What is Reality?


I woke up before dawn with the strange sensation that my mind was like a hinge, and when the hinge was open there was enough space in between the bits of metal that my thoughts could stream past without waking me up, like a draft through an old door. But if the hinge closed, the gaps would tighten and the thoughts would accumulate like traffic and I would hear them. Upon becoming aware of this curious image, the hinge did close and my mind started to chatter, a scattered dawn chorus at three in the morning.

I decided that I would not put myself through the discomfort of trying to sleep simply because of some numbers on a little device. I felt wide awake and somewhat inspired by the sleeping silence that filled my home. In about four hours the children would wake up and I would be combing reluctant tangled heads of hair and packing school lunches that had only a 50% chance of being eaten.

Two cups of tea later, and I’m thinking about the nature of reality.

The true nature of reality captivates me with its mystery and vastness. A brilliant tragedy that holds impermanence and eternity in one hand. I am infatuated with it. I go out of my way in the hopes of catching a glimpse. When it visits me I am giddy and I can feel my heart beating in my chest. It’s unknowable and sexy and completely surrounds me.

Steve Pavlina wrote a fascinating article on the nature of reality where he compares objective reality versus subjective reality. Pavlina makes the point that we cannot prove either model with certainty, therefore we should live in a way that considers both possibilities. What baffles me is that the standard narrative is objective reality, despite there being no way to prove that this is true. Billions of people are living their lives basing their decisions and actions on a foundation that is unproven and seldom questioned. Hmmm . . .

So what is reality? The question alone feels rogue to me. How dare I ask it. Perhaps I should just plod along and make huge assumptions about it without any close scrutiny. Or take the nihilist’s path and pretend the answer doesn’t matter.

Yet I can do neither of those things. Somehow, I ended up in this life with a fierce and haunting desire to explore such mysteries. That’s my burden, and I’m getting quite used to carrying it’s awkward bulky baggage. Even as a child I wondered what is life and what is god and other abstract matters that I couldn’t quite articulate. The puzzles that sat in my mind probably led to the solemn look that still hijacks most of my attempts at a good selfie.

What is the True Nature of Reality?

To honor my insatiable curiosity about reality, I am going to participate in Pavlina’s Submersion course. I have several boat loads of respect for this fellow. Over the years, his bold words have influenced me in various ways, including helping me find the courage to quit my day job. I’m excited to see what happens when I jump down this particular rabbit hole with him.

I don’t expect the full answer to what is reality? to be at the bottom of this tunnel, but I do expect to emerge with some stories to share. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your “impossible tales” and coincidences, those moments in life that make us question the fabric of reality. Feel free to send me an email or comment in the Facebook chat below.