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The Tinkered Mind
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July 7th, 2020
For just a moment, pay attention to this. Not just these words, whether you’re listening to them, or reading them, but to the context in which they exist. Of course, this larger context is available to only you. It’s where you are, what temperature it is, what the quality of light is, whether muted from clouds or bright with sun. It’s the sensations of the body either at rest or at work with whatever you’re doing in addition to the experience defined by just these words. That ask is mainly for you to pay attention to your experience of being alive at this moment. This is your life right now. . . apparently.
From a technical perspective, we create our life as we live it. As one particularly infamous movie phrased, life as we experience it is just electrical signals interpreted by your brain.
Our idea of color, shape, sound, even temperature and pressure, all of these things are methods of interpretation evolved by the brain so that our consciousness has a coherent picture of reality in a way that allows us to have an effect on it.
There are, for example, other slices of the light spectrum that we cannot see. Pigeons apparently don’t look so bland to other pigeons because their feathers reflect ultraviolet light and so their wings light up in ways that are totally unavailable to humans. But even this radiant fluorescence that we can imagine pigeons seeing is again a method of interpretation. There’s no way to tell what reality looks like without a certain built in perspective, as in eyes, ears, taste buds and the like.
Two questions illuminate the issue:
Does the color blue look like blue to everyone or do some people have a different blue?
Or we can wonder:
Does blue even exist without a way to see it?
This later question is of course a mutation of that question about the sound a falling tree makes in the absence of anyone to hear it. We can expand infinitely outward and wonder: Does the universe exist if there’s no one to experience it?
There’s no way to know because of this. That is, what you are experiencing right now. It’s simultaneously in the way of our exposure to un-interpreted reality and also our only bridge to get any sense of what it may be.
The range of reaction we can draw from this oddly wide. It can be disturbing that we’re only ever seeing an interpretation of reality. At the same time, it can seem infinitely empowering to have created your own interpretation of reality. It hints at the possibility that it can be remade, recreated and tinkered with in order to change your circumstance for better and better. Of course the converse is true, and all of this harks of a line from John Milton’s Paradise Lost:
The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..
We can take this a step further and reflect on the quaint fact that we are all made of start dust, or some other less appetizing detritus spewed from the belly of dying star. Fact is, each and every one of us isn’t separate from the universe living in the universe, we are each just a little formation of the universe.
When we speak to one another, reality is having a conversation with itself.
It’s rather tremendous to meditate on the amount of influence we have on the nature and course of that conversation. We have each entrusted one another with this wide fun experiment we call living. It’s perhaps wise we do our best by it because in the end, all we have is this.