TED Conversations

Harald Jezek

Owner, Nuada beauty+wellness

TEDCRED 50+

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

What is reality ?

Did you ever think about what it is that makes reality real ?
How is our reality created ? Isn't it the perceptions our brain creates based on our sensory inputs ?
But what if we lack a sense ? How does reality change for somebody who cannot hear or see ?
Or take it even a step further, assume you are deprived of all your senses, What would reality mean in such a case ?
And last but not least, let's assume you are born without any senses. What would that mean to your reality ?
So what is reality and what are we as part of this reality ?

+6
Share:

Closing Statement from Harald Jezek

Thanks everybody for participating in this conversation.
After 900+ comments did we solve the question of what reality actually is ? Probably not, however it was a good exercise in contemplating what it actually means when we say this or this is "real".
What most of us agreed upon is that there are different aspects to reality.

One is the reality we deal with on a daily basis and which we share to a large degree. For example we agree upon common things, such as when we see a car we all agree it's a car, a tree is a tree and a house if a house.
Although we know that this reality is created by our mind based on sensory inputs which is not only incomplete but often also faulty, it still is "real" because we share the same benchmarking (same sensory inputs, generally same mechanism how our brain interprets those sensory inputs.

Beside this shared reality we all have our own reality. This can be something simple like the perception of a taste, odor or a color.
Although we might agree that a given color is read or an odor is that of a pine, we never can know how another person actually perceives this sensory input.
Individual reality also becomes visible in our beliefs. For a religious person the existence of a God is a fact and hence part of reality while for an atheist reality is free of such a God.
Differences in this aspect of reality can also be observed in how different people get different perceptions of the same situation.

Last but not least there must be an underlying objective reality which includes the laws of nature (whether those are the ones we believe are valid today or perhaps something even deeper which we don't have discovered yet) and which exists regardless of us being here to contemplate it and regardless of our beliefs.

Next time we insist something is real, let's think whether it's real for me, for all(most) of us or real in an absolute sense.

To finish with Albert Einstein:
"“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Nov 5 2013: Seems to me that our reality is whatever we want it to be, like truth, and we can adjust it to accommodate whomever we interact with, depending whether they are seen as more important than our reality, or not.

    Strong influences are our hereditary tendencies which are passed on and often are re-enforced by our upbringing.

    Whatever in our reality we see as the rubber that hits the road, the part that makes sense, could be the part we support with believing in.
    So we can limit our reality to the material atmosphere, or also accept the beyond.. it is totally up to us.
    • thumb
      Nov 5 2013: In this case we probably shouldn't call it reality but rather call it "my story".
      • thumb
        Nov 6 2013: You certainly can call it that. There are no two grains of sand that are identical. This also applies to humans and their realities.
        Seems to me it is more important what we do with our reality, than how perfect we think it is.

        By now, I suppose, you know I see there is only one perfect reality, or truth, and that is Divine. Being finite means we'll always be learning, our story :)
        • thumb
          Nov 6 2013: Our reality, as faulty and incomplete as it is, is the one we are dealing with on a daily basis. So, yes, I agree that it is important what we make out of it.
          Nevertheless, dealing whit what we cannot escape from, shouldn't mean that we don't keep looking for answers to our questions.
          As to "divine" as perfect reality, it simply doesn't mean anything to me unless you explain in more detail what you mean.
      • thumb
        Nov 6 2013: I agree Harald, that it might be appropriate to call our individual life journey our "story", and perhaps our story as individuals becomes the most "real" story to us, because we make it so with constant reinforcement.

        I do not agree with Adriaan that we are "learning" our story, because that suggests that our story is coming from somewhere outside our "self". MY reality, is that we are creating a story with how we choose to reinforce what we think we know.


        EDIT Nov. 21
        Harald, I could not get this close to your comment below, so I edit here.....maybe you'll find it:>)

        In my perception, an individual's underlying objective OR subjective reality depend totally on the information one is willing/able to accept. If we are talking about the reality of one's personal story for example, the underlying reality for that person depends on his/her experience, and how s/he relates that experience to a personal story. S/he might use external information or evidence to support the life story, or not.

