Reality Part Two — A Final Exam for Mortals

HOW DO WE KNOW what’s real?

I was walking with Lockie yesterday and for a minute I did what I did as a boy, I had a double image of him.  So long as I could cross my eyes, I saw two Lockies side by side running through the meadow.  Yet there was only one of them in my life, so I wondered: which image was the real one?

The two alert Shetland Sheepdogs in my vision looked exactly the same, their fur and colors and tipped ears just the same, the gold meadow was the same, the trees in each image were the same.  Each of them would occasionally come to me if I called, each would eat a little treat for them if they came, with exactly the same number of crunches and with the same hope for another treat when they finished the first.

While they ignored my call, since there was a bunny that needed to be chased, I quit trying, uncrossed my eyes and watched their two images change to one.  The question remained: The double image I saw, which one was the real Lockie?  I reached deep into the past to find out.

I was an amateur astronomer when I was fifteen years old.  I built a six-inch F9 Newtonian reflecting telescope on an equatorial mount, set on the ground in my back yard.  Amazing, I thought, watching the moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars.  On very quiet night, after the air cooled and I could use a high-power eyepiece, I could see Syrtis Major on Mars and for a few seconds I could see a few of the canali there.  In English the word meant channels but in that time, it was bent to mean canals on Mars!

Later that year I worked with my friend O. Richard Norton, later to become an professional astronomer.  Two kids, we were, making telescope mirrors in the shop of Thomas Cave, an expert on Mars.  He would make drawing after drawing (a time exposure on an earthbound telescope would blur the details of an image), showing the polar caps, the continents and the canals.  Hundreds of drawings, mirrored in the drawings of serious astronomers across the country.

Years later came the cameras of spacecraft to Mars.  No canali, anywhere!  Were they a mass illusion, spread across us all for years?  Tom Cave said in print later on: “We in America for the 85 years since the so-called ‘canals’ were discovered had seen at best illusions.”  All his years of work, all those drawings, illusions?  Were my two Lockies illusions, too?  Were they both real?  Or like canali, were none of them?

The events that we share on this website, they’re real, they’re events in our lives.  The woman who wrote that her automobile instantly jumped backward from the path of an oncoming semi truck.   Kate’s sister appeared to her, talked with her, while her family was there, no one noticed her but Kate.  The accounts of other loved ones seen after they died.  Photos on YouTube of orbs that made crop circles in a few seconds.  UFO’s seen by some in a crowd, but not seen by everyone.  Which is real, the lives of those who lived these events, or the beliefs of the ones who didn’t?

We can puzzle over a chess problem, then all of a sudden there’s a brilliant flash of mind, a handkerchief whipped away to reveal the solution by an inner magician…there’s the answer!   Was the problem real or not?


When Elias Howe dreamed his sewing machine needle, dreamed the hole in the point of the needle, was it his sleeping imagination, unreal, that shifted into reality?

When we remember fragments of an old movie, is our memory real or not?  If we don’t remember quite right, is the scene that touched us unreal?

The events of the afterlife aren’t miraculous.   Many accounts suggest that we can live anywhere we wish, we create ideas for our environments, we don’t need to eat or to sleep (unless we want to), we have spirits that can travel faster than light.  These are natural in their own world, no one mentions them as odd – but is that reality, when we’ve come home to the afterworld again?

When I saw the aura of a forest burning with light, one time, never again, was it real or imagination?  When Moses saw his “burning bush,” when religious figures in literature, when a thousand others see sudden visions, are the visions real?

If two people, meeting minds, fall in love, and spend a day or a lifetime together, is their feeling for each other, is it real?

Do we need to concern ourselves about reality?  When our unique experiences suggest that we live in a different world from anyone else, and they live in a different world from ours, is that true?  Do we care whether we live in our own world with such fascinating events?  Would it be possible for us to live in a stranger’s world?

Does our personal sense of life care one bit for what happens in space and time?   Does it care for what others feel, what seems real to them?

Events that change our life, illusions they be, or real, do they matter?  If someone is certain that evil spirits affect our lives, or that storms come from the sky-gods, does that change our world?  When  a cosmologist declares that the Big Bang is the one final truth of our universe, do we believe that?

Do we decide, from a lifetime of living on this planet, what is true for us and what isn’t?

All our physical senses, do they inform us about reality?  Our startling imaginations playing in our minds, do they inform us about reality?  If not, what is it, that they sense?

