Where I fail at living in reality

This is a follow-up of sorts on an earlier essay about what is natural and what is not. In this text I employ the concepts real and reality. There is undoubtedly a difference, but I can’t fully untangle it now. I guess what is natural is always real but what is real may not always be natural. Perhaps that distinction is a topic for a later article, who knows.

Anyhow, in this piece I muse about to what extent we have built a society that obfuscates reality. The mental and social constructs of our world hypnotize us. Others have described this better than I (pick any spiritual teacher), but I guess I add my particular flavor to the subject. Although I try to be awake enough to see, there is one particular area where I know I still also fail. Stay tuned.

Let’s start at the core: We are sparks of the universe. As a humanity we are an integral part of Mother Earth. We are born into physical bodies on this planet, where we can connect with other human beings and often also with other physical creatures that live here.

In our astronomical surroundings there is a sun, a moon, other planets and stars. On the surface of our jewel of a planet there is a ceaselessly shifting atmosphere, a beautiful, green biosphere and a beautiful, blue hydrosphere. We survive by breathing air and ingesting water and edible stuff from the biosphere.

We have feelings and emotions. We love and hate. We like and dislike. We rejoice and fear. We exchange experiences and knowledge. We create.

This is our reality.

Bizarrely enough, however, what is described above are seldom salient features of what we most often describe as our ”lives”.

We see life so completely through the filters of artificial structures that what we experience can be described as some sort of sleepwalking. We have brief moments of awakening — when a breathtaking sunset, say, or a divine piece of music stops us in our stressed steps — but some days we never pop out of it.

We so much engage our thinking minds and our emotions in the constructs of society that we actually believe them to be real, in fact, to be the reality. For long periods of time many of us inadvertently distort reality so much that we dismiss nature, beauty, music, art, human encounters, infatuation, physical activity and sex as some kind of distraction or backdrop to what we perceive as the important aspects of our lives but which in actuality are expressions of the matrix dream we are dreaming.

How does this dream look, then? Well, there are myriad societal filters, of course. Like our work status, our family status or the status of our social network. A small part of that network consists of close friends and other human beings that we have interacted with in reality, but a significant and growing part constitutes contacts we think it is necessary to have for various artificial reasons.

We have made ourselves dependent on formalized entities providing services like access to knowledge, dwellings, energy, insurance and the internet. But what is a company or an authority other than an idea? You can’t see, hear, taste, touch or smell one; only the humans working for it and the buildings they sit in.

We have all kinds of affiliations with artificially separated clusters of people with imaginarily clear boundaries around them (as if we don’t all overlap continuously), which we define as religions, parties, organizations and sports teams.

We all know that we spend an immeasurable amount of time worrying about money, which is sad, since money is merely a belief system. We believe for instance that we have to take up a mortgage for our home, and the bank (which has created the needed money out of thin air) believes that we must pay back, plus interest. There is no real lack or scarcity on this planet, only a consensus that there is (again, a topic for an essay of its own).

There are nations, ideologies and politics — all constructs, but a majority of us deeply believe them to be real.

There is news media. Intellectually you probably know that the news is only a thin sliver of all that is happening in the world, a selection of misery and conflict made by problem-oriented editors. But are you prepared to fully take the consequence of that insight and turn it off?

And there is time. Think about the inner images you conjure up of a ”year” or a ”week”. We in the west tend to think of time as some kind of open-ended hallway in which we inevitably move in one direction: away from a hazy starting end and towards an even hazier finishing end. Scientists speak of ”spacetime”, which gives a hint that the” time” part is actually nothing in and of itself. There is only one moment, a continuum, wherein states constantly change at all levels.

I am not saying that all these constructs are pointless. Obviously, they have played and play a role in the collective human experience. But they aren’t palpably real.

And to clarify further: the thoughts and feelings associated with the matrix of society are certainly real when they occur. If you lose a brother in a nationalist war, the ensuing sorrow and sense of loss are real, but the nation your brother fought for isn’t more real because of that. If you go bankrupt because of the collective belief in the value of money and you end up in the streets, the hunger and the back pain you feel as you try to get some sleep under a bridge are real, but that doesn’t make the illusion that you suddenly went from having everything to having nothing (often for no concrete, visible reason) any more real.

The day we see the matrix for what it is, a conjured-up control system that has had specific purposes (sometimes benevolent but often not), it won’t immediately go away, but it will lose its grip on our minds.

As I briefly hinted, I consider myself to be a person who most of the time can see through those artificial filters and not take them too seriously. But as I delved into the matter once again the other day, I realized I am guilty of keeping at least one such reality filter firmly in place. It is something I think most of us wouldn’t even think of: the weather.

