I began blogging here with a reply to a question I’m frequently asked by clients. Now, mischievous as ever, I’m going to turn the tables and ask you a question. More precisely I’d like you to ask yourself the question. Are you for real? If so, what do you think that means? What is the environment perceived through our human senses that we refer to as reality and just how real is it?
While philosophers have long been contemplating the transient and alarmingly insubstantial nature of our existence, the Wachowski brothers’ movie “The Matrix” is probably the best known work in popular culture to explore the nature of reality. Those who’s interest was sufficiently piqued, or who have long been keeping an eye on what the philosophers were up to may well have watched another movie produced and co-directed by William Arntz, “What the #$*! do we know?” in which the question, what, if anything, is real? Really gets put through it’s paces.
Both of these movies were remarkably successful and it’s not hard to see their appeal. I and I’m sure many others, on seeing these pricked up our ears and thought, “Yes! That’s what I’ve been wondering about.” As a child, back in that flat in London, I remember gazing at the hot ceramic plate of a gas fire and thinking, “I know that colour is called orange because I’ve been told that when I see that colour I should call it orange. But what if the colour I actually see is different from what other people see when they look at this thing? If they saw what I’ve been told is green they would still call it orange because they’d been told to and if that is so, who would be correct? If we all have an entirely different experience of the physical world but fool ourselves into believing in a consensual reality simply by means of a naming convention, how do we know that we truly share the same reality. What’s more, if this true it could account for why golfers appear to have such strange taste in trousers.
The point is, we are entirely at the mercy of a stream of electrical impulses flowing into certain areas of our brain as we try to build our map of the world and universe around us. So just what is the nature of that reality? Most intriguingly, how can a better knowledge of it aid us in living a more fulfilling, and, well, magical life?
The answer can be simultaneously quite terrifying and wonderfully liberating in its implications. The fact that an atom is made up mostly of a weak electrical charge with only the tiniest percentage of its volume consisting of anything that could be described as matter surely means that it’s questionable which is the most substantial. That which we call solid and tangible, or our perception of it.
If you are on the 1st or 2nd storey of a house or, as I am, on a boat that is supporting you above several feet of water, the sudden realisation that none of this is actually very solid and is mostly just a weak field of energy is, well, disconcerting. When, however, you realise that everything as far as you can see and beyond, is of the same consistency, it begins to get interesting. Because if our perception of reality has even nominally greater substance than reality itself, just how powerful does that make our perception?
This is something I intend to explore over the coming days. If you’d like to join me, I’d love to hear your opinions.