Have you answered these questions correctly?  Good.

Who are you?

27 thoughts on “Reality Part Two — A Final Exam for Mortals

  1. …amazing! These are the exact questions i have asked myself and to make a long, puzzling story short, the answer is that i live in my world and my reality and that truth encompasses my life. Who am i? The sum of my truth-seen through the reflection of another.

  2. Starting with question in paragraph 7, Which is real, the lives of those who lived these events, or the beliefs of the ones who didn’t? My answer is: both are real, none is.
    As regards the chess problem, Was the problem real or not? My answer is: it was and it wasn’t.
    As for Howe, his sleeping imagination was not unreal, it is as unreal or real as what you call reality in that same paragraph. No difference between them at all.
    If we remember fragments of an old movie our memory is our memory. Not real or unreal. Or both real and real, as you prefer. If we don’t remember quite right, it is still our memory. Both real and unreal, just as the scene itself.
    When we’ve come to the afterworld again, still they are real and they are not.
    The auras you saw, they were both, real and imagination (if you take imagination for unreal, I don’t). The same for Moses. Real and unreal.
    If two people fall in love, their feeling for each other is both, real and unreal.
    Yes, we do need to concern ourselves about reality, because in that concern lies our growth and awareness. We live in a different world from others, and we don’t. It is our interpretation that is different. We can’t live in a stranger’s world, because our interpretation will always be different. But we can believe we can live in a stranger’s world.
    My personal sense of life cares about what happens in space and time, and about what others feel and what seems real to them. I don’t know about others’ sense of life. I can only answer for mine.
    Events that change our life do matter, and they don’t. Every belief changes our world and it doesn’t. We may believe what a cosmologist says or not. It may change our world but not Life or Love.
    Yes, we do decide what is true and what is not for us. But that belief is not real, either. It is impermanent, too, associated to thought and our own evolution. It is real and it isn’t.
    Our senses inform us about what we think reality is here and now. Our imagination informs us about alternate realities. Both are real. None is.
    Our sense of reality changes as we change. Your questions come from your seeing different levels of reality (or unreality, as you wish to call it). As we see more levels, questions change, answers change. Nothing is real, everything is. We are far away from understanding, Richard. My answers today, are different from my answers tomorrow. My questions today, are different from my questions tomorrow. The afterlife is not reality either. We are a very basic life form, our questions are in accordance to that. As our energy shifts to higher life forms our questions change until there are no questions anymore, just Love. But, of course, that is only my picture, my view, my reality now. Which is both, real and unreal. Real for me now, unreal for me tomorrow, when perspective changes.

    • No matter what others answer, our truth is up to us. Our worlds — our joy and our distress — will ever be what we decide. Close as a brother and a sister may be, each can choose opposite outcomes. Old words, from Robert Service: “Thy life is thine, to make or mar, to hit the ties or drive thy auto-car.” Our beliefs of real and unreal are resolved, and the final answer to all our lifetimes, is Love. Thank you, for a beautiful response!

    • It’s White’s move. Brilliant players can see a solution at once, but nevertheless it’s fun for me, to take an hour with a test like this.

  3. Nice. The passionate struggle mixed with questions, an edge of emotion, awe and wonder. Add gratitude and you find yourself as a multidimensional tour guide. Comfortable with the dimensions in which two dogs exist as well as the dimension in which only one is seen. Each has validity, just maybe not majority opinion or measurable quantification. Each is valid. And so blessed are you with the capacity to view it in wonder and awe, with a sense of openness to allow the experience to be and the question to lay open without locking them up in a categorized envelope. Grateful to be able to see the multidimensional world we live in. Sweet!

  4. All of you are such a breath of fresh air and honesty for me! Thank you! I believe we are making it all up as we go along in this world but I sure do forget this at times and get way too caught up in the appearances of it all! Again…I’ve had so many unexplainable experiences to believe this is it and we absolutely do not end! Love, Richard? I still seem to be constantly shedding “my” interpretation of Love hopefully in finally finding the real thing within me…not there yet although again…at times… 🙂

  5. The opening line of my late father’s autobiography is this: “I remember a lot of things that never happened.” Seems a lot of people have that experience.

