reality

When Things Do Not Fit Our Mental Map

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.  

~ Philip K. Dick

Excerpt from "Umberto Rossi on 'The Twisted Worlds of Philip K. Dick'," To The Best of Our Knowledge, Jan. 20, 2013: 

What I find fascinating in that famous quotation of Dick is that the basic idea is that reality is not something that manifests itself clearly, it's something that doesn't want to go away.

What's the meaning of this? The meaning is that we have a map, a mental map of reality in our head.

And sometimes we superimpose the map that we have in our head, the image of reality that we have in our head, that can be wrong sometimes.

We superimpose it on reality so sometimes we don't really access reality directly. We have our desires, fears, expectations, paranoias, whatever, that act like a sort of filter between [actual] reality -- creating a sort of virtual reality.

That happens for everybody. Well, in a media-saturated society like ours, this is even stronger. We know a match not because we have been there and seen that, we know a lot because we have seen it on TV, on the Internet on some website, or read it in the Wikipedia, and, well, when things do not fit our mental map, mental image, maybe we have touched reality. 

That's, I think, what an interpretation can be of that famous  statement by Dick. 


See also: Rossi, U. (2011). The twisted worlds of Philip K. Dick: A reading of twenty ontologically uncertain novels. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/692291452 

Personal Experience

Excerpt from The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman:

Television is a form of one-way entertainment, but that's not how people want to think about it. They want to believe they're somehow involved.

This is why they talk back to the TV. This is why they get upset if certain characters don't behave in a likable fashion.

This is why they complain when the story moves further from their own personal definition of interesting.

This is why they criticize boring episodes on the Internet and expect the show's writers to study their thoughts and care what they think.

This is why they love shows that involve voting. They believe their personal experience with television effects what television is.

But television is the only place where this belief exists. Within their actual life, they feel powerless. They believe voting is frivolous. They think caring is a risk. They assume they have no control over anything, so they don't even try.

They perceive reality backward.

Reality, Without Quotes

Matt, Lake Champlain, August 7, 2011

Excerpt from The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman:

Just watch any husband arguing with his wife about something insignificant; listen to what they say and watch how their residual emotions manifest when the fight is over. It's so formulaic and unsurprising that you woudn't dare re-create it in a movie. All the critics would mock it. They'd all say the screenwriter was a hack who didn't even try. This is why movies have less value than we like to pretend --  movies can't show reality, because honest depictions of reality offend intelligent people. 

The reality I got to see was not "movie reality." The reality I saw was just reality, without quotes. You want to know what I really learned? I learned that most people don't consider time alone as part of their life. Being alone is just a stretch of isolation they want to escape from. I saw a lot of wine-drinking, a lot of compulsive drug use, a lot of sleeping with the television on. It was less festive than I anticipated. My view had always been that I was my most alive when I was totally alone, because that was the only time I could live without fear of how my actions were being scrutinized and interpreted. What I came to realize is that people need their actions to be scrutinized and interpreted in order to feel like what they're doing matters. Singular, solitary moments are like television pilots that never get aired. They don't count. 

Question Your Answers

December 29, 2012

Excerpts from The Way of Liberation: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Adyashanti

As a guiding principle, to progressively realize what is not absolutely True is of infinitely more value than speculating about what is. Many people think that it is the function of a spiritual teaching to provide answer's to life's biggest questions, but actually the opposite is true. The primary task of any good spiritual teaching is not to provide answer's to your questions, but to question your answers.

...

In our modern society we expect to have everything given to us in easy-to-consume bite-size portions, preferably very quickly so that we can get on with our hurried lives. But Truth will not conform itself to our frantic avoidance of Reality or our desire to have the whole of something for the very least investment of time and energy. 

...

Summary of the Teaching

Be still. 

Question every thought. 

Contemplate the source of Reality. 

And keep your eyes open. You never know when something that seems entirely insignificant will split your whole world wide open into eternal delight. 

Download free ebook version of The Way of Liberation...

Fundamentally Fiction

"This entire book is filtered through the consciousness of [the] main character. I don't want to give too much away here, but hopefully, as one reads through it, that becomes clearer and clearer. It might seem as if it's being told from a separate narrator, but it's supposed to be coming through her consciousness in a way. And a lot of what is possibly seen here as being real  or experienced is partly her imagings of what other people are going through. Which is fundamentally how we all live our lives anyway.

