Dear Josh: Realities of Our Lives

by / 0 Comments / 48 View / August 31, 2015

Do you believe there is only one reality, or a subconscious elixir or everyone’s own perception of reality? Can “seeing” really be believing?
-Sara, Killeen

Well, that’s interesting. Let me put metaphysics aside for a moment: a person’s perception of reality is known to be a tenuous relationship between one’s sensory inputs and the mind’s ability to parse the information relayed to it. What we perceive to be reality can be altered by conditions which inhibit our physical senses, or mental illnesses which interfere with how we process information. Paradigms like culture and individual values, or our own personal histories and expectations, can also alter our perception of an observed event, and reality as we know it. For example, you can observe an interaction between two people which looks like a casual conversation between acquaintances. My knowledge of their history means I can interpret the same scene as an incredibly stressful interaction which can boil over into destruction and chaos with the utterance of a single word. This is to say nothing of hallucinogens and the varying effects those can have on extrasensory perception, but I’ll save that discussion for a later column.

Now, you might be talking about the Jungian collective unconscious. This is a term used to refer to shared symbols and experiences which lie buried in the minds of the entire human race, regardless of time, culture, or place. Concepts that have analogues throughout different civilizations from anthropological record include the wise old man, the divinity of the great mother, the nature of time and eternity, the shadow and the ego, and the sanctity of rituals. The idea is that our shared ancestors passed these instincts down to us, and lies etched in the neural pathways of the brains we inherited. Taken to an extreme, most often seen in science fiction, the collective unconscious is a separate entity which all of mankind has contributed sentience to. This is mostly discredited by modern psychology, but it’s an intriguing idea.

Finally, let’s move on to the “timey wimey ball.” There are a multitude of science fiction stories which feature time travel and the alternate universes which branch off from changes made in history, and a multiverse filled with worlds where all different possibilities have happened. We know that time itself is a malleable construct thanks to the Hafele-Keating experiment. It established that between different sets of synchronized atomic clocks traveling across the world on airplanes, there were contradictions on the scale of nanoseconds, confirming time dilation in respects to differences in speed. The Large Hadron Collider was designed to cause protons to collide with each other so the resulting energy could be observed, the theory being that said energy dissipates into dimensions beyond our 3rd dimension, considered to be tangible parallel universes in their own right.

Basically, there’s a lot within ourselves and the outside world that can modify reality itself, or at least our own perception of it. However, the only reality that will ever really matter is the one that you, and whomever you choose to share it with exist in.

How do you deal with an irate drunk?
-Jackie, Killeen

With love and compassion. Or the police. One of those will work.

Dear Reader! Please remember to email your own life quandaries to with subject: “Dear Josh.” I need to write more stuff.