What is real?
I'm pretty sure that the chair I'm sitting on and the desk in front of me that is full of stuff are real. Also the abnormally tropical weather is real. The sound of cars driving by this student accommodation house is real. I think it also safe to assume that the tension pain in my neck is real although pain is a subjective experience. However, if you tried to rub my neck you'd notice that the muscles there are rock-hard, therefore leading to a conclusion that the pain I claim to be feeling is real.
How about my feelings - are they real as well? They're real for me but they can affect my observation and perception of things making my reality different from other people's realities. I may wish or fear for something so terribly much that the overwhelming emotion starts to dominate my conception of what is real and true and what matters.
Probably the most common notion of reality's nature is that it's something perceptible. If we can't see, hear, touch, taste or smell something the certitude of its existence falters. However, we can believe that things beyond our capacity of observing, such as radio-activity are real when a sufficient amount of proof can be presented. In addition to the ability to sense we need to be able to believe to claim that something is real. For a religious person, his or her god is as real as the pain in my neck is for me. Even though most of believers haven't had a personal encounter with their god the firm belief for one is enough to make it real.
So, my neck pain exists for me, in my physical being. It is real regardless that no one else can feel it. Now, if you believe in God, he exists for you somewhere, everywhere even though I can't understand it. Does a mere idea, a concept of something make it real? And how does it differ from the reality of this chair I'm seated on?
[And for the record, I am not indicating that religions or beliefs have anything in common with this bloody neck of mine. Just using my weird means of transforming ideas into words.]
In different languages there are words only known in that culture, words that are impossible to translate perfectly into any other language. For example, snow is something that has many names in Finnish and even more in the language of Inuits whereas in English only few names are used to describe the different forms of snow. Another example from languages: in the French grammar there is something called subjunctive: Grammar denoting a mood of verbs used when the content of the
clause is being doubted, supposed, feared true, etc., rather than being
asserted. The rules for its use and the range of meanings it may possess
vary considerably from language to language. Since there is no equivalent grammar rule in Finnish, Swedish or English for comparison it was really hard at first to understand what I was supposed to be learning. Eventually though, I started to use subjunctive automatically when writing or speaking French.
What I'm trying to do here, is to empathise the differences in our ways of understanding life, each other and the world. Those differences are marked in the languages we speak and the culture that surrounds us.
Biologically humans are alike each other. We all have the same senses and the same kind of lifespan. We feel the same emotions and go through the same physical changes in our bodies as we grow up. Still each of us sees the reality through their own eyes, and that reality is always under the effect of our beliefs, values, fears, hopes, secrets, experiences, conceptions. Even physically we are different as the ability to see colours varies between individuals - not to mention the possibility of colour-blindness, short-sightedness or so. In addition we look at things on different levels. I, for one, am very short whilst my godfather is at least two metres tall. We see our environment very differently even when standing side by side.
I'm also an artistic and visual person who pays attention to details. I study photographic art, which leads my eyes to observe the contrast of lights and shades and the colour harmony, for example.
Someone else might look at completely different things.
Another thing that I instinctively do is analysing people's behaviour, especially those who I know well. I could call myself emotionally intelligent for I intuitively know what to do in most occasions. I'm totally rubbish when supposed to say something smart or comforting but quite often I can somehow go round that and end up keeping things in order.
This doesn't, however, guarantee that I had any idea of why someone is doing something and acting in some way. Trying to figure out people's hidden motives is practically impossible because I at least can't easily look aside my own thinking patterns and schemes. Pondering another person's possible reasons in only my own point of view is completely useless because recognising all that's biasing my thinking is next to impossible. It's like when wearing sunglasses you shortly become used to the way you see colours through them and after a while the fact that they in fact are different from the colours seen with only your eyes doesn't bother you at all. Only when you remove the glasses you realise the change.
Basically, when we recognise one of the preconceptions that are impacting our reality we can start looking at things without it blocking the way. But to move everything aside - I think is impossible because that would mean an absolute objectivity and no human can be absolutely objective.
One simple example of how our mental sunglasses modify our realities is the variability in our manners of solving problems. I'm the kind of person who likes to talk about her personal issues with other people, mainly to get perspective. In the starting point I have my own vision of how things are, and possibly what should be done. After sharing my trouble with a handful of friends I usually have an equal amount of opinions and possible solutions - some of which are entirely controversial. So, what do I do for I can't follow all of them?
Well, mostly I ignore every smart piece of advice and stick to my own plans, that's if such plans exist. Sometimes I trust those whose point of view pleases me the most and gain more confidence by doing so. The point is that now, even though I have, say five unlike views of my situation and I may feel more confident -or confused about it the situation itself hasn't changed. For me it might feel as though everything has turned upside-down just because those five dissimilar theories compared to my own have developed a new point of view for me, personally. My reality looks different although the change has not happened externally but internally.
When reality is harsh I jump in my daydreams.
I know that running away solves nothing but creating a personal side-reality where everything can be just the way I want gives a chance to rest for a while. Sometimes the scenes I imagine are so vivid that I can nearly believe they could be true, especially if this dream universe of mine has managed to slip inside my nightly dreams. You know the moment at the edge of waking up when you're not sure whether you're still dreaming or not, when the dream world and real world are connected? Of course, falling down from my warm and fuzzy fantasy cloud is not the most pleasant experience but being this little escapist, I can still embrace the happy feelings raised by an imagined occurrence. In times when life is complicated and stressful I'd spend as much time my eyes closed as possible because when buried under blankets alone in silence I can escape to a place where my troubles solve themselves and all is perfectly well.
If I can't stand the reality I create another one just for myself.
The reason for the madness that is happening here is my first photography assignment which is about reality and representation. We are supposed to study reality: what is real and true in our pictures. Basically I have been strolling around the city looking for interesting glass windows and how the things that are visible through them and the things the they reflect create surreal sceneries. Sadly I was just getting excited when my first roll of film ended so now I'm waiting tomorrow's developing workshop absolutely terrified because I'm convinced that either the photos are somehow ruined or just plain boring and amateurish.