The nature of reality is that we all have our own individual concept of what the world ultimately is. Reality is not a shared consciousness, it is in the end a combination of our own thoughts, interpretations, hopes, fears, and experiences. Reality is locked up in our own head, seen through our own eyes alone, and the product of our brain as it tries to make sense of the world in which we live.
In trying to make sense of that world we have questions which need to be answered. Our brains are constantly dealing with a hundred and one questions, big ones, small ones, ones that ultimately shouldn’t be asked, ones that we don’t have the courage to ask, question after question which shapes our reality and influences the way we interact with our fellow humans. Of course there are times when the majority of people will come to the same interpretation of reality. General consensus is that the world is a sphere and that it spins through space on a given orbit around a large ball of burning gas. There are those who believe otherwise, but as a species we have used the tools we have to hand to come to this conclusion and because we can prove it we accept it as reality. To those who say the world is flat the usual answer is a quiet “whatever” and a raised eyebrow. The reality is we have proved for over four hundred years that the world is circular by sailing round it, sending people out into space to look at it from the outside, from making notes and watching the movement of stars. The world is round and reality has a baseline to work from for the human species.
We also understand the reality of gravity, time, man’s inability to fly or breathe underwater because over time humans have observed, thought about, and remembered that apples fall down not up, there is a natural progression between light and dark, that we don’t have wings or gills. All of this goes into the memory banks and is a question that can be filed under “no longer needs worrying about” it becomes part of our reality and again most people share the same space. We call this process of understanding our reality “science”. It is about fact. We want to have a reality which is based, well in reality, where we can all of us agree on the reason something happens and worry about more important things like where the next meal is coming from. The outside world is easy to understand because we can find the patterns and in doing so come to a conclusion that we can prove time and again. When we move our attention to the human condition, however, then things become more confusing.
I have two dogs, they are from the same litter so they are brothers. They look alike to the point that even after a year I will call Sultan Toomai and Toomai Sultan. They both need the same basic care. Food, water, a place to leave the food after they have finished using it, they need interaction and stimulation. They are in essence the same. Same species, same look, same family, and yet they are very different. Sultan has learned to use a set of stairs to climb onto the bed whereas Toomai prefers to scratch at your arm until you lift him up. Sultan will quietly watch the world go by while Toomai thinks that if it moves it needs to be barked at, up to and including cats, people, birds, and any leaf that dares to fall in any garden on the island. Where Sultan is a cuddler Toomai is a force of nature that will sit on a keyboard to get you to pay attention. Sultan takes his time with his food. Toomai inhales his and goes back to sitting on your keyboard expecting the next scratch behind the ear. I’m not gushing about them but using them to serve a point. While they may be the same species they are also individuals. The reality is that thought they are the same they are beautifully, and sometimes annoyingly unique.
The same is true with human beings. When we climbed out of the trees and began to cover the earth we brought with us a similar set of experiences. Among these were the need to eat, to keep the species alive, and to avoid things that want to bite us because they need to eat and keep their species going. We weren’t limited in our intelligence because we were functioning very well thank you very much. Our reality was a simple one and the question of thermodynamics were completely irrelevant. As our experiences grew we adapted, as we evolved so to did our need to increase the boundaries of our reality. Everyone of us began to tell stories as to how and why the earth was the way it was and where our place was within it. Each time our brain expanded we found new questions to ask and made up new stories to explain what we couldn’t explain. In Europe we put a man in a toga up in the sky and gave him a thunder bolt. We looked into the depth of the ocean and put another man there who was responsible for ships getting safely to where they were going, or not depending on his mood. We told a stories about how man came into being, how he survived and took comfort in the fact that there were being up there somewhere who ultimately cared enough to bring us rain, make sure the harvest was a good one, punished the members of the community who were less desirable, and a plethora of other thing that happened up to and including the most frightening question of all. That question is “where do we go when we die?”
The animal in us that was scared of things in the dark, that had reacted to survive by sleeping in places where there was no dark shadow for a carnivore to hide, that had ensured that it moved with the seasons to make sure it could eat, had grown up but it brought the reality of its childhood with it. As the species grew and developed it carried those basic fears with it and surrounded itself with stories that brought comfort to it. Those stories gave it a hope that the sun would rise again tomorrow, that we as individuals were going to make it through another night and find the food we needed, that when we no longer existed here we would exist somewhere right? Because this can’t just be it. We created faith and that began to influence and control our reality.
