Monday, May 23, 2005

The Blue Pill

Roehl and I have this on and off and on again debate about The Matrix and the concept of reality, what is real and what is not. Here's my take on the subject.

First of all, how do you define reality? How do you know if something is real or just in your imagination? I'm drinking a cup of tea now and I can tell it's real because I can taste it. And I see the tea bag swirling in the water, yes it's definitely real. Is the liquid cold or hot? I can feel it's on the warm side, so yes it is hot.

Let's conduct a thought experiment. Our goal is to find out who is more handsome, myself (rob) or Brad Pitt. Let's drag Mr. Brad over here and ask the first ten ladies on the street which of us is more good-looking. I will bet you that all ten of them will choose Brad Pitt, it is no contest. The reality is Brad Pitt is more handsome than a skinny, scruffy-looking guy like myself.

Or is he? Let's step back for a moment and consider that thought. If we delve deeper we will see that Pitt and I are composed of billions and billions of molecules, atoms, cells. These particles combine to form a huge mass that resembles Brad and myself. When a woman judges which of us looks better, she focuses her eyes on our faces. Her eyes receive lots and lots of light signals containing signals representing information on how we look. The brain takes all these signals and processes them as a whole. Then thousands of years of evolution and conditioning kicks in. Brad Pitt looks stronger, more youthful, more symmetric face, more confident, no doubt more capable of reproducing offspring than a scrawny computer programmer. The brain processes all this information fast and comes up with the conclusion that yes, Brad is the better looker, it is so obvious. If you ask me, Brad Pitt wins on a technicality: human evolution.

Think of another scenario. Picture yourself sitting on a dinner table. Then you are presented with a thick juicy porterhouse steak, dripping with juices and gravy. Is this good or bad? You say it sounds good? Well it depends of course. If you haven't eaten a meal in three days, your brain will tell you this steak is the best thing in the world. If however, you are a vegetarian, or if you just came from a heavy meal, being forced to eat the steak is more pain than pleasure. Essentially, it is the exact same object (steak), but its effect is different depending on your perspective.

Some other examples. Tell me if these are good or bad: (a) losing your job (b) wife leaving you for another man (c) an unexpected thunderstorm. It all depends on your perspection. A rich and accomplished man would not mind losing his job. A man who can't stand his wife might even rejoice if she had left him. A farmer facing drought would celebrate a thunderstorm. Each person's reality depends on the specific neurons popping in sequence in his brain. Makes sense right? OK here's the weird part: that perception is entirely manufactured. If you were a poor man, but convinced yourself that you were rich and accomplished, then you would react to things the exact same way a rich, confident person would.

And this is the crux of my entire argument. Reality as we know it may not even exist. We tend to think of things as fact or fiction. But what is the difference between things that have occured and things that occured only in the minds of individuals? Ultimately, everything can be simplified to its basic forms: molecules, light, signals. That memory I had ten minutes ago of myself sipping tea is no more real than Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They now only exist as electrical signals in the brain, nothing more, nothing less.

So what is reality.. really? The answer below.

Perception is reality.

Read that line again. Those three words are very powerful. Think about it, our perception controls our reality. It is the pure form of self-empowerment. Any item, any event, is purely relative depending on your perception. This becomes your reality.

Now of course I'm not suggesting that anything can be true and that there are no absolutes. Some things are just right, and other things are just wrong. Some historical events have indeed occured in the past, while other events such as The Lord of the Rings obviously took place in one man's imagination. I am not advocating living in a fantasy world oblivious to the reality that surrounds us. But what I am saying is that the whole fantasy -vs- reality debate does not matter, only your thoughts and perception does.

These are not actually new ideas. Many authors have written about it. James Allen introduced the concept in his book As A Man Thinketh. Napoleon Hill has also written extensively about the topic. My favorite line from Napoleon Hill is reproduced below.

Thoughts are Things

Very simple, yet so revolutionary. Everything starts with a thought. George Lucas built a multi-billion empire based on one script. Our thoughts are solid objects. They eventually become real, they become our reality. Negative thoughts in particular become real. Defeatist ideas find their way into reality. Your thoughts become your world. Take care.


roehl said...

rob, if that is your perception, then you are not choosing between 2 pills. everyone then is taking the blue pill which is not altogether a bad idea if everyone can harness their thoughts into positive energy.

but i think our argument lies in the choosing between a happy fantasy and a harsh reality. your argument leaves no room for fantasy. everything in one’s mind is real.

i, on the other hand, make a clear distinction from what’s on my mind and from what is real. when i play basketball alone, i think of myself as a great basketball player, but i know i only do this to hype myself up so i can enjoy playing alone. but i know that when i’m with my friends, i’m just an ordinary basketball player.

when i “touch” myself, i envision myself as someone who is great in bed when i know in reality i have yet to satisfy a single woman.

for me, one’s ability to differentiate fact from fantasy is a key basis for establishing one’s sanity, or better yet, it determines how grounded we are in life.

dreams are good. but we should know where we are coming from or we wouldn’t be able to attain those dreams. as casey kasem always says, “keep your feet on the ground, and keeping reaching for the stars”.

Cris said...

Hmn...familiar! Anybody care for a doze of Einstein? Better than the Matrix although not necessarily as entertaining! :D

Good article rob! I enjoyed reading it.

rmacapobre said...

thoughts are electro chemical processes in the brain. this is proven by how we are able to manipulate response with the use of drugs or the more invasive handling of an exposed brain (think silence of the lamb).

the next question would be, if we are to take this evidence as gospel, is are we not just like androids. organic yes but mechanical as well.

rmacapobre said...

more on thoughts. i think we should distuingish between the thought itself from the manifestation of the thought or emotion.

for example. thought is what george imagined at one point. then star wars and everything else are its manifestations.

rob said...

Roehl, when I practice basketball by myself I also envision myself as a great player, then get disappointed when I actually play against real people, hehehe. So I guess the blue pill doesn't always work. Interesting to read the stories on how Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash worked continuously on their game as they went from average to great player.

re: Thoughts and Manifestation of thought. I read that the 'manifestation of thought' is the natural transformation of the thought itself, as it goes from electrical to solid form. Try this exercise the next time you need to throw away a crumpled piece of paper to a trash can. First, step away as far as you can. Now with your best effort, try to shoot the crumpled paper to the trash can. You will most likely miss. Now try again, but this time envision yourself making the shot. Visualize yourself shooting it, the crumpled balling going through the air and going in the can. Then try it again. Your thought will manifest itself. Either that or it's all BS, hehehe.