Tweaking reality from the inside
In the old-old-old-days (before the invention of the movable type printing press), ideas within a community or culture about reality were fairly consistent among the normies of the day. For now, we will ignore the fact that that they were quite varied across cultures. Mores, beliefs, practices, traditions, ideas, values (let's just shorten this to MoBePraTIV, or mobéprativ, because I will use it a few more times)... these did not vary wildly within a community, varying mainly due to limits of education and interest.
The spectrum of reality one had to interface with was fairly limited, and one needed only a narrow bandwidth of perception and ability to function in that world.
Then arrived the printing press, marking the end of the old-old-old-days and ushering in the old-old-days, which lead to the distribution of many more and often disruptive mobéprativs. The established orders of the day that depended on the old and stable mobéprativs were not too keen on this, and they went to great lengths to stem the hemorrhaging of new ideas. The church and the state immediately upped their censorship efforts, while at the same time using the printing press to spread their own messages, Galileo being the most famous victim of the day. No book could be printed without the church's approval. As the Catholic church controlled all the universities, it goes without saying that the institutions of education were also highly censored and controlled. An interesting historical footnote is that the Churchs's and State's biggest fear was what would happen if such a subversive technology as the printing press were to make its way to the Americas, where it would be virtually impossible to censor and control.
This spreading of disruptive mobéprativs helped pave the way for the Renaissance that rolled into Europe in the late fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries. Now, the normies had a lot more to contend with, as the varied mobéprativs from strange and far away lands (like the other side of Europe) began to seep into their culture, along with some subversive anti-establishment content mainly from anticlerical heretics who wanted to restore the ancient apostolic purity of the church.
Many refused to advance with the times and preferred to stay loyal to their own cherished mobéprativs. For others, the world became much bigger. Now, the spectrum of reality one had to interface with was much broader, and one needed a wider bandwidth of perception and ability to function in that world.
For the next 500 years, moveable type evolved, until it finally arrived at the gates of the old-days, the dawn of broadcast media: radio, and eventually TV. We can see the exact same reaction to electronic media that we saw with the printing press, both in terms of censorship and control as well as the demands on the normies to upgrade their bandwidth and abilities. It's easy to lump the Internet into broadcast media, but that would be like comparing the Gutenberg press to the hand-carved block press.
The Internet marked the end of the old-days and the beginning of the modern days, with all the same issues of censorship, control, and demands on normies to keep up with the demands of the times. Same story, with the same outcome each time: oppression is ultimately defeated, giving way to new growth, only to be challenged again by new oppression.
Where there were ten generations to transition the world from the old-old-old-days to the old-old-days, one generation to transition from old-old-days to the old-days, and a bit more than half a generation to transition from the old-days top the modern days, the next transition will take about five months .
Ok, that is all fun history and speculation but the point is we no longer have the luxury of narrow bandwidth perceptions of reality, that is, if we want to see the big picture or reality and not just our own carved-out bubble version of it.
Neil Degrasse Tyson perfectly, and unwittingly, describes the consequences of low-bandwidth processors attempting to manage high-bandwidth input in his somewhat technocratic and intolerant speech about climate change:
"But, in this, the 21st century, when it comes time to make decisions about science, it seems to me people have lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not. What is reliable, what is not reliable What should you believe, what you should not believe."
I suggest this claim would have been equally true shortly after the printing press or radio was introduced to the world.
Consequently, people cling to what they know, regardless of how limited or ineffectual it may be. Those who are clinging to the old paradigm are those who claim one side or perspective is right, and the other side is wrong, and typically these people are willing to fight to the death to keep their paradigm from becoming extinct. This is because even though we live in a world where ideas are evermore interdependent, integrated, and borderless, people's mobéprativs are not. This is one of the driving forces behind intersectional politics, but with just a little bit of thought one can see that intersectionality ultimately will resolve to a subgroup of one - but only after a lot of blood has been spilled. How that will all end up is beyond my ability to see without considerably more thought on the matter, which I am not going to exert here and now because this is all really just a sub-point to the larger point I wish to share.
We see whatever we are focusing on, but we are also limited to a very finite bandwidth of the spectrum of reality as well as our own ability to perceive and process what we are aware of.