In Europe a faith system arose that tried to answer all of these questions very neatly and nicely without having to refer to the concept of thinking about the things which scared us. It started with the idea of there being a God, just one and male of course, who made the world and everything in it, and of course us. Because we are incapable without the use of a cattle prod of seeing outside our own reality we saw that this whole beautiful planet was just for us. It was ours by right and we were the top of the pile. Faith fed that belief, after all we had created god and he told us that he had done it that way. Faith became reality. Accepted without question and if somebody did disagree we went back to our animal roots and killed them. But because we were now more than animals we found exciting and intricate ways of doing it. Don’t believe me kiddies? Go look up the torture devise known as “The Pear” and tell me how a loving god could give his children that idea.
In accepting the reality that “more is nice” we created systems based on the group mentality where most people were at the bottom trying to find interesting ways to make a pig’s trotter vaguely palatable while a few at the top enjoyed the nice bits and at the same time got roast potatoes. Because the group reality had been taught and reinforced that there were those who got the bacon and those that got the ear to chew. Those with the sharpest sword or the quickest mind got to teach the rest how their collective reality was. There’s a much used line about “animals don’t go to war” but as animals humans do and you should see how chimps behave. I can still remember the collective shudder that went round the world when a film maker showed a pack of chimps hunting down and tearing apart a chimp from another group. But chimps don’t have a god and we are not our basic instincts so that’s all right and god still put us in charge.
Faith as a reality is useful. It helps lull us back into the humdrum and mundane. It stops us thinking about the important questions like what am I really doing to this planet, why am I allowing people to be murdered in my name, and should I really be content with the tail when someone else could share and let me have a bit of that roast? When we begin to challenge a reality that is based on a group of stories to make us sleepy and compliant we are told we have no faith. Its interesting to note that quite a few of the world’s greatest artists, writers, sculptors, thinkers, and generals have at one time or another enjoyed a game of hide the sausage or tipped the velvet. The people who have truly sought to challenge the common taught reality where “what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is my own” have been homosexual. And so pseudoscience and old fears have been exploited in an attempt to keep the ignorant and unthinking just that. Ignorant and unthinking. To make a statement that the creator of mankind doesn’t like about 8% of his creation because they were born wanting to love a member of their own sex is pretty ridiculous. When the organisation which has butchered over a couple of thousand years holds up a document and says this is what God says and doesn’t tell you where the bits that were chopped are one could question the validity of their argument. After all they take it as a matter of “faith” that reality is the qua’ran, the bible, or the torah is the word of God, but my reality would say if it so absolute why do you keep debating what it means and why can’t I see the bits that you got rid of? My reality is until I can see the whole of the documents I am unwilling to believe what you hold is anything more than an unfinished study guide.
The three monotheistic faiths are not a good basis for the group reality. One god with all the votes seems a little too much like the feudal system to me with a king at the top and most of us down below with the trotters. A reality based on faith and not fact is one where we loose control over our rights as individuals. Next time you want to tell me that the “Church” is anything more than a feudal anachronism based on the desire for the few to have everything and control the masses I suggest you take a moment to read about the Council of Trent. It has very little to do with the spreading of Christian love and the word of God and everything to do with ensuring the church controlled all of Europe using kings as their man on the spot to see it was done. Even today the church feels that its unsubstantiated faith is a reality which should turn men against women, brother against brother, family against individual because their god says so and you shouldn’t challenge the word of god. What happened to that idea that we are all equal in the eyes of God? How did some of us move from being his creation and able to be loved by him? Because in your reality you chose to add a very useful little justification called “Sin”. Anything that you disapprove of or which challenges your position is “Sin” and as such there is a punishment. Really? Isn’t it a sin to hide behind a story so that you alone get to enjoy this world to its fullest? And can I please see the bits which have been chopped out of your “Good Book”? I suspect there’s quite a lot in the shredder that would have pricked your conscience and was “not in keeping with how you wanted your reality to be”.
In the end we are all responsible for the act of thinking and deciding what makes our world. For some it will always be stories about how we are sinful and must conform. For me my story is simple too. It is the story that there is a god who loves all of us and created all of us equal and us such we have a duty to the planet and to ensure we all get a bit of crackling and a roast potato.
Council of Trent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15030c.htm