Well, it’s been an interesting school year. I’ve covered a ton of different subjects, from Oceanography to English, to Economics and Game Design, From Algebra to art history. It’s been a wild ride, but all rides must come to an end. I’ve completed my essay/research paper, and it will be at the bottom of this post, along with all sources. Be aware that it is mostly unedited, so things may not flow as well as they might otherwise. But hey, it was fun to write. I’m glad I did the research and learned about this stuff, because while it may not be practical knowledge, it was at least enjoyable knowledge.
So, yeah. This was an interesting year, my first and last time doing “proper” home school. I had a lot of control over my own education, and I think it worked out. I do believe that I’m smarter than I was at the start of the year, and have some more perspective on myself before I go to college.
This blog was fun, but all good things have to come to an end, right? So to everyone that read this blog, all 3 of you, good luck with your own learning, and I say, Farewell.
What is Reality? That’s a very big question, and a very old one. People have continually asked what is around them, what is the purpose of what is around them, and the true nature of what is around them. From religious arguments such as the Buddhist belief that what we see and what is real are separate entities, to philosophers such as Immanuel Kant who believed that the reality we see is based purely on our minds, and that true reality is independent of our thoughts. Even in the modern day, literature, video games, and film can alter our perceptions of reality, and make us believe in fiction. The true nature of reality is impossible to define, because of all the different views on the subject of reality, and how easy it is to alter and influence those views.
Because of the many different interpretations of reality, let’s start on some more personal interpretations. In other words, personal philosophies. They may not be well known, but our own experiences with reality are pretty personal, so it makes sense to look at this perspective first.
Let’s begin this section with the perspective of one Tom Chamberlain. He sees the world as “real” meaning that which matters. This view is an interesting way to look at the topic, as it also takes into account our day to day lives. The reality of a dollar bill is that you can use it to pay for things. However, if it were made obsolete and no longer used, it would simply be a piece of paper. Some scientific concepts are seen as real as well, but we have thrown theories away as they proved themselves false. For example, the previous theory for why objects burned is that they contained a high amount of a substance called Phlogiston, which does not exist. We have replaced that idea with new theories.
Another person, Greg Studen, has a question that should be considered. That question boils down to “Is reality mental or physical?” The answers to the question lead to different outcomes and points of view. If reality is mental, then the key to understanding it is more philosophical and introspective. If reality is physical, then we study it through our senses and through science. Which answer is correct, however, is unclear.
Now, let’s move on to Casey Woodling. Casey believes that reality is something physical, and independent of the mind’s view of it. If we talk about the Earth, Casey argues, then we’re talking about the same thing. If one person thinks that the earth is flat and the other believes it round, then only their beliefs differ, and not the reality of the matter. After all, we’re talking about the same thing on a matter that is not opinion-based.
To close off this section on philosophy, let’s look at somebody with more name recognition, Immanuel Kant. For those unfamiliar with him, he was a German philosopher that had some incredible ideas much to do with the human experience, including that reason was the origin of morality. However, his views that are most relevant to this conversation are his views on reality. To Kant, reality was independent of our own views, but might not have been as we saw it. To him, space and time were merely forms of our sensibility.
One of the most intriguing parts of philosophy to me are all the differences. Many people have observations, but if you blend every theory together you’ll find hundreds upon thousands of contradictions. However, you’ll find many similarities as well. Take Casey Woodling and Immanuel Kant. If you blend their theories, then you get the result that while the world is physical and independent of our beliefs, the way we experience the world and reality as a whole are products of our minds.
There is another field with a thousand different interpretations, and a thousand different contradictions if you try to combine them. However, these tend to be much larger in scale, and are a lot more extensive, usually going back hundreds or thousands of years. Of course, I’m talking about religion.
Let’s talk about one of the larger religions first, Buddhism. Reality in Buddhism has to do with the differences between the way people see reality, and how reality is. It’s widely accepted that reality is an illusion, and that the path to well being is seeing reality as it really is. However, the meaning of reality being an illusion varies among interpretations, some of those being that our senses deceive us or that the world itself is like a big dream.
Illusions are pretty common in Buddhism, when talking about the nature of reality. Even things that seem very simple are representations of much more complicated things. Take, for example, a flower. If you look at it, you just see the flower. However, the more complex view of it points out that there was soil, water, nutrients, sunlight, and all the work that went into growing it, and the flower itself that allows us to see the flower like that.
Next, let’s take a look at Hinduism. There are a ton of different interpretations in Hinduism, and for the sake of simplicity, let’s talk about Dualism. In the Samkhya and Yoga schools, it is believed that there are two essential facets of reality. These two essential parts are Purusha, and Prakriti.
Let’s begin with Prakrati, the more difficult to explain of the two. It is the physical world, and is presented as real in these philosophies, while in others the world we see is false. While it’s the physical world, it is also the primordial substance, and the source of other things. It also has certain tendencies, such as knowledge, energy, and ignorance.
There is also Purusha, which is simpler, but complicated in a different way. In the simplest of terms, it is best likened to the soul, or the spiritual entity that defines human existence. It is not a part of time or space, and is only capable of knowing itself. It is not part of the physical world, although it is completely valid itself. However, it’s not responsible for the way we see the world physically or mentally. The best way to think about it is how we see the world on a spiritual level.
