The Worlds Within Our World

“The pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Parmenides taught that the only things that are real are things which never change… and the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus taught that everything changes. If you superimpose their two views, you get this result: Nothing is real.”

― Philip K. Dick

I’m going to try to be as succinct as possible here, but reality and perspective are philosophical issues both broad and deep, and have been argued since before Socrates, who said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” I guess I’m not that wise, because I do believe I know something, I do believe in reality, or at least my perspective of it.

I believe the world is a set of realities that exists whether or not we are aware of them: Is there a sound when a tree falls in the forest if nobody is there to hear it? Yes, because of the science of molecular properties involving motion through a medium – the elemental mass of the falling tree compresses the elemental mass of the air it falls through, exciting the atoms in it to where they emit the radiation we call sound, not unlike the sound of thunder resulting from lightning; we can sometimes see lightning and not hear thunder, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any, it just means we’re too far from it to hear it. (That may not be completely scientifically said correctly, but it works.)

And that’s perspective, a subjective application to an objective reality. Our mind, in an attempt to comprehend reality, draws upon our past experiences and integrates them with something new or different to create a new or better understanding. But because that understanding is built on our own unique experiences, it may well differ from that of others who have not shared the same experience, or the same prior experiences, upon which our understanding is based.

As a result, there are differences in the “world” perceived between individuals or between groups of peoples who have had different experiences, or in what manner each understands them.

My “world” may easily be something radically different from your “world”. Neither is right or wrong, just different; there is only one objective reality, one real world, but within that world there are as many real worlds as there are people on Earth, each different, each person living in a somewhat different world, mentally.

And therein lies the problem. 

In order to preserve our own sanity we must believe what we “know” is true, so that we can function. But when we don’t (or refuse to) believe there can be more than one truth, we ask, “What’s wrong, why doesn’t everyone see what I see?” And, even if we allow others their perspective of reality as equally true to them, there is usually conflict – argument, war, etc. – over whose is right and whose is wrong. And if we do allow that someother’s perception has maybe more validity than our own, we suffer self-doubt and ask, “Why and how could I be so wrong? What’s wrong with me?”

One only has three options: 1) Surround yourself only with people who agree with your beliefs in what’s real and true, or 2) accept that there are other, equally valid world-views – even if you don’t understand them – and adopt the attitude of “live and let live” in peace, or 3) admit to the possibility you may be wrong and – in the spirit of self-growth – allow your thinking to change to something different.

Option one is ego-driven and self-serving. Option two is indifference, yet still self-serving. Option three is self-growth – the sign of intelligence, still self-serving, but in a positive sense.

I choose option three.

But what do I know?

Thinking it so doesn’t make it so.

I guess that means nothing is real and I never wrote this and you never read it.

– Bill

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2 thoughts on “The Worlds Within Our World

  1. I agree with your choice, Bill. Option two is not just indifference, it’s pluralism–everything is equally true–which always tend to devolve into the original proposition that nothing is true. I like the old blind men and the elephant story because it illustrates the idea that each of us perceives some truth, just not the whole thing. Humility is wisdom. It’s when we assume we have the whole picture that we fly off-course. Good food for thought!

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    1. Blind men and the elephant, I know the fable and wish I’d thought of it as an illustration! You are absolutely correct that humbly acknowledging our need to seek the truth is wise (how many Scripture verses speak to that!?) But if a person isn’t interested in finding what’s truth, I’d rather they’d just be tolerant of other’s truths as opposed to adamantly insisting theirs is the only truth and (as you said), “fly off-course” – too many lost friendships, too many executions, too many wars have happened as a result. Consider the Crusades, early Catholic persecution of Protestants, today’s Islamic jihads.

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