The Truth About Reality (Book Snippet 10)

If neuroscience is pointing towards one truth about the reality of humans, it can be summarized as: reality doesn’t exist. To be more precise, the Reality (as in Reality with a capital R) of the physical world exists, but the reality we experience internally as human beings, differs from person to person. As we will see, Reality and reality are two entirely different things. The Reality of the physical world can be measured and described through mathematical formulas, and its unfolding can be predicted through the laws of physics. And here is the crux: The objective language of maths we use to describe Reality doesn’t mean anything in terms of how we experience reality in our day-to-day lives. Whatever happens ‘out there’ is void of an inherent message that would mean the same thing to all humans. As the neuro-scientist Jill Bolte Taylor puts it:

‘Reality is nothing but a turbulent sea of electromagnetism.’

In effect, nothing that happens out there means anything until it means something to someone. Our brain is physiologically incapable of mirroring Reality exactly as it exists outside of our body. The overwhelming amount of raw data our body is confronted with is immediately compressed, interpreted, and changed the moment it is perceived through our senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Our senses perceive only energetic pulsations or electrochemical data reflected or emitted from things outside the body. Only a commonly useful spectrum of those pulsations is then converted into electrical, acoustic, and electrochemical data to be further processed by the brain.

Not only is the data reduced and filtered, but it is converted differently according to the sensory acuity and capacity of each unique individual. This means that data entering our system is divorced from objective reality in the moment of perception. The already skewed data continues to be distorted in a myriad of ways; not least by our subconscious cortical filtering systems that each put their own spin on the meaning of the incoming signals. Cultural and social norms, previous experiences, and personal judgements are all applied to the stream of information before we even so much as become conscious of what is happening.

By the time we experience reality, it is impossible to know how much resemblance it still carries to the outside world. In the end, it is largely a futile exercise: it is impossible to separate precisely the moment of perception from the moment of interpretation. In this sense, when we mistake reality as Reality we are believing our own self-deception, our self-created illusion.

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