Monday, March 05, 2012

One Man's Floor ...

... is another man's ceiling. I'm sure you've heard that one before, and it goes to one's perception of how things are, reality, and the relativity thereof.

Ah, reality and relativity, there's a fine couple. We all tend to have our own view of what they mean, and in my experience, we apply our standards to others. Well, of course we would, wouldn't we? What we bring to the table, most of us, is a combination of our actions, hopes, our education, our beliefs, an olio of this and that, and our default is: I'm normal, so other normal people will tend to see things my way ...

If ever I believed that, the reƫlection of George Bush the Younger certainly blew that thought clean out of my head. Really? I'm living in a mad house. Welcome to Bedlam ...

Reality is plastic, malleable, it twists and bends and balloons hither and yon, and what you see might not be what I see at all. And normal? Forget about it.

Yes, there is a kind of consensus version we bruit about, those things upon which the so-called saner ones among tend to us agree. That's a tree; yonder, a stop sign; over there, that critter, why, it's a dog. Have to be able to do that to have any kind of civil society at all. But even at that simple level, it often breaks down. 

So, what color is the stop sign? Red, you say? 

Explain "red" to somebody who is color blind–he doesn't see what you see. If you think you can pull that off, try explaining it to somebody who has been blind from birth. He can understand that it's a color, but he won't know what it looks like. No analogy gets there.

Working through a medical rotation umpty-dump years ago in the Louisiana State Hospital at Jackson, there was a patient in the asylum who always walked around an empty place in the rec room. That's because he saw a table there.

I didn't see it, nor did my co-workers, but he said he did.

One of the students asked the shrink treating the guy what his problem was. The answer was–quoting here the psychiatrist's exact term–"He's crazy."

There is a famous argument from folks who have indulged in psychedelic drugs: Are all those woo-woo things you see and hear and feel when sky-high on LSD simply mind-fog? Hallucinations? Or are they the reality, and unchemmed folks experiencing naught but a throttled-down version their filters offer to keep them from mind-boggling sensory overload and a trip down Nutso Lane?

Lot of people talk to God, that doesn't make you crazy; if God talks back to you? The old days, such folks were sometimes considered prophets. Maybe some of them were. These days, we tend to put those people into places where there are invisible tables in the rec room ...

One man's vision is another man's madness.

I get the my-reality-is-better-than-your-reality a lot discussions about all kinds of stuff. It's our nature, I think, to think that what we believe is right and folks who disagree with it are wrong. Sure, they might not be evil, but simply ... misguided ...

All you people who voted for Shrub the second time? I'm talking to you here.

And you can see that holier-than-thou as a working attitude is polarizing. Look at political discussions on on Facebook. 

One man's conservative is another man's liberal. 

The notion that I'm-the-real-stuff and you live in fantasy world is misapplied constantly. Consider: A movie star, who makes millions, is lauded everywhere he goes, who has a long career, then dies in his sleep. While what he does might be considered a fantasy life by most of us, is not his life real to him? Are his experiences less valid because he was rich and famous?

Using that logic, I have to allow Republicans who voted for Former Occupant of the White House Before the Current Occupant their due, much as I dislike the notion. We are where we are, and if you disagree with me, it doesn't mean you are necessarily wrong, even if I believe that you are. 

I like the old Hoyt Axton song "Have a Nice Day," from which comes the refrain, "All I'm sayin' is have a nice day/ I hope it doesn't rain on your parade/And when it all comes down/I hope it doesn't land on you ..."

Have a nice day. I hope the guy upstairs isn't stomping around on your ceiling; however, if you elect Rick Santorum President? You are either evil or seeing tables I can't see ...


Unknown said...

There's belief, and then there is proof. The psych patient sees a table and you don't. But if you walk into that space, you don't hit a table. Neither would he (forced, blindfolded, etc.) Ergo: your reality is more correct. It's not about what you believe. It's about what you can prove. Even the color-blind man can agree with you when shown a spectragraph/wave-length analysis of the stop sign. The read-out is the same for both of you, even if the perception isn't. You can "prove" red.

Steve Perry said...

Maybe. And maybe I only think I'm walking into that space and I'm not. Or maybe the table only exists when he is in the room.

Maybe he's the dreamer and we are all figments of his mind.

Ever listen to a philosophy professor sky off into existentialism?

The colorblind man can look at a chart and see lines and numbers, but what he sees as "red" isn't what I see. His reality is different. Me being able to prove it exists doesn't give it to him.

Measurement of the macroscopic is one thing; drop down into quantum levels, it's a whole 'nother ballgame. Spin that quark over there and mirror it way yonder? Change it by the act of looking at it?

Where is that pesky God particle/wave/whatever, anyway?

And how do I know what the clolorblind sees when he looks at the chart? How do I know that anything I see matches anything anybody else sees? That's green, but what does that mean exactly? It all passes through lenses into brains, who decides which is the real reality?

I have a chart! A graph!

Really? So what?

I can't eat that root vegetable, it's bitter.

Well, it's not bitter to me, you say. Whose reality is realer?

Large numbers of viewers who agree? The plural of anecdote is not proof. Mass hysteria has groups of folks getting sick, seeing flying saucers, or falling over because they believe a guru has the power to wave his hand and do that. Their version of reality.

True, proof has rules, and as a scientist, one observes them. If I can make it work but nobody else can replicate the experiment, it's not proof, it's theory, and probably wrong.

Belief is very powerful. Witness the placebo effect. People who get well or die because they believe they will.

Folks who claim their reality is better than mine? Maybe, but once you get into wetware, it gets really tricky.

Rory said...

One of my dreams, before I die, is to actually vote for a presidential candidate I want rather than vote against the one I think is worst.