V. The Truths We Live: Reality
The slice of the universe we are able to see and our attachment to its present dimensions.
Although Reality, Nature, The Universe, may be most neatly conceived of as:
Everything There Is,
we encounter it twice.
So let us think about Big Reality as Everything, including what we don’t perceive. Small reality will be the extent of reality we have personally integrated.
Ultraviolet light is an example of something that expanded our sense of reality when it was “discovered”. But though Reality contains every process, internal and external, as well as every interaction. We are not aware of, either on an individual or scientific level, every process and interaction.
So there is this gap. How we encounter reality twice is that:
1. We are always interacting with Big Reality but don’t have an experience of every level of interaction.
2. There is only so much we can experience, but we can process even less, and this is the place we eventually come to assume as reality (small), what we are aware of, and the extent to which we are aware of it.
Evolution can be thought of as Life’s “response” to environmental pressures, to Reality, Life’s response to the feedback it is receiving about where it is, the innovations of form through which an organism attempts to meet its context.
But small reality doesn’t look like the first picture. It looks like this:
And it is the small reality to which we are always adjusting, while the Big continues to send us messages.
We are not aware of the things we are not aware of. It sounds silly but can be seen in statements like “If I were him…” or “I can’t believe they…” or “You’re wrong!”
These common expressions of disbelief or frustration indicate a certain expectation that is often based on a difference at the level of the small realities. But through our cultural filters we interpret disagreement as something being wrong with the other person.
After all, the people we argue with live in the same place we do, and more importantly, we share the same words and concepts.
The crux of this particular veil is expressed in a dangerous complacency about meaning, beautifully illustrated in the next image.
Once you begin to consciously look out for this phenomenon you will see that it is far from the exception. People looking at completely different pictures through the “same” idea, but because the reality behind our own interpretation of an idea is assumed, people fall into conflict when the other person’s strategies or conclusions differ from theirs. Other people appear to be acting/thinking irrationally.
Feminism/Feminists are examples of concepts which people use in discussions as if they represent discreet logical ingredients when they carry dramatically diverging associations from person to person.
For instance, if you ask people to give their feelings of feminism on a scale of 1-10 and then ask other people to similarly rate the idea that women should have equal rights or be treated as people, you will get very different results.
This reveals two things:
1. the gap between an identity and the ideas it supposedly represents.
2. the wide variation in the perception of meanings to a concept that is used as if it only has one meaning.
Whose idea of feminism is right? How can we argue over the value of anything when we are judging different criteria, when we take for granted that what we see in a certain idea encompasses it to the point our position on it seems to be the right one.
In this culture, one does not usually clarify the full nature of the picture in their mind when using a shared symbol nor check to see how the image it creates through someone else’s experience is shaping up. We are not conscious of the fact that this is how we see.
We assume that we see reality and forget the things that are not visible, the differences of experience and information, and what is often hidden even from one’s self: motivation.
For instance, a debate about plant intelligence or animal suffering, may, on the surface, seem like a matter of knowledge/truth. On the more unconscious levels of motivation, there is a matter of self-value, as well as self-interest at stake, depending on where the ‘truth’ can be established.
As we age, we transition to a point where ‘who we are’, our imagined value, is an expression of what we know, and so we argue, as much for our image as for truth itself.
Thus, the truth we create is not purely a matter of what is there. It is not even built based solely on our experience but rather it is based on maintaining one’s self-image.
For some animals, success is the measure of their adaptations being fit enough within the Big Reality for them to survive and procreate.
In human society our interactions with reality are mediated by cultural patterns, and we have each other, or nature, to blame when we act with a certain expectation based on our understanding of reality, and things don’t go our way.
Our sense of necessity like our sense of reality is an amalgam of forces, the full spectrum of which are not immediately available to us or accounted for when we draw a circle around what we now know and say this is where we are, this is who I am.
Our place in Big Reality is complicated by the conviction that we are already in it, that we are already acting rationally and rightly. Our success as a species is complicated by the assumption that we are the culmination of evolution or analogues of God.
How can we act, adapt, in this cultural environment in which everyone is in the same place, but looking in a different direction, unaware of what they don’t see, and convinced that their understanding is clear enough to deny the experience and insights of others?
We have tried raising awareness of things that are going wrong, pollution, corruption, selfishness, hate. Our strategies however have assumed that we act rationally, ethically, that more awareness of issues, a greater volume of facts, are enough. But logic and reason are limited by the scope of cause and effect one is capable of admitting, and as a society we have no tools for seeing past our own egos, for recognizing that how and what we know is skewed based on the needs of our image.
All our societal incentives are focused around our egos, our image, and thus our scope of cause and effect becomes warped around them too.
There is a feedback we are receiving, effects of the ego-centric basis of our civilization, but because people see enemy types as the problem, the more fundamental issue of how our reality, and thus our roles, become locked, is obscured.
The Bigger Reality is knocking, and if we are to answer we have to see more deeply how we have seen.