Attempting to understand or decode experiences outside our comfort zone is a learning process which is naturally limited by our human understanding and experiences.
Perception is passive by nature, collecting, normalizing, and filtering all the incoming data. Our understanding of anything and everything is initially limited to what we have already perceived.
This is because our categorized human experiences are stored and used for reference and as building blocks to create relevant meaning from the seemingly random input of life. Everything we can imagine or create as humans are made up of these building blocks.
Like a baby fresh into this world, who has no “blocks” to speak of, he eventually learns how to identify forms and symbols and adds them to his vocabulary of understanding, which are used to identify even more forms and symbols.
When we find ourselves in a foreign reality the only way we can process the experience is by identifying the closest “blocks” that are representative of that reality and recombining them in a way that embodies the closest approximation of that experience. This is why when people have near-death experiences, they often recall the experience through the symbols they have been exposed to—Buddhists see Buddha, Christians see Jesus, Jews see Moses or Abraham, etc. They are all seeing the same thing—an expression of divinity—but can only remember it as whatever symbol of divinity they have access to.
If I was raised in a culture of violence (Celts, Mongols, Spartans, Assyrians, Aztecs, for example) and was somehow magically transported to a peaceful culture (Minoans of Crete, Indus Valley civilization) I would only be able to understand it, initially, using the concepts I carried from my violent culture, and I would describe it using those concepts. That description, my understanding, of that peaceful culture, would sound radically different from someone raised in that peaceful culture.
I would need an entirely new vocabulary to be added to my dictionary of understanding. Eventually, with enough time and teaching, I would no longer describe these other paradigms with my traditional vocabulary, but begin to describe them with my new other-world vocabulary. Until then, my attempts to express myself would probably sound a little psychotic.
Ironically, when faced with the irrational it is the rationalists that exhibit signs of psychosis. An example of this is Prahlad Jani, a 78-year-old man who lives as a hermit in a cave, and who claims he has lived without food and water for the past sixty years. The fact that he has been examined and taken seriously by eminent doctors is irrelevant to this point. What is relevant is that the Secretary General of the Indian Rationalist Association, Sanal Edamaruku, demanded that he be considered and treated as a criminal for simply making such a claim.
Within the rational world of accepted knowledge, we can find many examples of sensory inputs that would have a radical effect on how reality is perceived and understood. Imagine how the following abilities would alter your view of reality?
- Buzzards can see small rodents from three miles away.
- Bees have a ring of iron oxide in the belly to feel magnetic fields and have eyes that see polarized light.
- A cockroach can detect movement 2,000 times the diameter of a hydrogen atom.
- Elephants have a hearing range of 1 to 20,000 hertz, and can also hear with their nose and feet.
- The shark has special eyes that can see electricity.
- When you look at the sidewalk, you see cement and dirt, but that same sidewalk tells a bloodhound who walked there eight hours ago, what the soles of their shoes were made of, and what brand of cigarettes they smoked.
- Dolphins see sound waves as 3D images.
Lesser-known applications of our sensory-processing skills, such as the ability to smell personalities and emotions or if you’re a woman ovulating, your superhero-like ability to immediately recognize otherwise hidden snakes (the elongated, legless, carnivorous reptile type of snake, not the metaphorical type, although I suspect research would show interesting results for the later as well) and gay men. Some humans can even see a hundred times as many colors as a normal person. And what of the extensive intrinsic nervous system in the heart comprised of clusters of neurons sufficiently sophisticated to qualify as a “heartbrain”? Certainly, that must contain some sorts of sensory organs.
Perhaps the most overlooked, yet strongest sense we have is what we call our “gut sense.” Considering that our gastrointestinal tracts contain 95 percent of our body’s serotonin, has its own nervous system, and is filled with trillions of microbes sending terabytes of information to the brain every millisecond, microbes that are 100 times in number than that of the cells in the body and ten times the number of cells in the brain, all of which having a significant impact on the brain, one would have to consider the “gut” as a sense in its own right. Even more significant is how and what microbes we are exposed to at birth that so dramatically affects our brain growth. We are exposed to microbes during vaginal birth, followed by environmental exposure. Indigenous people are therefore exposed to the microbes of their natural surroundings. How do C-section births and exposure to microbes of hospitals, urban dwellings, and processed food alter our brain development?
