I remember when I wondered as a child: “Is this thing — the world I see, is real? Do others see this the same as I do?”

And I guess every child goes through a similar dilemma. But then we start interacting with people, e.g., in school, and everything clarifies as everyone seems to refer to the same place.

The teacher shows us a book, and we all agree that this is a book. But we even agree that the book is red and that we are in a classroom with blue walls, gray ceilings, and five windows. So, everybody refers to the same world! The dilemma ended, right? Well, not really.

The Problem with Objective Reality

We might agree that everyone refers to the same world. But things get complicated yet again when we get interested in biology and learn how our eye works— how we see:

When light hits the retina (a light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye), special cells called photoreceptors turn the light into electrical signals.

These electrical signals travel from the retina through the optic nerve to the brain. Then the brain turns the signals into the images you see.

And what’s more, the brain creates the simplest image of the world for us:

Our brains also unconsciously bend our perception of reality to meet our desires or expectations. And they fill in gaps using our past experiences.

Then the question is — do we see the world as it is (objectively), or it’s the individual creation of the mind (subjectively)? And despite all the technology we created, we don’t have the answer. What’s more, whether objective reality exists or not, we can all perceive it differently anyway.

There is a well-known paradox in physics circles — Wigner’s Friend. Cutting all its complications, it shows that observations of other people may differ from our own because their reality doesn’t need to be ours.

All this doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no objective reality. However, our expectations based on past experiences and knowledge impact the observations. And by this, the objective reality remains a myth or an ideal that we try to perceive without bias and constantly fail.

Culture Has a Key Influence on Our Reality

There is an excellent TED talk by historian Greg Anderson. He showed that there had been many “real worlds” in the history of humanity. And in the end, he suggests that our life experience — how we perceive life, depends on what we feed our minds, so what our culture taught us.

In this way, today, at least in the West, we live in the era of individuals where humans are most important and other things are just things. And it’s opposite to how ancestors of our Western culture — ancient Greeks, lived.

Ancient Greeks thought of their territory as a living Goddess that they praised. Also, they were inseparable from their families, and all lived together as the social body called “Demos” — there was no individuality.

But after our Western Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, we became super special. And so we fell into capitalism and an egocentric idea of living. And while we all live in this modern economic era, people in the East tend to remain more collectivist due to cultural differences.

And still, in this capitalistic era, which praises individualism — ego, we can find places where people don’t feel so special. These are, in particular, the religions and cultures of the Orient, such as Buddhism, Yoga, or Zen.

The Individual Cannot Decide and Must Participate

As we are born, we become a part of a given culture and its systems — nobody asks us what we see or how we want to approach life. But they give us a name with all kinds of identifications and register us in the system.

Then they send us to school and teach us about everyone and everything besides ourselves — they tell us “how is the world.” Of course, with their little suggestions of what is right and what is wrong. And to make us involved in this, they make us compete with each other.

And don’t get me wrong — education is necessary to prevent anarchy. But different groups of interests constantly try to indoctrinate children in a given way to benefit from it later on. And sometimes we can’t agree on the basic rules while the child sits and listens to all this nonsense.

Moreover, an individual has roughly 17 years to understand the system to some degree and decide on the career path. In this way, there is no time to stop and rethink the approach to life as there is a need to quickly participate in the world — work, produce and consume.

And after getting a job or even creating a family, the individual rarely raises any further questions as it’s extremely insecure. Also, many people would rather die than admit they adopted the wrong approach to life.

Finally, with all this, the individual falls into the myth of objective reality. If everybody lives pretty much the same, then it has to be real and the right way to live life, right?

The Takeaway

Objectivity is a myth or a cheap ideal used to influence society and benefit from its behavior. Also, religion, general politics, or moral questions are always subjective — there is no ultimate truth or answer.

And it’s just as Benjamin Franklin once said in his speech:

Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that whereever others differ from them it is so far error.

In this way, I found that I don’t find the answer to the question: “If this thing — the world I see, is real?” in the outside world. There are way too many opinions. Moreover, most people try to make their opinion the most significant to take some social advantage or just feed their ego.

But a simple act of paying attention to the world and its present moment may relieve us from so many lies we learned through our lifetimes. In this way, we can discover what is objectively and undoubtedly true for us and what a spectacular show we create together in society.

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