Is reality born and dies at every moment?
Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.
When we talk about reality we tend to refer to what happens and what we are able to perceive. But, do we really perceive clearly what comes to us via our senses?
We mix up many things when we talk about reality. A friend who had stomach ache while he visited Paris, told me that he did not like it much, whereas his companion said she had loved it What is the reality about Paris, one person’s or the other’s? Neither or both, depending on how you look at it. Joking apart, the question today suggests something else to me: that we try to have a fixed view of reality, an immutable explanation of what we perceive.
It makes us uneasy that reality changes. It brings us face to face with insecurity and our human brain that is constantly in search of security does not like this at all.
We want reality to conform to our beliefs about it.
If I believe that Pedro is a miser and one day I see him being generous, I may possibly say to myself, “what is he trying to get out of it, what is making him be so generous?” I do not like the fact that Pedro has changed with regard to what I believe about him and I look for an argument that will reposition the “reality” about Pedro where I wanted it: that he is a miser. We are put out when things do not conform to what we believe. And we even believe things about ourselves: that we are responsible, that we are good parents, that we are efficient workers, that we have empathy, that we are intelligent or that we are not, that we are like this or that, that we like this and not that. What underlies this “mania,” that we have that things should not change?
That we are not open to a reality that is constantly changing, even I change, although I may continue to imagine that I am the same. In this way reality becomes boring, I even become bored with myself when I believe that I am always the same. When we say that reality dies and is reborn at every moment, we are talking about ourselves, about our way of seeing things. When I believe that I know that things have to be a certain way, I close myself off from novelty, I shut myself off from seeing that everything changes, I close myself off and I do not learn, because I believe that I already know everything and I do not feel any curiosity. We do not expect to surprise ourselves by discovering something new in anything, but we just see the fixed image that we have created, like the image I have of Pedro, the miser. Very small children, by their nature, see everything with fresh eyes, they wonder at everything, they are amazed by it and they enjoy novelty. When we grow up and we label everything (Pedro, the miser) we are irritated by it and we believe that our idea or belief is reality. Therein lies the trap. We believe that our ideas are facts and we become confused. When I myself believe that I am right about something and reality screams the opposite at me that makes me feel bad. How much better it is to be open and question whether I may be making a mistake and to learn with pleasure from what has happened to me. That trap that makes us deny those things that do not conform to our beliefs is the source of more than 50% of the malaise, pain or suffering in human lives. Yours and mine. Would it not be better to learn to see with fresh eyes, without the filters of our personal whims? At least we would be happy and free from those things we have learnt without questioning them.