Sunday, April 26, 2015

Invisible Oceans Part 2

I tuned out the birds and continued my voyage, thinking about this word, "reality" when a strange thought crossed my mind. Why is this scene in front of me real? And how? If I had never became an exchange student, never gotten this exact bike to cause myself to be here at this exact moment, there would have been absolutely no way for me to believe that this particular place exists on the same planet I grew up on. Maybe I would have looked up pictures of Adelaide online, but would it have shown this particular spot along the river? Of course not. And even if I somehow did see pictures of this place, it still wouldn't have been real to me. The picture would be, but not the place itself. Take Antarctica, for instance. No one I know has ever been to Antarctica, so how do I know it exists? Because there are pictures of it and other people tell me it is. But what then is real, the pictures, or the actual place itself? I'm not denying the existence of Antarctica, but rather pointing out that it's not real to me unless I've been there, felt the cold, listened to the silence, and thought to myself: "This is Antarctica. This is what it feels like to be in Antarctica. There is a place on Earth called Antarctica, and I am standing in it now." So during this seemingly straightforward bike ride along the river Torrens, all of my senses were busy coming together to simultaneously deem the situation as real while explaining to myself why it is real in the concrete world. And all of this happens every time we discover a new place.

Along with actual reality, there is a faux reality, or "perceived reality". A strange phenomena exists that blurs the line between reality and perceived reality. Say, for example, a random person from across the world discovers this post. We'll call this person Vincent. Not only would Vincent find out that I exist, but he would become certain that I (whoever I may be) am alive at the exact moment of this entry being sent. But he still doesn't know me and I have no idea he even exists. So tell me, am I more real than the next person, the next blog out there that Vincent doesn't discover? To him maybe I am, but who's to say? It's the online version of walking past a stranger along the street only to never see them again.

It happens with celebrities, too. You know Jimmy Fallon, right? I mean, not personally of course, but you know who he is. In fact, I bet his face popped into your head as soon as I mentioned his name. Now, if anyone were to ask Jimmy Fallon if he knows me, of course he would say no. It is quite discomforting really, how we feel like we know certain people only from reports, interviews, and what others say about them. Now it even occurs within everyday, non-famous society, stumbling upon the online profiles of people we haven't even met. Condemning, fantasizing, concluding anything, really, about people we have yet to meet is one of the most dangerous things we can do in today's facebook generation. It is even more strange to think that, when and if we do actually meet these people in real life, we feel like we already partly know them before they even know us. Jimmy Fallon has no idea who I am (I hope), but I am referring to him directly right now as an example. Therefore he is real to me, but I don't exist to him. Perceived reality.

There are two more questions that sum up this phenomena, one that can be answered and one that cannot: Are the planets out there that we have yet to discover less real because we don't know about them? Of course not, but none of them are specifically real to any of us. So this brings up the unanswerable question: Is reality reality, or is reality merely a perception housed in the brain? Why do we accept realities that we ourselves have never seen, and doubt others? Life as we perceive it isn't as forthright as it seems. Up to this point, I've hesitated to mention a third reality. We are well aware of the reality we know and see everyday in our lives, the one our parents grew up in, the one computers exist in along with the words you are reading now. Some of us may even know about the misleading "perceived reality" that occurs via indirect exposure. That leaves us with perhaps the most fascinating reality of all. This, my friends, is called undiscovered reality; the things out there that either we ourselves do not know about, or that no one on earth even knows about, yet exist as part of our universe nonetheless. Relativism states that reality itself only exists to the people who are consciously or subconsciously aware of it. That it only pertains to us in terms of culture, history, and human existence. So what then, of the galaxies far beyond human scope that exist without any of us knowing? Are they less real because we don't know about them? Is the fact that I'm talking about them silly because they actually don't exist? Questions like these are so rhetorical that no one in today's age could factually answer them. But that doesn't stop us from wondering, from questioning.

Essentially, when we ask a person any question, what we're really asking is, "What is your reality? What do you know that I don't?" Similarly, when we enter a new place for the first time, we're asking the universe that exact same question. This place, the area next to the river Torrens east of Adelaide city, would have remained in my own undiscovered reality for the entirety of my life had I never moved to Australia. One day we'll all meet our one common and final reality. Until then, it is imperative to accept that there are realities out there beyond control, beyond discovery even. Australia may not exist to you, but it does to millions of other people. Famine may not exist to you, but it does to millions of other people. Exclusion, loneliness, depression all may not exist to you, but they do to millions of other people. Don't let your own realities get in the way of understanding others - because in the end, this is what invariably makes each of us human.

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