Picking A Reality
"In nature, the
emphasis is in what is rather than what ought to be."
People talk about
reality as if they know what it is. We go through our days assuming
that we are dealing with reality. The floor is solid, the food is safe
to eat, the cars we see on the street are really there, and the drivers
are real people who’s intent is not to run us down. These assumptions
work pretty well for most of us. Because they work, we keep them.
construct their universe a little differently. Assumptions that people
can be trusted have not worked out for them. They’ve noticed that the
government and corporations cannot always be trusted. They’ve noticed
that we are not treating our planet with respect and that we have
created cruel and dangerous food production processes. They’ve noticed
that war persists and is not always noble, and that famine and genocide
continue to happen unnecessarily. These folks have constructed a dark
view of humanity. They don’t feel they can trust others. They come to
believe that people are not basically good. It appears to them that
nobody cares. If they were not already depressed before they came
to these conclusions, they likely are now.
estimate what reality is based upon consensus, we could be in trouble
if we got all these people together, because there are millions of them
and they describe their dim world in remarkably consistent terms. One
can make a case, backed up by the news media, that the world is chock
full of murderers, kidnappers, torturers, and other criminals on the
one hand and stupid apathetic people on the other.
reading this may be thinking that this pessimistic view of the world is
making pretty good sense. Hopefully, we can take this in a different
direction. The problem with this unhappy worldview is that it is
unbalanced. It only focuses on the negative. It recognizes evil and
objects to it. It values justice and compassion, but fails to see them
where they exist. It sees the shadow, but not the light.
In order to be
happy and healthy, we need to be able to see the whole picture. We need
to recognize ignorance and evil, but not just that. We need to
acknowledge wisdom and love as well. We need to know that sometimes
people behave poorly and that sometimes they are wonderfully kind. We
need to be able to see darkness and know that there is also light.
The yin yang
symbol is a tool for helping us recognize these truths. The yin side of
the circle is dark and the yang side is light. Together they make a
whole. If we focus on one side only, we have an interesting shape that
appears incomplete. It is not a circle or a square or any shape we see
often enough that is has a common name. If we look only at one side of
the yin yang we know we have an incomplete view. At the same time, each
side may be represented as containing a spot of the opposite color.
There is a bit of dark on the white side and a bit of white on the dark
side. This suggests that we should be wary if our take on reality
contains absolutes. Good may not be entirely good and bad may not be
all bad. Good people make mistakes and the worst of us have good
better when the reality we accept is not overly simplistic. If we can
see the big picture in its full color, including the black, the white
and the gray, we have more information and can make better choices.
spending some time meditating upon the yin yang. Explore its meaning to
you. Consider, as you do, that it need not be a static symbol. That
perhaps the circle does as circles tend to do; it revolves. The black
and white follow each other around and around. What might that mean to
As you go
through your day interacting with the universe, recall that you are
constructing your reality based upon sense impressions and thoughts.
Stop once in a while to observe how you are doing that. Notice your
body sensations and observe how your mind creates your world from them.
For instance, when you touch a tabletop, how does your mind get the
idea of hardness? When you touch a feather, how does your mind get the
idea of softness? When you interact with a person, notice when you are
judging them. Are you viewing them as all good or all bad or using some
other all or nothing filter?
Seek to become
aware of the process where you interpret the world into your
preconceived reality so that ultimately, you can relate to it in its
suchness, just as it is beyond the screen of thoughts, symbols and
© 2007 Tom Barrett