In understanding ourselves, human nature, and how to read people; it’s a practical take to gain a certain awareness of our and others’ perceptions of their environment and views on life. Much of people’s acceptance of reality is based on respectful assumptions and clock-work-like patterns: i.e. The sun is going to rise and set, taxes will be taken out of our paychecks, the New England Patriots are going to find a new way to cheat.
As likely as these events are to transpire, it’s still healthy to question what’s behind what we or others perceive. Most of us find great connections with others that have similar mind-frames or tolerable ways; even though how we see things can differ from person to person. Still, we find ways to work together in this life and would always rather enjoy the moment.
Societies find their function and sensibility on agreement of facts, rules, keeping the peace, and to a high degree, historical documentation. But does that really define existence? Is there a way to truly know what is your reality?
Reality – the world or the state of things as they actually exist; as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.
If the answer was as simple as the above Oxford Dictionary’s definition, then the question and debate of what reality is to us wouldn’t present such a popular search; whether that is in way of:
- Being on a spiritual quest
- Performing scientific experiments
- Researching online or through books
- Studying radical theories like quantum physics or that ‘we are in a computer simulation.’
These ways of deciphering reality will move an individual closer to an educated conclusion. In the entire sense of the question, it’s hard to say if it could ever be completely answered in absolution. Essentially, we can break down the concepts and explore different angles of reality to better expose it.
Let’s start from the ground and work our way up.
Concrete Evidence In Our Reality
Here, Oxford rests his head in the oversimplification of what reality is: down to earth, simple facts. Here, truths/proofs can be tested by nearly anyone, anywhere, and all will share the same results over and over:
- Fish live in water
- Oranges grow on trees
- California is on the western coast of the United States
- Cotton balls are soft
- Diet Dr. Pepper tastes more like regular Dr. Pepper
There is nothing too fancy in this type of reality. Humans agree to what is palpable by the five senses. It is the closest way in having rational, complete agreement, of what is present, indisputable, and unchanging.
Evidence is empirical and becomes categorized under common sense.
Reality As Self-Evident
The philosophical question and debate of reality has been with man for millennia. We’ll see that the answer starts with ourselves. We have to be conscious and in some kind of existence to even consider any of this, right? So for now, what we can do is continue to paint a picture of different reality types to us in the physical and internal universe; and conclude that we’re somehow in that frame of being.
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…” – Thomas Jefferson from the Declaration of Independence
Who could argue with such a profound and inclusive ideology? Well, my friends, people have… and still do! Even a revolutionary fundamental document, that is widely accepted and put into practice, has an underground opposition in a goal to infiltrate, obstruct, and overtake.
We start to bear witness to the fact that we can agree on certain principles of reality. Conversely, we see there are humans out there that want to make their own definition; for the good, or not, of everyone else. It’s not a new movement. And it’s not just reserved for hate groups. Our past and present actors of conscious shifts include:
- Nazis (world domination and eugenics)
- Hippies (counter-culture, free love and drugs)
- Hollywood (fantasy and hypnotism of thought)
- Media (belief through repetition and misdirection)
- Religion (believe, or die and suffer)
Reality can be agreed upon in consensus by way of axiomatic or desired ideals. We as individuals can acquiesce and fit these norms, or deviate and work on redefining them.
Here, we see that reality has the possibility of being a bit capricious. It is self-evident that this social definition is held as a cohesion to maintain harmony, or control, in the world. This is worthy in it’s own right. And it even has empirical elements, but it doesn’t address the depth of existential questioning.
A person’s reality can change or vary by way of circumstances. These situational occurrences are very diverse and not all will share in the same perspectives, experiences, and options. Reality will vary from one person to the next.
For example, people born into wealth will have more or total financial freedom. Their reality is that money is not a life issue. Whereas, a person in poverty will have to work or find another way to solve their financial dilemma. For them, to have a lot of money is a dream. It simply is not their reality.
Religion is another form of circumstantial based reality. This is because it is usually handed down by culture, from generation to generation, and through rituals. People’s perceptions get molded by their belief structure. Whatever your religious upbringing, it will alter the way you view reality in historical, present, and afterlife terms.
But if one religion holds the absolute truth, there is just no way to prove as we can with facts that have concrete evidence. Humans debate religious beliefs all the time. Also, a person can convert to a new religion or become an atheist, and once again, their view on reality will shift. This makes religion shaky ground in terms of ultimate reality; but circumstantial nonetheless.
Other circumstantial based realities include:
- Having a handicap
- Prison Life
- Soldiers at war
- Being famous
- First world problems
We find here, that reality can be based on environment, privileges or disadvantages from birth, or by change from any of these forms. Also, we discover that even our beliefs are circumstantial. As circumstances can change, so can our reality. Since reality in this case once again can be fleeting, there is still more to consider in our search. So let’s continue.
Attitude Helps Shape Your Reality
People can have different perceptions of an event and be witnessing or experiencing the exact same happenings. In this case, we find we can choose how we view our experiences and circumstances; shifting reality once again by self definition. We literally get to choose our idea of reality and how we react to the elements outside of ourselves.
It has been said in a Paul Simon song, “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.” Metaphorically, both subjects are in the same environment, but with two completely different points of view. One’s paramount accomplishment, is a mere starting point for the other. These individuals have different levels of expectation and satisfaction.
This attitudinal reality happens everywhere every day. Some people caught in traffic will dread and complain, while others use the time to call a loved one, listen to an informative podcast, practice a foreign language, or enjoy their favorite music. The way you choose to deal with your experiences and environment can ultimately shape your reality.
We can have positive, negative, or apathetic views and responses to the circumstances we’re dealt or the experiences we have. We come one step closer to having a grasp on what is your reality. That is the ability of choice. But this ability is limited.