  6. Last year, during a time of turmoil, I was standing outside on a windy day and a dragonfly landed next to me. For about a minute and a half, the dragonfly stayed with me, and it was this magical little experience. It made me feel very peaceful. I’ve since read about the symbolism that a dragonfly possesses, and have gone back in my mind to that day, and wondered what was really going on. Why did the dragonfly decide to approach me? Did it even really happen? There have been a few times since then, that I have been woken up early in the morning, and I have seen what looked like the form of a dragonfly, crawling on my wall. Every time, I see it, it crawls around for a little bit, and then disappears behind a picture frame. At first, it’s jarring when this happens, but after the experience is over, it makes me feel good. And I could tell someone that this has happened to me, and they might not believe it, but I believe it, I know that it happened, and so, to me it is real. And the funny thing is, once you believe in these strange, magical experiences, once you know that they’re real, they seem to happen even more frequently. Belief is very important, when it comes to reality.

    • “…once you know that they’re real, they seem to happen even more frequently.” How many here know that’s true? Me, for one. Unseen friends walk with us more and more, when we listen, and find them true.

      • Me, too. I truly believe, and have learned through my experience, that the more you see the magical, euphoric, mystical, outside of your own reality things, the more they reveal themselves to you. The veil becomes thinner and easier to see through once you become aware that the other side exists.

    • Tobi, expressed so well. I feel that way too, except i usually don’t put it through a logicical sequence. It sort of just is…all sides of it-all true. Although like you i get a really exciting feeling trying to guess what i am supposed to use it for and i get very attentive and on alert for some time. Then, chain reactions begin and it is like a roller coaster….and no more going back.

  7. The culture we currently live in, expects there to be a scientific answer to every question. Even to questions that are not scientific, there must be a deduced reasoning, a formula, a hierarchical answer. A category with a nice box, with a lid. And due to the internet being full of ‘information’, there seems to be an answer at the press of a key. Effortless and easy, with no sacrifice or risk.

    But the questions you ask, and the important expressions of art, philosophy, music, religion, cannot be answered with scientific answers. They are the inexplicable. They are those questions that are deeply personal and expressed with feelings, senses, happenstance. Or maybe just a glance, or a gesture. They come from a profound inner knowledge that science does not yet believe.

    So the questions you ask cause one to peer into the obscure shadows, the diaphanous places, the moving stream. Most of us who wish to be aware somehow already sense the answers but do not have the words to relate it forth. We are perceptive witnesses. We try other expressions, and resort to symbols, metaphors, associations, however ambiguous to many. And we accept and believe. Theory-less, but we believe.

  8. Thanks Richard for the interesting post!

    I am from Calcutta, a city in eastern India and have read many of your books and some of them over and over again.

    Interestingly just a couple of days back while I was discussing with my friend ‘Kushal’ on similar lines I remembered you. He had not heard of Richard before and I did quite a bit of storytelling and after all that made him watch ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull at my place. We spent the next couple of days analyzing, debating on topics like reality, retro causality, about memories being rewritten but finally we hit the bottom and all attempts to come to a valid conclusion seemed futile. if everything is just a mental projection and nothing is real why did we ever try to analyze in the first place?

    Why do we dig into multiple theories for possible answers only to find out there are millions of other possibilities?

    In this dimension of possibilities and probabilities are we really choosing with the help of memory?

    Are we human just blocks of shared memory?

    Is this article not for real? Am I not actually posting a comment to this? Is it all an illusion? And finally ‘ Will I ever get to meet Richard?’ 🙂

    Best regards,

    • All the unreality, all the stressful times of this life, I think, brings us lessons, vanishes illusions, teaches us one reality, teaches us Love.

  9. I believe that we are exactly what we are thinking at all times and we can change our thinking and our beliefs at any moment and become someone or something else in a different place. The world is a womb of our own creation and we are released and reborn when we are ready.

  10. You tell of the afterlife. There is so much validation and near-proof found on the internet, YouTube videos and numerous books – even a half dozen numinous personal experiences. But still even with all of this, it’s so hard to believe. It seems so magical. With a single thought one, in the afterlife, so it is said, can change their clothing or become a wisp. Our loved pets will join us…. my favorite. Shady be there!! It’s all so hard to believe, but since I assume it’s true, my life is so much enriched.

    • We’ve chosen to spend years of essential work in a harsh, distant, primitive world. Could it be that our loved ones, who’ve returned to the magic of our gentle loving home, could it be that they’ve become hard to believe, too? Nevertheless, do we know they’re just as close to us as always?

  11. all of it happenning at once in all gazillion of parallel realities, a combination of what is true or not, real or not, different in each one) That’s what rings truest to me)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *