posted 04-07-2002 04:25 AM PT (US)
I took a nap on Saturday evening and awoke feeling very disassociated with objective reality.
Of course, we're always disassociated from objective reality. If you take a photo of a duck and show it to a person and ask them what it is, they might give one of the following answers: a) "It's a duck", or b) "It's a piece of paper covered with a layer of different colored crystals." That's analogical to the difference between "reality" and "objective reality". The photo's objective reality is "a duck" (that is, the object in the photo is a duck), but it's not a duck, is it? It's a photo (a piece of paper covered with a layer of multi-colored crystals). So objective reality is no more reality than a picture of a duck is a duck.
Objective reality, also known as "conceptual reality", is the map, whereas reality itself is the territory. Objective reality is filled with, not surpisingly, objects (concepts), such as trees, snakes, ladders, good, bad, fast, slow, etc. A concept is a division in objective reality that divides what is the concept (the object) from what is not the concept - thus concepts have definitions. No, definitions only loosely apply to reality. Not too many decades ago, physicists used a concept of "the aether" to help explain light waves. If light is a wave, they figured, then something must be waving - it's analogical to an ocean wave: if there is a wave on the ocean, then something must exist to carry the wave (i.e., water). However (avoiding details), before long it was demonstrated that the concept of the aether was meaningless as applied experimentally to our physical world - there is simply no way to detect the aether, and therefore the concept of the aether doesn't contribute anything to our understanding to the physical world - and, therefore, owing to Ockham's Razor , the concept of the aether has been discarded (and, contrary to widespread notions popularized by such ridiculously silly television shows as The X-Files and an otherwise very very good movie by the name of Contact, Ockham's Razor is NOT "the principle that whenever you have competing theories, the simplest theory tends to be the right one"; it's so pathetic that the very easy to grasp true meaning of "Ockham's Razor" must be so pathetically watered down for the general audiences to make it a part of their personal lexicons). So here we have an example of an object in our objective realities, the aether, which has no basis in the reality which objective reality attempts to describe.
However, there are more subtle differences between objective reality and reality itself. Consider a tree, for example, which Alan Watts used in his famous book, The Way of Zen, to describe the difference: Alan points out that the word "tree" is obviously arbitrary - we could just as easily have applied the label "boojum" to the concept for all the difference it would've made to reality itself. However, while it's readily apparent that the label for a concept is arbitrary, what isn't apparent - but seems to be nonetheless true - is that the conceptual lines which delineate what is a tree from what is not a tree are similarly arbitrary. Most trees, for example, have a fungus that grows on their roots without which the tree is incapable of living. So, the question to be asked is: Is that fungus a part of the tree, or is it rather a separate entity? Or both? The decision of whether to consider that fungus to be part of the tree or not is an arbitrary definition made by scientists and philosophers. Scientists try to find the simplest way to accurately describe our universe - if it proves most simple to consider that fungus as part of the definition of "tree", just as we include roots, leaves, bark, etc., as part of a tree, then they'll incorporate it as part of the definition. Otherwise, they will not, and the answers aren't all that easy. Leaves, for instance, fall off of trees. So, are leaves part of a tree? Or not? If a tree loses its leaves, is it no longer a tree? The point to understand, here, is that while he have an object in our conceptual map of reality which is very strictly defined to which we apply the label "tree", there is no such entity in the physical world - our conceptual map of reality which divides reality into objects like trees, rocks, planets, and Nalley Chili, is an artificial construct that we impose upon the physical world in order to gain an understanding of it and to give it some measure of predictability.
One more example: life. I seem to remember a couple of decades ago a debate about whether or not viruses are alive or not. Viruses depend entirely upon the cells of other biological beings, such as you and I, in order to reproduce. Scientists couldn't decide whether or not to consider the viruses to be life forms, or whether to consider them to be some kind of non living entity - sort of like a toxin, or something. There are, after all, many other replicators in the world that we don't consider to be alive (such as crystals) which aren't all that different from virii. In the end, I think, they decided to consider virii to be life forms - and, therefore, by definition, virii are alive. Now here's what's important: "Life" is a concept - it's part of our conceptual map of the universe; it's a concept that helps us to organize an understanding of our experience and give it some predictability. Because life is a concept, it's a human creation - "God" (another concept in our conceptual maps of reality - and a rather outdated and generally useless concept employed by those who fail to pick up Ockham's Razor for their daily shave) does not grant life - humans do, just as the scientists granted life to those virii.