To most people, and particularly those who couldn’t care less about the weather forecasts, it is probably obvious that the weather simply goes on on its own accord, without any help from the artificial world that humans have created for themselves. The atmosphere is constantly shifting. One day it’s windy, then it’s calm, then a cold air mass sweeps in, then a mild air mass comes to replace it, then clouds amass, it starts raining, and all of a sudden the temperature drops and the precipitation freezes to snow. And so it continues, in a seemingly chaotic, never-ending atmospheric dance.

But for a weather nerd like me it isn’t as simple as that. Why? Because I feverishly follow the weather reports, and I have since I was a kid.

I consider what is happening out there as an expression, or a reflection, of the weather maps I have reviewed: ”Ah, here comes the cold front that should bring some snow and lower temperatures. But where is the snow? Oh, the forecast was wrong. I’ve got to look at the maps again. Oh, I see, the front weakened. But another low is developing just west of here. Hum, I predict the meteorologists will include it in their forecasts soon. Okay, we’ll get our snow tomorrow then.”

That’s my monkey mind mechanically commenting on that never-ending organic atmospheric dance.

To me, the snowing and the raining, the blowing and the shining are parts of a meteorological model. I can almost visualize the ”L’s” and the ”H’s” that represent low and high pressure areas sweeping over my reality out there. Speak of bizarre.

Of course, I know on some level that this is baloney. After all, there is one ”I” blaming another ”I” here. Thankfully, once in a while I just let nature happen to me, like when I in childlike awe admire a magnificent thunderstorm. But I’m so geeky I just can’t help myself. In my late teens I had a close friend who got annoyed with my constant checking of the forecasts (and there weren’t even weather apps back then). ”Come on”, he said, ”the weather will be what it will be anyway, why bother?” I never understood how he could be so relaxed about it. Forty years later I realize he was more in reality than I was.

There is another thing about weather forecasts that gets more interesting the more you think about it, and which is also greatly encouraging for those of us who are spiritually oriented: the fact that the forecasts are still so bad.

In secondary school I did my senior project on the then newly started European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, England (I told you I was a geek). What probably impressed me the most at the center was its supercomputer Cray-1, which made it possible to calculate models reliable enough to produce forecasts for ten days. This was in the early 1980s. Since then computational power has increased beyond what was once fathomable. The number of operations per second that Cray-1 was capable of is totally ridiculous compared to a modern smartphone. As a matter of fact, the computational power of an iPhone 5 is greater than that of the computers that ran the entire Apollo space program.

But here is the thing: Even today meteorologists can’t produce reliable forecasts for more than ten days, and even those are actually not reliable.They are lousy. It’s quite incredible, isn’t it, that the expressions of Gaia’s life are so complex that we are still unable to understand where she is headed more than moments at a time. And the weather is just one parameter. We still can’t even predict earthquakes or volcanic eruptions sufficiently early for us to develop meaningful warning systems.

It’s much like our own bodies: Despite centuries of studying every detail of it, natural science is still in kindergarten when it comes to understanding illness and healing (many of the readers will think ”well, that’s because it is stuck in a materialist paradigm”, which is true, but that’s for yet another essay).

If we disregard the obvious possibility that you might die any second, you can fairly confidently count on still being in your body a few days, weeks or months from now and that it will look more or less the same. But other than that, thousands of little bodily changes can and will occur, and you haven’t got a clue which ones they will be. Can you predict that on Tuesday a pimple will appear on your chin, or that next Thursday you will feel a bit low and have a runny nose, which will be over by the following Saturday? Or that in ten days you will begin to feel that old back pain again, and that as that pain recedes a couple of inexplicable rashes will appear on your left inner thigh? Of course not. But physical changes of that nature will happen, and you will not be able to make a reliable forecast about it, much less any doctor.

It goes together and makes sense: Just as Gaia has a body, of which humanity is an integral organ, so have we.

Finally, as some of you may have reflected on, forecasting weather is related to forecasting climate change. Now, weather and climate are not the same thing. Climate is often described as the average weather over long periods of time, typically at least three decades. Still, scientific predictions are scientific predictions, whether about the weather in three days or the average weather in three decades, and in both cases they are the map, not the reality.

Ergo: I used to see elections, world leader’s summits, scientific reports, nations, religions, calendars, fancy titles, film awards, food price hikes and interest rate cuts as parts of reality, but I don’t any more. That doesn’t mean I never get caught up in the perceived drama of modern life, because I do, occasionally. But I actively try not to. Now I realize I also have to work on my ability to allow the atmosphere to do its wonderful dance around me the way Gaia wants it to, without me distorting the experience through the filters of maps and numbers.

Recovering news journalist with deep interest in society, science, spirituality & how they merge. Communicate and bridge. Podcast, text, talk. andersbolling.com