You can’t choose to be born rich or choose to not lose a limb once it’s gone. This reality is control of the will, thought processes, and decision-making. But can we ‘will’ or decide what reality actually is? It continues to be subjective, and requires the need to dig further.
Let’s Rewind To The Roots
It’s far from a modern notion that reality is rooted in the unknown. That is respectively, what has started the philosophy and questioning of reality thousands of years ago; the unknown variable. Early Greeks were troubled by the question, “What is appearance and what is reality?” Two answers were proposed:
- Change is reality, stability is only apparent.
- Stability is real, change is apparent.
Those trusting their senses noticed change; those trusting their minds and mistrusting their senses noticed stability. Plato argued for change as reality and knowing truth. His opposition, the Sophists, were skeptical about anyone actually knowing it. Gorgias (a Sophist) argued that we have no access to such objective standards. Therefore, one can’t make these arrogant associated conclusions. Therefore, the truth of reality:
- May not exist
- If it does it may not be discoverable
- If discoverable, it may not be distinguishable from untruth
- If distinguishable, it may not be communicable
Gorgias goes on to say there is the matter of cosmos and nomos. Cosmos being whatever would exist had man never existed (Nature). Nomos being all that humans add, such as law and order. It was the original man vs. nature conflict in the debate (You know it better as “if a tree falls in the woods…”). Sophist Greeks wondered, “What is reality, and does it need man to exist?”
Well, we witness that the world continues on as we lose those we know in death. But that still is only half an answer to if reality needs man. We just can’t know for sure; since humans still thrive and grow in the world after others die. It is fair at this point to add, that death is part of the reality we live.
We can’t exclude the possibility of a new reality for those that have passed on. But from there, it becomes a matter of a spiritual debate; which really is just as old and relative to the debate of truth and reality. Even atheists have theories about life after death; being that we continue on as energy.
The Greeks were ahead of their time in philosophy and questioning of truth and set a trend that continues today. These ancient sophisticated philosophers would scoff at the New Agers of our modern era. The New Age Movement encourages individual notions in the creation of our own reality.
Basically, New Age philosophy states that you can pick and choose from various metaphysical and religious doctrines how you want to mold your reality.
But once again, can we really choose what reality actually is? If it is beyond us, how could it be up to us to just pick and choose? (It sounds awesome, really. But I’m just not sold on that ability, personally.)
Like Sophists towards Plato, anyone that claims to have the absolute truth of reality, is suspect.
We can choose how we view reality, not its existential actuality. Let’s move on to our modern proposed alternatives.
In this ongoing search for knowing what our reality is, it is necessary to think outside the realm of what has been taught to us form our onset. If any knowledge learned and handed down through a structured education system is inaccurate, and/or always has been, we are clouded and deceived in many ways. At the very least, we will have been misinformed; if not altogether mislead in our perceptions…
Think outside the box. Sometimes we need to break our thought, action, and reaction patterns to solve problems or understand scenarios. We admit to the fact that we can’t figure out or explain everything. To find the answer we sometimes need to adjust ourselves.
Conspiracy theorists will tell you everything you’ve been taught is a lie. That, if it were true, could change your entire scope of reality. Sincerely, they pose an interesting theory!… Simply, what if everything you think you believe, you are just conditioned to believe? There may be possible realities just outside the scope of what you’ve been led to believe.
If we’re questioning reality, we need to also consider the alternate, esoteric, and supernatural. It’s part of the enchantment of the unknown. Many movies are based on the alternate reality premise and delivered cleverly; in a way to make us think and to question what we know.
This concept was made popular, more recently by the movie The Matrix in 1999, starring Keanu Reeves. Prior to that, 1988″s commensurate, They Live, with Rowdy Roddy Piper, delivers much of the same gusto to the contemplation of “what if?”. (Two incredible movies, now, and in there place in time!)
In both movies, those who were exposed to the truth were initially in a state of denial. Like Jack Nicholson warning Tom Cruise in the movie, A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth!” It’s the shock of reality that the masses, or targeted individuals, may not be ready for; or may even vehemently oppose!
Cognitive dissonance – the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.
In this state, you’re basically not accepting any new forms of reality presented to you. Reverting back to imprinted ways is easier. YOU DO NOT WANT TO CHANGE HOW YOU SEE OR ACCEPT LIFE’S PRESENTATIONS. Your brain and habits are so wired into a way of being, that you simply won’t give up your traditional comfortable ways of believing; or perceiving life as you know it…
Ironically, this factor alone, could hinder a person ever truly attaining what reality is by dismissing alternate possibilities.
Be skeptical. But be all ears.
There are conspiracy theories that claim there may be secret sects (including blood-lines), where true reality is hidden from the masses, and only known by a select worthy few. If this is true, what would be the reason for not passing on or sharing the truth of reality to the rest of society? This is a fascinating, yet terrifying theory!!
Alternate possibilities can stir, enlighten, or scare.
The Reality Within
The paradox of reality is not to be taken lightly. Or it is to be completely dismissed of concern. It’s up to you if you care. It’s also not up to you; just the same.
For many, there’s freedom in dismissing and being worry free to not concern with ultimate truths. For others, it’s a constant existential crisis to the why or how of existence.
In either case, you can believe whatever you want reality is, but reality is not a prisoner or obligated to your beliefs.
If you agree you were born and exist, then you get that we do have the option to make choices in life and apparently die. So, use those choices and opportunities to make some great moments in the NOW and to be ready for the NEXT, by learning from the PAST!
Let’s respect the gift, and be our best. Your reality will depend on that.
Like Morpheus approaching Neo in The Matrix, can anyone actually show us our reality? If so, please leave your feedback in the comment section below. I HAVE LOTS OF QUESTIONS!