Tuesday, July 24, 2007

'A Womb With A View' ...

A long time ago, last year, Doreen clued me in to the Vanity Fair essay contest. First prize? $15,000. "Eh," I thought. "I could use $15,000." The topic was "What is reality to Americans today? And did we ever have a grasp of it?"

I confess that I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about the topic and I didn't spend a lot of time writing this. It was a lark, not a real effort. But submissions had to be unpublished work. Now that the winners have been announced and published, it's fair game.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

Supposedly, Albert Einstein said that. If he did, and if he was right, and he was right about a lot of things – smart guy, that Einstein – then the answers to the questions “What is reality to Americans today? And did we ever have a grasp of it?” must be “Whatever we perceive it to be” and “Presumably, but if reality is an illusion, how would we really know?”

Everyone is born into their own reality. There are, to be sure, absolutes. The earth is round. Gravity exists. Science is handy that way. Unless you give any credence to quantum physics: If you’re not Stephen Hawking or one of his minions, your brain is likely to melt during contemplation.

But everyone has their own view of reality, just as everyone has their own face. The basic layout is the same, but – identical persons excluded – no one looks exactly like another. We all live in the same world – world, I say, not country, because not all Americans live in America – but what we’ve been taught or not taught or what we’ve seen or not seen informs our view. So Einstein was on to something: Reality is an illusion because we all see the world from a different point of view. Literally. The person sitting to the left of you on the bus sees the world from a slightly different perspective. And since we can never occupy the same space as another person at the same time, we can never see things exactly the same way. What’s real to me isn’t real to the next person. And what’s real to them isn’t real to me.

There are ground rules, of course, social mores that we’re expected to buy into simply because we come from the same social structure. But apparently some people didn’t get the memo. Just because we’re not supposed to steal cars doesn’t mean cars don’t get stolen. For some, “Thou shalt not kill” isn’t worth the alleged tablet it was chiseled onto.

Then again, if reality means different things to different people, it follows that part of reality is choice. Choices shape our reality, and we attract like energy to ourselves, ionized. If you perceive the world to be an ugly place, you’ll see the ugliness. And your expectation to see nothing but the ugliness will shroud the beauty from your view. Every moment of our life presents a choice to be made. How we choose determines what we will see. Life is one big if/then statement.

How much – or little – we grasp reality depends on our understanding or belief of the precepts. Some are further along the grasping continuum than others. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that I’m right in my assertions. On one end of the continuum will be those who have given extensive thought to these tenets. On the other end of the continuum will be those who have yet to even be exposed to the ideas. The ability to grasp is a function of exposure and intelligence.

In the immortal words of Rush: If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

Life – reality – is what you make it.


Blogger Mercurie said...

I think the average American, or the average person in any other part of the world, doesn't think about reality too often. I think most of us are happy not to know what reality is, or even if reality is even real...

11:52 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Yes, because we're too busy reading about Britney.

Which, you know, bodes well for the future of this country.

12:39 PM  

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