I’ve never really studied philosophy. But over the years I picked up enough about the different concepts, thought about enough different concepts, to be really good at faking it. I might not be able to tell you who wrote down the idea first. That doesn’t stop me in anyway to have formed an opinion about its implications.
I do happen to know the idea of relative reality vs absolute reality comes from Buddhism’s ‘Two Truth Doctrine’. Personally I am going with real as defined by Morpheus in ‘The Matrix’.
Real is electrical signals interpreted by your brain
And since no two brains are alike, it follows that no two realities are alike, either. An interesting side effect of accepting ‘real’ as an interpretation of your own brain, is how much sense it suddenly makes that ‘proof’ against or for anything does so very little to change people’s mind. Because no amount of proof will change your reality.
Remember the dress that broke the internet? To some people that dress was black and blue. To others it was gold and white. Fights broke out over this dress. It was a matter of how your brain interpreted the electrical signals send from your eyes while looking at this picture of a (very ugly) dress. Many stories were written to explain why people saw black and blue or gold and white. The owner of this dress weighed in to tell the world it was in fact black and blue. But none of that matters. If you are one of the people who sees this dress as gold and white, the reason why you see it that way and the knowledge of the absolute real color is not going to change the way your brain interprets what your eyes see. In your own relative reality, when you look at that picture, that dress is gold and white.
This is a simple example, which is easily ‘put right’. Just making a different picture -different background and different lighting- will have most people see the black and blue the designer had in mind when he or she created the dress. But what about the things that are not so simple. Things where proof of the absolute reality is lacking or difficult to understand? Most people will just dismiss other people’s reality, taking their own relative reality as absolute.
I think here is where most of today’s social problems come from. By denying the concept of relative reality, by treating reality as one absolute, unchanging, one-size-fits-all thing, we get in a fight about who is right and who is wrong.
The words ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ don’t do this situation justice though. This is why my definition comes from ‘The Matrix’. Because it sets the context for the scary implication when rejecting the idea of relative reality. When you treat reality as an absolute, and you encounter someone who has a different reality than yours, the only logical conclusion is that one of you is living in a reality that is not real.
I know people who use the line “My whole life is a lie!” for small things, mostly said in humor. I’ve done that, too. But when you start to feel that way about big things, things that are important to you, it’s not funny anymore. Then it gets to be the stuff of nightmares. Then it turns into a threat.
As with any threat, people will either fight, or run away.
There is nothing so frustrating as getting into a discussion with someone who just refuses to acknowledge your reality. ‘Being out of touch with reality’ is often an euphemism for being insane. To be honest, I often do feel like people with a different reality than mine are crazy. Or stupid. Reminding myself that their reality is not any less real than mine helps me keep my sanity. I find living in a reality that’s not real scary, too. It’s not something that comes automatic. I have to work to keep this mentality.
It gives me a perverse sense of power. I am threatening their sense of reality because they can’t or won’t admit that opposing things can be true at the same time. How awesome it that?