Printed in the Conscious Creation Journal
Chameleon Reality, or, Don’t Let the Quantum Weirdness Bite You
by Michael Lamas
Every religious, philosophical, or political belief system attempts to define reality. It tells us what is real. On a larger scale, society embodies and synthesizes a multitude of these beliefs. This creates a culture, which provides a common understanding or “common sense” of How It Is (for that group). A country’s form of government usually influences the homogeneity of beliefs within a culture: the more restrictive the government, the stronger the demand for a single, dogmatic picture of reality.
If we compare the beliefs of either groups or individuals, we find that each defines reality differently and some may have little in common. Even the basics such as physical existence are questionable. For Buddhists and Hindus alike, the material world is an illusion. This contrasts sharply with the materialist’s view that the physical world is the only reality. Each has distinct personal and social implications.
By studying belief systems, you find that each accepts some ideas as real and rejects the rest. This process of accepting and rejecting produces attitudes and courses of action (or inaction) that believers consider normal behavior. Take materialistic cultures for example. Speaking non-judgmentally, normal behavior consists of strictly ego-based pursuits: gratifying the senses, being entertained, seeking positions of power, enhancing the ego, and, of course, shopping. Not seeking them is abnormal. Spiritual pursuits are suspect: those who believe in spirits or souls are at best superstitious; at worst, they could be insane or threats to the State.
Religions use the same process but have different content. Zen Buddhists say, “It is what it is.” They treat whatever is happening in the Now as reality: idealism and ideologies implode. This produces an uncomfortable emptiness at first. In exchange for this existential angst, the practitioner receives three benefits. First, he becomes aware of how the physical body is reacting to the current situation. Second, the stillness of the Moment becomes apparent. And third, he inherits that ever-changing, universal constant, The Now.
So, what does all this mean? Society instills most of our beliefs when we are young. Although we may question some of them, eventually we accept many as How It Is. And like many human actions, by repeating those thought patterns they become habits. Some of these mental habits, though, may cause unnecessary suffering. This is a good reason for examining them. We can weed out beliefs that work against us!
The problem is that our brains are wired to believe whatever “makes sense”: if it makes sense, then it’s real. So, if society has done its job and programmed us properly-they presented their story logically and with emotional reinforcement-moving beyond those etheric, mental structures becomes difficult. Usually, it’s easier just to stay plugged into the cultural matrix.
For example, a cult of Catholics in the Philippines scourges themselves with metal-tipped whips, drawing blood from their backs and legs. Some would call this unnecessary suffering. Believers, though, claim that they are gaining favor with God. If believers could see beyond the reality “God wants you to whip yourself,” then they would stop torturing themselves. The problem is that they believe God likes it. (If He does like it, then it makes sense to behave like that.)
Another example is a culture that sees itself as superior to another. The culture may believe this for many reasons: maybe God said so; maybe it maintains a superior military or economic force; or maybe it believes that it possesses the best political system or ideology. This is cultural ego and its attitudes can produce mass suffering and death (wars).
It’s doubtful that we can know reality fully, at least intellectually. The human brain is a biological, information-processing organ that assesses reality by making comparisons. This makes it dualistic. It takes the information that our senses gather and processes it into a mental picture. The picture shines 3D-life-like inside our head, and we assume that it represents true-to-life reality. Creatures, though, that use different sensing mechanisms may have wildly different mental pictures of the world. Insects like the fly have compound eyes. Who knows how the world looks to them or how they interpret it? However bizarre the fly’s images and interpretations may appear to us, they represent reality for that creature. Try to convince it otherwise!
In any event, whatever picture appears in any creature’s mind is only a symbolic representation of what it is looking at. The images are at least one step displaced from whatever is being observed. Objects are detected by the senses and then that electromagnetic/chemical information rushes to the brain. Finally, the brain develops a picture inside our head.
Our environment provides several forms of information: electromagnetic vibrations for sight (that emanate from some light source); longitudinal pressure waves for hearing; chemicals for taste and smell; and pressure, texture, and temperature for feeling. As scientists have discovered, though, invisible quantum aspects-that behave like energy-particles from Bizzaro World-permeate everything. This underlying weirdness provides the building blocks for Normal World. Everything, including our brains, is made of this weirdness. Is the quantum world any less real than the world of “solid objects”? No, and this leads to an interesting question: If all living creatures (and all else) are composed of this elusive stuff, is quantum material in some sense alive?
Additionally, because of the micro-world’s inherent paradoxes, we can’t fully grasp how it works or what it is. We can’t even see it directly using our most powerful scientific instruments. So, whatever picture our brain presents isn’t what’s actually there-even it weren’t symbolic because of the environment/senses/brain process mentioned above. Besides, most people know that even in Normal Every Day reality, “solid objects” are composed mostly of space. Then how is it possible in this quantum wonderland that we can understand anything?
To survive, we need a coherent idea about what is real, and that’s what the brain does: organizes incomprehensible “universe stuff” into, say, a “lunging saber tooth tiger” or whatever we focus on and mentally define. For best results, our definitions should accurately reflect the nature of the Wonderland elements, how they work, and how they relate with other elements. Ideally, it should include what’s best for us and for others-not always an easy balance.
All this is dealing only with the material world. Imagine the complications when dealing with the spiritual! Some say that spiritual reality is easier to understand than the material; maybe it is. However, even if we had a direct, conscious contact with that esoteric realm, once we think about that experience, our brain-filter interprets it within the context of its pre-existing knowledge. It will translate it into something that will “make sense,” causing our understanding to be one step removed from that reality.
In short, reality is more awesome than we can imagine.
Ironically, almost everyone thinks that they are aware of what their pictures of reality imply and that they are real. What most people are aware of, though, is the internal logic of their system: they understand the writing inside their mental envelope. Some people use drugs to sneak a peek outside their envelope, although this method has obvious drawbacks. Others use sensory deprivation, fasting, meditation, austerities, or IROOT:NOTics. Each has its benefits and deficiencies.
We can change our view of what’s real by simply changing our mind about reality. Chameleon reality, in response, looks back at us-in knowing and wonder-and changes its color to suit our vision. It then blends into the background and everything returns to normal. How we have determined what normal is, is all in our heads. It could be in the interest of all if we select a normal that suits our true self, although what our true self is, is another story altogether.
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©2004, Michael Lamas. All Rights Reserved. Printed in the Conscious Creation Journal. (Feel free to duplicate this article for personal use – please include this copyright notice and the URL.) http://www.consciouscreation.com