Friday, December 4, 2015

Thoughts About Reality... What If It Were All Just A Mind Game?

Over the course of a lifetime we hear all kinds of strange ideas. One of them goes like this. What if I am really a butterfly and what I am experiencing as a human is just a figment of my butterfly dream? Of course it is a silly idea, but people debate the matter, and sometimes I think seriously.

A more common question is this: Does reality actually exist? That is, what if everything we experience -- see, feel, smell, hear, etc. -- is simply a projection of our minds? What if the only thing really happening is neurons firing in our brains?

Well, let's think this through a bit. When I drop my car keys, for some reason they always fall downward. When I drop my book onto the table, it likewise proceeds in a direction that corresponds with the laws of gravity. When I fall off a ladder, I somehow fail to float up or sideways and in point of fact fall directly earthward. And so does Bill when he falls. And Lucy's keys also fall earthward as does Mike's book.

Now if the whole thing going on with every single person in the world were similar in all these particulars, how could what my mind conceives be identical to 7 billion other peoples' experiences? I would suggest that it's pretty good evidence that there is a reality outside of our imaginations and inner selves. Our perceptions feed us the same information about the world we live in because that is how the world really is.

If it's all in our individual heads, then why do we all invent clouds or stars or a globe with seven continents? If our external world is imaginary, why don't we live in different worlds? Mike could live in a world that is all earth with little springs of water quenching thirst, and Doreen could live in a world that is all water and she has gills, so she lives swimmingly. And Marta lives in a world where no one ages past 30 and no one ever gets hurt and everyone is happy.

But that's not what we're seeing and experiencing. I talk about a blue sky and everyone who can read this knows what I am talking about. Blue skies are something we've seen and experienced because the outside world we share will be there for our grandkids as much as it is here for you and me. If the world were all but a projection of my mind, the Browns would win the Super Bowl every year and the weather in Duluth would serve up a longer growing season with shorter winters. What I perceive is the same as what you perceive because, drumroll please, ...... it really exists.

Why is it that only extremely educated people seem to stumble over what is obvious even to children? While it's true that things are not always what they appear to be -- take for example the experience of vertigo where pilots feel like they are sideways or upside down -- for the most part, the way things seem to be is the way they really are. (See my 2013 blog post about Strength from the Void for a little diversion on counter-intuitiveness.) And whether we're here to experience it or not, here to see it and write about it or not, the real world we live in would still exist.

Here in the U.S. today is Friday. For all of us, whether it feels like a Friday or not. Enjoy your weekend and make the most of it.

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EdNote: Painting at the top of page is titled "Kentucky" by Ed Newman. Acrylic on Rand-McNally map of Kentucky, approx. 11"x 15". Drawing, ink on paper, is titled "21st Century Schizoid Man."

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