I can just hear your thoughts arguing with all of this - wanting to say that reality is, in fact, objective - that objects do exist in "reality itself", as opposed to merely our physical maps of reality, and to say that we don't impose our concept of "a tree" upon reality, but that it's the reverse: that reality has imposed trees upon us, that our understanding of what the tree is comes with our experience of the tree itself. I can just imagine one of you standing in front of me, taking a fist and pounding it once upon the trunk of a tree saying, "Trees do exist! I refute thee thus!" If so, you would probably say that you understand what I've said so far, and you disagree with it. However, I contend that your lack of agreement demonstrates your lack of understanding. You're sinning (the word "sin", from its roots, literally means "to miss the point") - but that's another issue. Suffice it to say that people are very loathe to admit that the map is not the territory, particularly in the metaphysical sense that I am writing about here.
Now, back to my nap - or, rather, my awakening. I have this sort of thing happen fairly often, actually; I woke up and...
"Dreams are shaking, set sirens waking up tired eyes...with the light the memories all rush into his head...."
...the memories I hold, my conceptual map of reality, did not rush into my head right away. Instead, I sat up and was hit with a very profound notion - an experience really - which I can not describe any better than to simply say that it was the experience of realizing that existence exists. Here we are, here the universe is - existing. Isn't that weird? Isn't it odd that the universe exists at all? But what would reality be if the universe didn't exist? How is it that existence exists?
I am thinking that this experience that I had is much like the experience described by Soren Kierkegaard as "dread", that Martin Heidegger (I think) described as "angst", and the French existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Satre in his essay, Nausia, described using a word that is most often translated as "being in the way" or "superfluous".
Isn't it strange that when you wake up after a long slumber, and your conscious mind begins to once again become the foundation for your reality, it seems to recreate reality pretty much the way you left it when you went to sleep the night before? By the time you reach a few years old, you just take this fact for granted - you've gone to sleep so many times and awakened so many times, that waking up to find reality the same way that you left it no longer seems strange. But doesn't it seem just a bit odd that it should be that way? Well, this was my experience as I awoke from my nap - it seemed, through to my bones, as being extremely odd that, once again, using my mind, I'd once again re-create reality in exactly the same manner as it was when I'd discarded it the night before. I mean, for God's sake, not a thing was out of place - even my toothbrush was where I'd left it. What's important here is not that my toothbrush was not out of place, but rather that it felt so blatantly bizarre that my toothbrush should actually be found not a bit out of place - along with everything else!
Ugh. I've got to get up and show houses tomorrow - I'm going to bed. Consider this the unfinished ramblings of a guy who was very disappointed that not a single individual showed up for Saturday night chat. Not BattleAngel. Not Kat. Not Gladrial. Not Flarpo. Not Zombie. Not Blue. Not Coffee. Not SnowV. Not Krazey. Not Thefrodo. Not MegaRhycher...no one.
OK, Supa showed up about 4 hours late. Briefly.
"The individual is an aperature through which the energy of the entire universe becomes aware of itself, a vortex of vibration which realizes itself as man or beast, flower or star, not alone but central to all that surrounds it."
"A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'Universe'; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely but striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security."
"Certainly Adam in paradise had not more sweet and curious apprehensions of the world than I when I was a child. I knew nothing of sickness or death or rents. The corn was orient and immortal wheat which never should be reaped nor was ever sown. I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting. The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold. The gates at the end of the garden were, at first, the end of the world. Boys and girls tumbling in the streets and playing were like moving jewels. I knew not that they were born or should die, but all things abided eternally as they were in their proper places. Eternity was manifest in the light of the day, and something infinite behind everything appeared which talked with my expectation and moved my desire. The streets were mine, the temple was mine, the people were mine, their clothes and gold and silver were mine, as much as their sparkling eyes, their fair skins, and ruddy faces. The skies were mine and so were the sun and moon and stars, and all the world was mine, and I the only spectator and enjoyer of it. I knew no churlish properties nor bounds nor divisions but all properties and divisions were mine, all treasures and the possessors of them. So that only with much ado was I corrupted and made to learn the dirty devices of this world."
"Ye are gods."
--Jesus of Nazareth
(*Ouro decides not to proof read this post*)