January 8

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Actuality, Reality

This is an attempt to understand what is going on around me, where exactly my place is, a quest into the nature of reality. We live in reality, and it is made up of many things: the world, the planets, the universe, the bug on the floor, the feelings one has, a molecule, the stock market, power, the body, dirty underwear, God - the list goes on. There exists an ultimate reality, a true reality, everything that is. True reality, which I will now call actuality, is something that cannot be understood because it is vast and infinite. Actuality is everything and all that can be sensed, felt, and known. But it is much greater than what we can sense, feel, and know, since we only experience a small part of things.

It is easy to think that we are in touch with actuality, that what we experience is actuality, when in fact this is an illusion. We are only connected to actuality through our senses, and our senses put us in touch with only a small part of actuality. An example: as I walk down the street I tell my friend that he is apart from actuality. He disagrees. He tells me he can hear the sounds of footsteps, see birds in the sky, smell the fumes from cars, touch the walls he is passing by, and taste the gum in his mouth. He reaches out to touch me, tells me he feels me, and says his powers of reason state that I am actually there, therefore everything he experiences is actual and he has a firm grip on things. A dog walks by. It suddenly perks its ears up, hearing something, starts to bark and runs down the street. “But what did that dog hear?” I ask my friend. "It was something actual, yet neither of us sensed anything. The sense of hearing in the dog is stronger than ours, so it has a fuller grasp of that part of actuality than ours.”

Back to the image: We are currently exploring the bottom red planes of the image

So is it possible that our belief in reality is misguided, and that actuality extends much further than we can ourselves grasp? Relative to the dog, my friend’s hearing is limited; there are parts of the world he, nor the rest of us, will ever learn about. As we walk on, a pigeon lands on the sidewalk behind us, with neither of us noticing. Now both my friend and I show a simultaneous break with actuality, for neither of admit the pigeon into our conception of reality, yet it is entirely real. The point of this story is to demonstrate the disjunction between individual conceptions of reality, what an individual thinks they see and know, with actuality; anything that is on the street on that particular day that can be sensed or not. The senses are imperfect: they neither sense everything nor do justice to that which they do sense.

During the course of a day, a year, or a lifetime, we use our senses to establish a reality of our own that approximates actuality. Note the differentiation between reality and actuality. In the story, my friend and I observed, thought, and felt the street, thinking that our reality was the same as actuality. Like my friend and myself, we all use our powers of feeling and reasoning to organize and construct something out of the sensory data we have gathered. But our own reality is nothing more than a model of this sensed actuality. It is what allows us to function. The model we establish places bounds on life, gives form to things, and allows us to keep our sanity. Because actuality is so incredibly vast, our model can only capture an essence of it. Construed reality becomes our own corner of the world, so to say, the small part of actuality that we know and feel comfortable in.

In sum, during the course of our day we do things and say things that lead us to think we are part of reality, and that reality is one. But there actually exists two planes: actuality and reality. Reality is formed from actuality; it is a derivative, nothing more than an attempt to make a model of how things actually are. Whereas actuality simply is, reality is what we sense, think, and feel is. Reality is human, it is living, it is proscribed, bounded and secondary, it is only in our head. Actuality is primary, infinite, boundless, and beyond human.

We can now start to create a picture of what we have just talked about. This picture shows two planes. The bottom one is actuality. The top one is a copy of actuality – it is reality. The lines that connect them are our senses.

This is an artistic representation of the interaction between reality and actuality, available at my art site.

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