The other day in my psychology class (I am an aspiring clinical psychologist, myself) I had this terrifying, brilliant moment of insight into the workings of the world that normally only comes to a person, I think, after a great deal of deep thinking or else drugs. In my case, neither of these factors were present; the idea struck me as quickly and out-of-the-blue as a bolt of lightning on a sunny day (which I’m told has occurred, strangely enough.) It’s a difficult thing to put into a concise statement, but the general idea is this: reality does not exist.
Really. It doesn’t.
Or maybe it’s more accurate to say this: reality exists only in people’s perceptions of reality. The world as we know it is all in our heads. Now, sure, you can argue that there is certainly something called “consensual reality,” the reality that all–or rather, most of us–agree on and consider to be true, things like the earth is round, the sky is blue, we’re all humans, we’re born here, we live, and we die. But even consensual reality is something we only pretend exists.
We are, by nature of our existence, remarkably alone. We cannot, to the best of my knowledge, ever know what goes on in another’s mind, despite those claims of telepathy. Not for sure, anyway; I realize that trying to figure out what’s going on in another person’s mind will likely be the better portion of my future job. But we all exist in our own little spheres of perception. We will never know what another perceives. We can try to gain glimpses through questioning, sure, but try explaining to another person what a color looks like. There are some things–most things, probably, that you will never get another person to fully comprehend, not the way you comprehend it.
There’s an old philosophical exercise, known as the “mind in a box argument,” if I remember correctly. The exercise, which long predates the film The Matrix, argues that if a demon kept a mind in a box and provided false sensory input, the mind in the box would never know it was in a box. The perceived reality is the only one it will ever know, just like the rest of us. (Or are we all in boxes, too…?)
So, you see, a common reality just doesn’t exist. The only thing that separates the “normal” people from those in a psychotic state is the fact that the psychotics claim a reality that differs from the consensual. I just find that really interesting.
Food for thought, if nothing else.