The cold breeze of the air conditioning ran down my back while my Physics teacher gave a lecture on quantum mechanics with every seemingly passing minute. My classmates and I vigorously kept notes and focused on the lesson. Only when the teacher turned around to check the clock on the wall and said out loud how much time we had left with him, did my focus suddenly remove myself from the presentation.
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I felt as if I had just awakened from a dramatic dream rather than a trip to the pure science world, where atoms interact and move around like mindless creatures in a dark universe. I thought how easily my mind undergoes a mental state of temporary hypnosis and how rapidly I take in information without knowing I was in that mind frame. Thus, I believe that I was in the reality where the nature of quantum seemed tangible and well-defined in the world I made up in my head. Months after that day, I wonder about the concept of reality. Does reality only momentarily shift in awareness and intense focus, and always revert back to one’s prior mind frame? In order to understand what reality is to me, I revisited what I learned in my philosophy class and the readings that had been assigned. We all know that reality refers to the way an individual views the existence of things, like a table in an art painting and the person sitting next to him or her.
Yet, does it ever change? Let’s say it does because of situations and physicality of things in our world. For instance, a backyard dog understands that its owner is real because the owner comes out to feed it everyday, but its awareness gradually changes as it realizes the absence of the owner. Therefore, its reality alters with the information that the owner no longer appears. Expanding on the concept that reality changes in situations, accordingly, in my definition, reality is the awareness that depends on the manner in which individuals regard the existence of things, physical or not, without knowing that their minds are in that mind frame. For example, if someone lives in a neighborhood where gunshots occur every night, his or her reality evolves around the notion that they have to always be careful because of the constant reminder that gunshots continue to happen. No new information gives the individual a chance to escape that reality or have the will to challenge that reminder, unless that individual changes environments or learns to protect him or herself through education and conversation.
In support, Helga Drummond, a lecturer on human behavior at the University of Liverpool, identifies, “ Reality then is a resource which can be manipulated to generate power. Reality is malleable because it exists only as people define it” (29). If the inhabitant of the violent neighborhood was to change how they find solutions, or “ resources,” and how they adapt, their reality will have the ability to transform. Then, they will become aware of their reality. Take this concept as such: how can one know not eat to grass when everyone else does, without someone giving that person the information that could alter one’s diet? Or, how do fishes know they are living in water unless we pull them out? As I mentioned before, changing one’s reality requires knowing where they stand in relation to it and taking in new information since reality is mental consciousness.
Drummond also takes into consideration the power of reality, “ Additionally, facts are invariably open to interpretation….. Further, different realities can be created according to how facts are: selected; emphasized; challenged” (29).
Going back to my experience in physics class, because the teacher chose to discuss only quantum mechanics and answer and debate uncertainty and disagreement around it, he had played a part in my construction of reality in class. The amount of information we soak up everyday contributes to our modification of reality. From a brain surgeon’s perspective, the brain senses ambient sounds and takes in all kinds of information, from an insect’s buzz to a slight drop of a pencil. Nevertheless, all that information happens in the subconsciousness and what we, as humans, do recognize is the desired information that our brain has isolated in the process. On the other hand, the idea of reality becomes ambiguous because humans cannot break free from submersion into any kind of reality unless other information, like sounds and movements, is distinct.
Or, is reality, in general, always changing due to the absorption of details? Without seeing or feeling the physical features of what we feel exist, can ideas and imaginations, as information, disturb reality? Now, let’s step into another situation dealing with the ambiguity of the concept of reality. With the theories and laws in science, the existence of science seems concrete and resolute. However, not everyone is a scientist or a big fan of science, which shows another paradox of individual reality reflecting his or her reality of science. We use physics to assist us in our daily lives, but even learning and applying the concepts of physics leaves gaps of how real and significant we perceive it. We see evidence, and sometimes we cannot escape the uncertainty of the existence of a pure science world that not even the most brilliant group of scientists can take away. Take for example, String Theory, an incomplete hypothesis that energy string makes up everything in our world.
The population of scientists is divided into what they think as they examine and research for its strange and mysterious nature. The theory itself causes doubt of whether it constitutes all the matter of the science world. In his article, “ What Is Reality?” an Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, Roger Penrose, asserts, “ Our mathematical models of physical reality are far from complete, but they provide us with schemes that model reality with great precision – a precision enormously exceeding that of any description that is free of mathematics” (32). In other words, although there are solutions and formulas that analyze the objects that we can understand through our senses, and, thus, satisfy our curiosity at least in parts, the reality of comprehending something like the science world implies that we have to accept what we have learned and know as the present reality. The String Theory might not satisfy what scientists desire to know but has established a feasible reality because they recognize some of its qualities.
This is not to say that we cannot change our reality by searching for more information to change it. The sophistication of the mind only takes it to another level of acquiring knowledge during the time when the many portions of the brain, the systematic organ of inflicting distinct stages of awareness and the senses, work to concentrate on one single matter, like the lecture on quantum mechanics. Penrose states, “ Our mental states….
are simply emergent features of the construction and behaviour of our physical brains…. because our brains act according to physical laws” (33). Returning to my definition of reality, this thought also signifies that our fleeting imaginations and learning, such as my education in physics, do not have reality but contribute to shaping it.
Penrose additionally mentions, “ Conscious mental experience, accordingly, has no further reality…having no additional influence on the way that our bodies behave beyond what those physical laws demand” (32). Humans know when they are thinking or learning something new.
However, when they cannot tell the difference between their imagination, or idea, and the limits of their physical body and the physical world, they will not know how to get out of the reality of manipulating their own mental experience. We go through life basing our knowledge on the material world, which our reality reflects due to the circumstances in our lives. As such, we create imaginations and ideas, of which our curiosity, interest, and hopes grow, to remove ourselves from the circumstances. We impose reality all the time in stories, education, conversations, and body contacts. The senses can only do so much to help establish the reality each individual is living in right now. Thus, this is where understanding the reality of science falters because it takes beyond one’s reality to believe that science does exist and does make sense in an ethereal, elementary way.
Works Cited Drummond, Helga. “ Triumph or Disaster: What Is Reality?” Management Decision 30. 8 (1992): 29. ProQuest. Web. 11 Apr.
2012. Penrose, Roger. “ What Is Reality?” New Scientist 192. 2578 (2006): 32-39. ProQuest. Web.
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