in the future.
Pay No Attention To the Man Behind The Curtain
Are you bothered by this? I am. And you should be, because if it’s not already just there for us, if the man behind the curtain in the Great Wizard’s hall turns out to be us, then we’re responsible for a lot more than the environment or poverty. We’ve got to take great responsibility with what we create with our intentions, words, and actions, because it’s creating the world around us. These scientists, by even questioning our agreement reality, are remaking the world in language.
So there may be no reality outside of ourselves…fo’ realz. That’s some really sour candy to suck on.
Party Like It’s 1199
I would suspect that this discomfort experienced by both Western and Non-Western peoples at this idea are one unacknowledged force behind the fundamentalist backlash we are experiencing worldwide. Of course, the question of reality as a motive for violence probably factors in a little less significantly for the guys being bombed from the sky by flying robots than, say, the getting bombed by flying robots thing. Either way, there’s no justification for violence, even if you can also understand their rationale for choosing a way of life based in Stone Age thinking, and being willing to kill for it.
If the trends seem to be leading to a future with no solid reality that exists outside of our perception of it, or even our own creation, then the only place to find certainty is in the past. (Steven Pressfield, screenwriter and author of “The War of Art”, touches on the differences between the artist and the fundamentalist: you should read his book for his debate-provoking insights.)
Can’t Touch This
If my education over the past five years has shown me anything, it’s that people will justify anything with anything, including avoiding responsibility. This isn’t the same as control. Everyone from Warren Buffett to Shifu from “Kung Fu Panda” will tell you: you can’t have a baby nine months faster by getting nine women pregnant. A peach seed will never grow into an apple tree (not without some serious genetic engineering, anyway).
Responsibility, however, involves acknowledging one’s power to alter the conditions that are within one’s sphere of influence. When you look at it, that sphere can be much larger than you might expect for yourself. That means that we may be on the hook for creating more violence, cynicism, pollution, heartbreaks, atrocities, and scandals in the world than we want to believe. And that would well and truly suck.
So where does that assertion leave us on the question of reality? For myself, I still would love to have science verify everything. I would love to know there’s something beyond what my mind and body can touch.
And it’s a simple matter of faith that science will get there eventually. But when science shows a pattern of being the slowest on the uptake, then I have to wonder if Mercury really does fuck everything up when it’s in retrograde, or if a simple act of visualization can bring me that car and ideal body faster. I have to wonder if meditation in the park may legit bring about world peace and harmony.
Reality. Nothing is real, nothing to get hung about. Seriously, why aren’t you freaking out?