7,500,000,000 Realities


There’s so many of us, there’s so many of us, there’s so many, there’s so many of us, there’s so many of us, there’s so many – Let’s have a war!! So you can go die!  Let’s have a war! We could all use the money!  Let’s have a war! We need the space!  Let’s have a war! Clean out this place! – Fear

If you’re anything like me, you often wonder what the world looks like to your dog or your cat.  When I walk Bernadette, her nose is firmly rooted to the ground sniffing out a world of signals and clues, exploring and interpreting a level of reality that is inaccessible to most humans, whose sense of smell is secondary at best.

But do we really need to use animals other than homo sapiens as the subjects of our curiosity about the experience of different realities?  Every time you interact with another human being, you are encountering a life form whose experience of the “objective” world is entirely subjective and therefore, different from your own.  I don’t just mean that they’ve had different life experiences and influences affecting their viewpoints and outlooks, I mean that every person sees, hears, smells, feels and tastes reality in a completely unique way.  When I say “blue”, a certain hue is instantly called to mind by anyone who hears me utter the word (excepting the blind and the color blind, of course).  But how do you know that what I see as blue is the same thing that you see as blue?

Two people can hear the same exact piece of music, but one of them might find it melodically beautiful while the other hears an unpleasant cacophony.  Why?  The sequence of notes and the spacing between them is exactly the same to both listeners, as is the sound quality and skill level of the musicians performing it.  Regardless, the experience of hearing the song is completely different to each of the listeners.

I’ve read several studies about how people with extremely liberal views and people with extremely conservative views live in realities so radically different from each other that finding common ground on almost anything is a near impossibility.  However, the research informing these studies focused on the activity in various areas of each subject’s brain, such as greater electrical action in the fear-activation center (or amygdala) in the case of someone with extremely conservative views.  While this is fascinating, it deals more with emotional reactions than sensory experience and so doesn’t quite reach the level of “different realities” that I’m speaking of here.

The only information we can obtain to understand another person’s experience is their own description of it and an observation of their actions.  But even this information then gets filtered through our own reality bias, prompting us to say things like, “I know just how you feel” and “I’ve had that exact same experience” when, in truth, I only know how I feel.  The phrase “reality bias” that I just coined might sound extremely spurious – kind of like Kellyanne Conway’s belief in the existence of “alternative facts” – but that’s not what I meant.  There are, indeed, facts.  A color called blue exists on the spectrum and everyone has a clear image in their minds of how it looks.  But what if this shade is interpreted differently – even if only slightly – by each individual’s eyes?  Even though there is a consensus as to what is and what is not blue, what you see as blue might be seen by me as a shade identical to what you see as red.  We just don’t know, and we never can, because we both identify it as “blue” and any further discussion about it would just seem silly.

The planet’s current human population of roughly 7.5 billion is absolutely unsustainable.  I’m not talking about lack of resources or space, although those are very legitimate concerns.  The advanced methods of communication we now enjoy have brought everyone into everyone else’s orbit, increasing the potential strife between individuals who cannot possibly understand differing worldviews and beliefs because they aren’t even capable of understanding how life looks, feels and sounds to anyone but themselves.  I see war as mankind’s most self-defeating activity and the planet’s absolute necessity.  If a long enough period of time goes by without a major genocide, the Earth must respond with a plague or natural disaster in the interest of its own survival.  We are, after all, products of the Earth and it does not share our sentimentality about the need for trimming its toenails, so to speak.  But I would personally prefer that we as a species evolve out of the hunger for armed conflict.  Unfortunately, the only way to even attempt such a thing would be to voluntarily thin out our own numbers by allowing more people to die than are born for an indefinitely long period of time.  Cooperation on something like this is unlikely and mandating people’s sex lives is abhorrent.  Back to the drawing board.

I think there is a sound reason related to what I just said that makes so many religious fanatics seem almost giddy about the possibility of an imminent Armageddon.  If they were able to see below the surface of their biblical and self-righteous reasoning, they’d probably find a tiny spark of logic that understands humans are just too numerous to enjoy a decent quality of life for much longer.

I have no resolution to this post; no final words of wisdom or advice.  Perhaps keeping in mind that our species consists of as many realities as it does people may be a good way to be more accepting of those with whom you are perpetually at odds.  Then again, perhaps not.  I don’t live in anyone’s reality but my own, so I can make no definitive statements.  But I do wonder how someone reading the words I just typed would experience this post.  All I know is that it would be nothing like what I would assume through my own reality biased brain that told my fingers what to type.  I can influence someone’s reality, for sure.  We all can and we all do every single day.  I just can’t know what that influence might be upon a reality I’ve never experienced.

10 thoughts on “7,500,000,000 Realities

  1. Your reality bias has me thinking about empathy. Empathy is generally considered to be a kind of selfless emotional intelligence, but as we can only profess to know how another is feeling without having their back catalogue of experiences and perceptions, it probably says a lot more about us than the person we empathise with…

    You strike me as someone who may have read Robert Anton Wilson’s books, am I right?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your timing is impeccable, Paul. Last night I was with some friends and someone had purple juice in their glass. One of my other friends kept calling it blue, and nobody corrected him until he said it for the third time. My friend said, ‘Dude it’s purple’. He just said, ‘Oh’ with a shocked look on his face. Like, he had no idea it was purple. I just sat there thinking, ‘Why does he keep saying it’s blue when it is clearly purple?’ He isn’t colour blind. Now I am sitting here wondering if it was even purple. Is purple even purple? Do I know what blue even is? Is the sky actually black and I don’t have a clue? 7.5 billion people? Left vs right? Reality bias? The plague – gulp. 😳 *scratching head* Heading to work now wondering what the fuck is going on and how we are all going to survive if we can’t even agree on the colour blue, and people like Kellyanne have an influential voice. I think I need to eat chocolate eggs stat. Love your post, Paul. Once again you have me thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes it’s fun to intentionally make our brains hurt, isn’t it? Your friend almost certainly did see a blue beverage but his blue is your purple…or something like that. As is often the case, Tanya, your comment is better than my actual post. I pontificate but you illustrate and your comments after the fact actually make my blogs seem more interesting than they were on their own merits.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, brain pain is a necessity from time to time, and you definitely made mine ache this morning. And Paul, you give me way too much credit. I am at the mercy of the bat shit crazy hamster who lives in my head. He is the interesting one – not me. And your posts are just what my hamster needs!

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  3. It’s like we’re stuck in a no-win situation. Though there is room on Earth for the 7.5 billion, our system of distribution is whacked. Mismanagement of resources comes to mind. Let’s hope our next catastrophe will be one of consciousness, when we are face to face with the choice of annihilation or to regroup outside the confines of cities. Any volunteers out there? Half of the US lives in rural communities. That’s why Trump one. He lost the cities. If we could get the other half to abandon the posh lifestyles – or concrete jungles – of urban existence maybe we could survive this population meltdown.

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      1. I moved to Upstate NY in the late 70s to get out of NYC. Vegas is the first major city I’ve lived in since. Out here in the desert would be hard, water being the main complaint. But, yeah I’m ready, too.

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      2. My route thus far has been New Jersey (awful) to Vermont (pretty but full of hillbillies) back to Jersey (still awful) to South Florida (ACK!) to New Mexico. I love the quiet and the beauty and the almost tangible ghosts in the air…but yeah…not much water.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Paul, great post as always. If I may add to the dilemma you suggest there is also the probability that most of us think every one else thinks the same way we do. As you demonstrate they don’t. Its the Tower of Gable all o er again

    Liked by 1 person

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