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?