7,500,000,000 Realities

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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 my dog, his 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 indefinite 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.

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

  1. Fantastic post, and it raises an issue I never really considered – at least not in this context. Ideally things would take the opposite turn – that the advanced level of communication between people would help achieve what we talked about earlier: a sort of hive mind in which compassion and understanding run rampant. But, then again I was never one for optimism.

    Liked by 1 person

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