What is reality?
Is it what we can see, touch, and feel? Is it what we experience through our various senses? Do our emotions describe our reality?
Can you point to reality and say, “This is it”?
Most of us are convinced that reality is “out there” and that our experiences inform us of reality. If we’re happy and joyful, that’s because our local reality enabled it to be so. Perhaps things are going our way, people are nice to us, our needs and desires are being met.
And when we’re not happy, it’s because our local reality is such that things are definitely not the way we would like them to be. Perhaps our body is failing us, or other people are.
We would then conclude that reality is the way things are.
But what if that isn’t true. What if what we call reality were truly subjective and malleable?
Leaving his palace one morning, a king meets a beggar in the street. The king asks the beggar what he wants.
The beggar looks into the king’s eyes and replies, “You ask as if you can fulfill my desire.”
“Of course I can. I’m the king and have immense wealth. What is it you want?”
The beggar suggests that the king give this more thought before promising he can satisfy the beggar’s wishes.
Unbeknownst to the king, the beggar was the king’s master in their prior life. The master had said then, “You have misused this life. I will come to try and wake you in the next one.”
The king, not recognizing his old guide, said to the beggar, “Tell me what you want. I will fulfill your wishes.”
“Very well,” said the beggar. “My wish is simple. Fill this begging bowl.”
The king instructed his servants to fill the beggar’s bowl with money.
But as the money was poured it, it simply disappeared.
The future, by definition, is imagined.
If we anticipate it to be better than the present, then we are hopeful.
If worse, then we are anxious.
But the future is neither better nor worse. It isn’t real.
And passing judgment on something that isn’t real makes no sense.
Yet we do it all the time.
Consider dreams. When we wake up following a dream, we say we had a good dream if the events that transpired were pleasing. Or, it was a bad dream if things didn’t turn out so well.
We don’t give the dream much weight since we know it wasn’t real – just a bunch of perceived stories temporarily floating in our head.
But we don’t see the future like a dream.
My addiction started the summer right before college. It took an entire year until I was finally able to completely withdraw.
During that time, my life revolved entirely around my dependency.
It all started innocently enough – with just a single exposure.
I was at my friend’s house, and at 3 PM he turned on an ABC television program that he said we must watch. It was a soap opera called General Hospital.
By the end of the one-hour episode, I had not only gotten sucked in to the drama, but I was enamored by the storyline of Luke and Laura.
I became so addicted that I arranged all my classes and lectures to ensure that I could be back in my dorm by 3 pm to watch the next episode of GH. And during classes, I kept wondering what would happen next with Luke Spencer and Laura Baldwin.
I had always viewed college as one of the most important phases of my life. I knew that my class grades and lessons learned through student experience would greatly affect the rest of my life.
And yet I was allowing a one-hour fictional television program to impinge on that critical foundation.
In high school, I didn’t have to study very hard. Academics and I were synergistically aligned.
College was a completely different story. Starting the second semester.
My first semester as an electrical engineering student was pretty much a repeat of high school. Calculus 1. Physics 1. Chemistry 1. All a breeze: A. A. A.
Then my world turned upside down.
All of a sudden the classes got really hard. Even studying didn’t help much. The material itself was very complicated, and no amount of formulaic memorization made matters more serene.
I was struggling.
Had I all of a sudden gotten dumber? While the college experience definitely affected my lifestyle, it certainly didn’t drop my IQ by any impactful amount.
No, what had happened was that I had grown accustomed to not working hard nor being challenged academically. Classes had always come easy, and I hadn’t developed the mental fortitude required for real scholastic growth.
I had been listening to the arrogant voice in my head that said, “You don’t need to work hard; your innate intelligence will always carry you through.”
Poor guidance indeed.