When we add whatever sense it is that allows blind people to detect the emotions of a person in a photo, or the nine-year-old Indian girl, Yogamata, who demonstrated at the 2015 Business Advocacy summit at Capitol Hill in Washington DC that she could read blindfolded using only her third eye, or the six additional senses identified by those clever folks over at Harvard Medical School, we see how our current model of five senses is quaint, at best. After all, that model was proposed over two thousand years ago by the same philosopher—Aristotle—who held back physics for centuries with some of his completely inaccurate ideas about such things as gravity, that were proven wrong sixteen hundred years later by Galileo, and atoms, which were theorized by Leucippus and Democritus one hundred years before Aristotle declared the idea as nonsense. Why do we persist in holding on to such antiquated ideas about something so fundamental to our understanding of ourselves, society, and reality? Probably for the same reason we resist any sort of paradigm shift.
The above doesn’t even begin to touch on the new type of extra-senses and the new theories they are spawning, such as Cambridge biologist Dr. Rupert Sheldrake’s idea of a morphogenetic field. These fields are briefly explained as:
“…located invisibly in and around organisms, and may account for such hitherto unexplainable phenomena as the regeneration of severed limbs by worms and salamanders, phantom limbs, the holographic properties of memory, telepathy, and the increasing ease with which new skills are learned as greater quantities of a population acquire them.” (Rupert Sheldrake)
I was, and am, left with the undeniable conclusion that the spectrum of what we are capable of perceiving is far greater than what we have programmed ourselves to accept.
But when it comes to how we perceive our reality, perhaps the most significant contribution is the relationship between the senses and emotions, or, one might say, between the brain and the heart. It is this relationship that gives weight to our perceptions, for without some sort of judgment belief (“that’s good”) or emotion (“I love that”), perceptions would be meaningless. The significance is that these emotions and beliefs we assign to our perceptions are within our power to create in any way we prefer, and by doing so we can choose how we want reality to appear to us. Yet, for most of humanity, these culturally inherited assignments go unquestioned.
I am not speaking only in metaphors here. When I say we can perceive reality differently depending on what we are focusing on and in what spectrum we choose to observe I quite literally mean "how reality appears to us", as in, it will actually look different.
"Wait, Duncan, are you actually saying that the same external reality will look different to two people depending on their what they are focusing on and why they are focusing on? That's not possible!"
Yes, that is what I am saying, and I will give a simple example. Find a tree or a pole forty feet away. Now hold up one finger in front of that poll. When you focus on your finger you see two trees. When you focus on the tree you see two fingers.
"Wait a minute! That is just an optical trick". That's true, but we only discount this as an optical illusion because we know it is an optical illusion. If we did not know about optics and geometry, like our ancient ancestors, this little trick would blow our minds. How can there be two trees? or two fingers? Even today we see remnants of this, for example when Carlos Casteneda's shaman, Don Juan, teaches Carlos how to find the best place to sit by crossing one's eyes and looking at the space between the two images.
When it comes to our perceptions of reality that go beyond our traditional five senses we are easily "tricked" because we don't know how to determine an illusion from a perception.
It is a version of this, I believe, that is at the root of the insanity that has gripped, and will continue gripping many cultures with even greater fervor, especially when it comes to political ideologies. This insanity has been exacerbated by the unending barrage of new and foreign (therefore threatening) information that many of us do not yet have the ability to process, leaving us in a defenseless and reactionary state which pushes us into an instinctual "survival mode" where our primary reactions is to attack and destroy. Here in the United States, for example, the Right sees the Left as unhinged violent lunatics, globalist puppets bent on destroying family, god, and country, while the Left sees the Right as heartless totalitarians that only want to enslave women and minorities for personal gain. Neither is the truth (in general, as there are some pretty evil folks on both sides, but I think George Soros wins the Nefarious Ooziest Human On Planet Earth - NOHOPE - award).
Both sides are stuck in a dying paradigm and have no ability to see or create a new paradigm, like fishes fighting for resources in a shrinking pond that have no idea of the land and air that only a few will manage to discover and adapt to.
All this to say: Reality is as perfect and beautiful, or as ugly and destructive, as you choose to see it.