There are many interpretations of Hinduism, and for the sake of time, we won’t be covering all of them. For now, let’s move on the the big three monotheistic religions. I am, of course, talking about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Let’s begin with Judaism. In Judaism, God is presented as having created the universe out of nothing. This is significant, as in many Pantheistic religions, including Buddhism and Hinduism, the world was replacing something, or transformed into what it is from some kind of substance. It was also not an essential action. The world was not created because it needed to be created, it was created as an act of love by God.
Christianity is similar, but is more specific on the identity of God, the trinity. God is represented in 3 facets, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. However, there are not three Gods, nor is God simply assuming three identities. The trinity is God, and God is the ultimate reality. That is to say, that the Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit is the only way for reality to exist in Christian theology.
Lastly, let’s look at Islam. It’s, again, similar, in that God created everything, although it’s quite different. Allah, the God in Islam, is presented as an eternal, transcendent and almighty being. In terms of personality, Allah is most similar to God the Father in Christianity, but is quite explicitly not. In fact, the Trinity God of Christianity is seen in Islam and Judaism as heretical, and a threat to the idea that there is only one absolute God.
Needless to say, Religions have many different viewpoints. Some of them have the universe being made from nothing, in others the universe was transformed. In some cases there are many gods, in others there is only one. Some religious views are reconcilable, while others are incompatible. They give many different perspectives on the nature of reality, especially on a grand scale. However, they can’t all be correct. Considering how far back these religions go, it really gets you thinking about how people started thinking that way. And that brings us to the final piece of this discussion, fiction. More specifically, the techniques used in fiction that can both alter and impact our reality.
Let’s start with one of the older forms of fiction, literature. Literature has had quite a course through history, chronicling events for future generations in a more solid format than verbal storytelling, and serving as entertainment in many, many cases. Authors of fiction craft worlds and stories, and present them as best they can to the audience. Of course, some of them have become more popular than others. For example, take the universally known Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Sherlock Holmes stories were and are quite popular, along with the characters that they introduced. In fact, many people wanted more of the characters, and so began writing their own pastiches of the Holmes stories. One of them, however, went far and above many of the others in terms of popularity. Said story would be The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, written in 1974. It did something that not many other fictional stories did. It acknowledged that it was fictional.
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution began by stating that it was aware of the other Sherlock Holmes Pastiches, and stated that it would be a difficult story to believe. It went a step beyond that, and stated that the story to be told was an unpublished manuscript of Watson’s. This convinced quite a few people that Watson was real, despite being a fictional character. Even beyond that, it brings up real people. It mentions Sigmund Freud, a rather famous name nowadays. However, what would happen if people didn’t know that he was real? Just as people believed Watson to be real, they may be Freud to be fiction.
Of course, literature isn’t the only form of fiction. Let’s examine a more recent form of entertainment, movies. Movies, especially live action movies, have a major advantage in convincing people of their reality. You can see the people doing these things, even though you know it’s fiction. Movies can still provoke emotional responses when we see someone get decapitated, even when we know that the person is fine. It wasn’t always like that either. In 1895, an Edison film recreated the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, a decapitation. It was of course a special effect, but those weren’t really around back then. People at the time thought that a woman had actually died for the role.
Of course, that was over a century ago. Films have progressed further, the special effects have become much more complicated, and they have become harder to believe. It’s rather difficult to believe a character exists, when you’ve seen the same actor play dozens of different characters. However, immersion in fiction isn’t dead. It has simply moved on to newer formats, video games.
Video games have a major advantage of movies and film in regards to immersion. Namely, the interactivity that the player has with the environment and the characters of the game. Puzzles will go unsolved, enemies will go unslain, and rewards unclaimed unless the player does something about it. Because of the agency that people have, it’s easier to get immersed. Of course, it doesn’t happen automatically. Part of immersion involves replicating the real world, which means involving multiple channels of sensory information. Watching a bird fly overhead is not as immersive as hearing it screech as you see it. Even the story plays a part in how immersive something is, since it can allow you to overlook violations.
Consistency also plays a large part in immersion. Seeing a menu pop up pulls you out of the experience, but issues like that can be mitigated. It’s a part of consistency as well. A stark white menu in a dark, gritty game simply seems out of place. A black menu, or perhaps a menu tied in with the game mechanics doesn’t break immersion nearly as much, and lets the player continue with the experience unimpeded.
Fiction of all kinds has had a long experience with the human race, and we often find ourselves believing in it. Perhaps it’s because we desire something different, and are willing to let go of our own reality to indulge that desire. Perhaps people just have a certain affinity to being sucked in, as some psychologists theorize. However, I propose a different idea. Maybe reality isn’t as solid as we think it is.
Reality has fascinated people from the dawn of time, both what we see of the world around us, and how we think it might be. We think about it on physical, mental, and spiritual levels, but people rarely have the same ideas. Some people believe there is a god, some believe that there is no god, some believe that there are multiple gods, or something else entirely. We can find ourselves believing in other realities, and have our own view of events warped through tricks of the eyes. So, what’s the answer? It is my belief that there is no answer. People simply can’t know for certain the true nature of reality, and what it means. On all levels, the physical, mental, and spiritual, people can have different experiences and interpretations. Our experiences are personal, and the way we see the world is unique to us. Reality is, as a whole, impossible to define for everybody.