We all imagine things about people, what their lives are like. And we operate as if these imaginings and ideas are real, but they're not. They're fundamentally fiction. Even the things we know about the people we care about most or we live with  stories they tell us about their childhood. We think we understand them, but those images and those stories, they're not true necessarily. They might have moments, pieces and facts and things, but what's in our brains  they're constructs."

~ Chris Ware, speaking about his book, Building Stories, with Michael Silverblatt on KCRW's Bookworm, November 8, 2012 

Different from the Real Experience

Germaine Koh, Knitwork, 1992, Unravelled used garments reknit into growing object. View of process at Galerie B-312, February 2012. Photo: Gordon Hicks

"Observe other people as they’re acting out their interpretation of an experience or telling you about something that happened in their life. You can tell the difference between what actually happened to them and how they’re interpreting it. Their interpretation isn’t wrong, necessarily—it’s just different from the real experience."

~ Phillip Moffitt, from Emotional Chaos to Clarity

Careful Attention to What is Real

Arjuna Ardagh, from Whiskey River:

Self-inquiry is simple. It does not require you to do anything, change anything, think anything, or understand anything. It only asks you to pay careful attention to what is real.

I have two sons. When they were about four, they both went through a phase of having nightmares. I would go into the room and switch on the light. Two small eyes blinked at me from the corner.

"What's the problem?" I'd ask.

"Daddy, there's a monster in the room," a timid voice would reply.

Now, I had more than one choice of how to respond. I could tell my frightened boy that it was not true, there was no monster, go back to sleep.  That response is the equivalent of reading a book that says, "We're all one, there is no problem, just be with what is."

Fine ideas, but they don't help much. I could also have offered to feed the monster cookies, talk with the monster, negotiate. That approach is like some kinds of psychotherapy. Treat the problem as real, then fix it on its own terms.

But the only real solution I ever found was to have a good look. Under the bed, in the closet, behind the curtains, we undertook an exhaustive search.

Eventually my sons would let out a deep sigh, smile at me, and fall back to sleep. The problem was not solved but dissolved. It was never real in the first place, but it took investigation to make that a reality.


See also: "The Translucent Revolution," interview with Arjuna Ardagh by Deborah Caldwell, Beliefnet.com

Confidence is a Feeling

Excerpts from "Don’t Blink! The Hazards of Confidence," by Daniel Kahneman, The New York Times Magazine, October 23, 2011:

We are prone to think that the world is more regular and predictable than it really is, because our memory automatically and continuously maintains a story about what is going on, and because the rules of memory tend to make that story as coherent as possible and to suppress alternatives. Fast thinking is not prone to doubt.

Illustration by Tim EnthovenThe confidence we experience as we make a judgment is not a reasoned evaluation of the probability that it is right. Confidence is a feeling, one determined mostly by the coherence of the story and by the ease with which it comes to mind, even when the evidence for the story is sparse and unreliable. The bias toward coherence favors overconfidence. An individual who expresses high confidence probably has a good story, which may or may not be true...

...When a compelling impression of a particular event clashes with general knowledge, the impression commonly prevails. And this goes for you, too. The confidence you will experience in your future judgments will not be diminished by what you just read, even if you believe every word...

...Overconfidence arises because people are often blind to their own blindness.

True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes. You are probably an expert in guessing your spouse’s mood from one word on the telephone; chess players find a strong move in a single glance at a complex position; and true legends of instant diagnoses are common among physicians. To know whether you can trust a particular intuitive judgment, there are two questions you should ask: Is the environment in which the judgment is made sufficiently regular to enable predictions from the available evidence?...Do the professionals have an adequate opportunity to learn the cues and the regularities?...Many of the professionals we encounter easily pass both tests, and their off-the-cuff judgments deserve to be taken seriously. In general, however, you should not take assertive and confident people at their own evaluation unless you have independent reason to believe that they know what they are talking about. Unfortunately, this advice is difficult to follow: overconfident professionals sincerely believe they have expertise, act as experts and look like experts. You will have to struggle to remind yourself that they may be in the grip of an illusion.

See also: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kanheman