December 1, 2013

More Long and Confusing Philosophies About Reality

Note to self: increase attractiveness of post title.

There are so many things I could say, but most of them have already been said. I could ramble about all the problems I have with the modern world - problems that are all modern variations of ancient problems, already addressed by countless writers and philosophers and speakers and teachers, addressed in words more wise and elegant than those which I write here. But enough talking about what I’m not talking about. I’m here to talk about something even more ancient but less frequently discussed. I’m here to synthesize my thoughts about it into something verbal and mildly tangible and possibly – if not probably – coherent. I want to talk about the framework of reality and life and everything.

Everything: my feelings about it are confusing to myself, but perhaps I’ll understand them better when they’re staring up at me from a page. This may begin with similarities to my last post, but I want to take things in a different direction.

The things we see and touch are the same as the things everyone else sees and touches. Obviously. (Well, if we can assume reality is reality. For now, let’s do that.) No one’s perception of the things are the same though: I see a tree and think of climbing it, you see a tree and think of cutting it. Deeper than that: I see a tree and think of some hardly-remembered feeling from my childhood, you see the same tree and think of some completely different hardly-remembered feeling from your completely different childhood. Still obvious, right? Why a certain object triggers a certain memory or a certain sensation is sometimes clear and sometimes impossible to decipher.

This is where I stop speaking for everyone and start speaking for myself. Maybe this is how it is for everybody, but I haven’t found out yet. So. Same object, different perceptions. But not only is the perception different between people – it’s different for each person each time they see the object. One minute I see the tree and think of a high school football game on a cold Friday evening, with floodlights and cheering and frosty air and crowds bundled up in warm clothing. The next minute I see the tree and think of a lake in the summer, with sunlight shimmering on its ripples and boats speeding through its waters. I find that my perception completely changes the atmosphere. It’s like for each mental image that the tree causes, I’m seeing an entirely different tree. Each new perception is linked with a potent emotion. Usually those emotions are bittersweet; only occasionally do they trigger joy, and sometimes they can throw me into depression. Anyway. These shifting perceptions give my life a persistent unreality, because when reality itself is always changing forms, what do you have to define it with?

I’ll get back to that later. For now, enter stories. Part of the reason I adore stories is that – for me, at least – they force a certain atmosphere. As I re-read stories, I understand and experience them in fresh ways, but the basic atmosphere stays the same. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe feels the same now as it did when I was five. This principle applies for books, but not for movies. Movies are images and thus subject to the same laws as the things we see. But books access the imagination.

Now, before I continue, let me say that what follows is full of theorizing and uncertainty. Feel free to disagree with me; if you do, I may agree with you. What follows is a series of hypotheses and conjectures and that sort of thing.

Anyway, the point of the argument thus far: the imagination is consistent when it is imagining a certain thing. Reality is inconsistent when it is subject to perception. When is it subject to perception? Always. And what creates perception? The imagination.

Then a conflict happens. Your perception, your mentality, your imagination, does not exist outside your own head. Thus, your perception of reality – a.k.a., everything you know or ever have known – isn't real in the sense of the physical reality that we call real. For the sake of this post, I’m going to call that physical reality “real” (quotation marks included). I propose that your perception, your imagination, is more real than “reality.” Does this make reality less “real”? No, not in the sense of “reality.” “Realness” is defined by “reality,” so it’s rather circular. But real realness exists on a different plane than reality. Your soul is more real than your body.

Enter God. God is not on the same level as “reality.” He is not subject to it. An argument can say He isn't “real,” but such an argument is unconvincing, because He isn't “real” in the sense that the argument uses. He is above “real.” He is more real than “real.” God doesn't even exist on the level of our souls. He exists on an even higher level, a level so real that it doesn't deserve to be called anything near “reality.” A level that can’t be questioned, a level limited by no puny law we can throw at it from this meager plane of “reality.”

We love people more than “reality” because their souls are more real than it. When you have a conversation with someone, you aren't just conversing, you’re transcending “reality” with them, which is much more fun than transcending “reality” by yourself. Instead of being alone on a lonely plane, more real than “reality,” you are with someone else who is just as real as you are. And then you love that person, because love is more real than anything else and love is how you connect to God and God is love. We can love God more than people because He is more real than us, more real than anything, and the epitome of love.

But belief in God is unfortunately limited by our perception. We can only perceive this “reality,” and so our perception of God is part of that perception. We can’t understand anything more real than our perception of “reality,” just as a dog couldn't understand being human.

But dogs love us anyway. Dogs can’t understand the level of reality we are on, a level higher than their own, but they can be fiercely loyal, even forgetting the survivalist laws of nature. They don’t need to know the whys and hows, they just stick by your side.

Perception has caused me a lot of doubt and depression and despair, so damn perception. I want to put my faith in something more real. There has to be something realer than me, or I wouldn't want it so badly.

The levels of reality:
God > People > The Universe > Hell

All right, back to imagination and defining reality. Your imagination is a part of you, and since you are more real than “reality,” so is it. Thus, “reality” can seem pretty unreal, and you don’t have anything outside of it to define it with. I mean, really, this whole post, all this conjecture, is being formulated with the laws of “reality.” We don’t have any way to know there is something higher than us. No matter how deep you go, “reality” is still the foundation of your assumptions. It’s amazingly frustrating. You have to use “reality” as the standard to define anything more real than it.

For now, this is as far as the argument goes. It’s rough and incomplete and scattered – at least until I come across another night where I’m lying in bed mentally proving or disproving the framework of reality because I can’t get to sleep (or rather, until I can’t get to sleep). Sometimes that’s every night. Right now, my head hurts.

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