        If we are talking about something like the world is flat, or the world is round, there is substantiating information which supports what we consider to be absolute truth at this time. While it is widely accepted that the earth is round, an individual could conceivably still believe that the earth is flat, and that becomes their reality.

        We could look at the topic of evolution for example. There appears to be considerable evidence for evolution, and yet, some people refuse to believe it, preferring to believe what is written in holy books. Whatever the objective reality is for some people, it may be different for other people depending on what information a person is willing/able to accept.
        • thumb
          Nov 6 2013: You are right Colleen, this is OUR reality. Nevertheless, the question remains what is the underlying objective reality. At the core there must be some absolute truth.
      • thumb
        Nov 7 2013: Fully agree with you Harald ". . shouldn't mean that we don't keep looking for answers to our questions" because to me that would mean a closed mind.

        I'd love to explain in more detail to you what I mean with Divine reality. Lets hope no one will report me for preaching and being off topic.

        Truth should make sense. The relationship between the creator and us should be easily compared to a parent - child relationship and should also have no mysteries.

        Swedenborg explains in detail what it means to be the image and likeness of God. What that entails and how that CAN make us fully human. Also what love is, where it is from and what it needs in order to exist. Our body has organs with uses, relationships and requirements. Every single aspect of that environment of the body corresponds fully with our, lets use a common word here, spiritual reality.
        In fact there is a book called The Natural Basis of Spiritual Reality. I have not seen a digital copy of it yet. But that goes into amazing detail about what I just said. All this also explains NDE's and OBE's. Something Swedenborg wrote about and explained 250 years ago. At a time when our medical knowledge was minimal. Etc. etc.

        Science has 'exploded' the knowledge of this physical world to an unbelievable degree and religion has been left way behind in its literal interpretation of Bible text. An interpretation which often does not make sense and contains many mysteries and worse.

        Also, there are a number of reasons why we (usually) do not 'sense' that other world. One of them is that it protects us from ourselves. The more we wouild know and sense about the 'other' life, the more we would try to change things and do it our way. We'd actually stop being human, in freedom.

        This is, of course, the tip of the tip.. :) but any questions would be appreciated, either here or by email.
        • thumb
          Nov 7 2013: You know Adriaan, I always wonder what makes people believe in some supernatural entity for which there is not a bit of evidence supporting it. Moreover, this entity (or entities) are not even necessary to explain nature.
          Thousand of years ago, people had very limited understanding of how nature works, so invoking gods as the source of those mysteries perhaps made some sense. Today, we still lack a lot of knowledge, but we also have advanced quite a bit since humanity's dark ages, Today we know for sure that certain events that in the past were attributed to gods have simple scientific explanations. Yet, people still keep with ancient tradition invoking gods every time we stumble upon a mystery that science can't explain yet. My question is why ?
          Is it because some people just can't stand that there are still mysteries, or even worse, perhaps mysteries that never will or can be solved ?
          Is god some kind of placeholder for lack of knowledge ?
          Wouldn't it make much more sense to admit that we still have a lot to learn about nature and just keep on going looking for answers ? Looking back in history, our curiosity worked wonders. Only looking back 100 years our knowledge advance more than we ever can have dreamed about.
          So why do we still need gods ? Since we are talking about reality, where do gods fit into the picture when talking about an objective reality ?
      • thumb
        Nov 7 2013: My answer to your first question is, when I look around me, I see, what I consider evidence Reasons for being, coincidences, and the way nature is and we are. Just the thought that this is impossible to exist by chance. That's basically it.
        There is a lot of love in this world, but can you measure it, see it on a screen, take it in your hands??

        Your last question would get the same answer and the adding of the word, Use. Life has a use, everything in life is measured, or appreciated, by the extend that it is useful.
        Then we come to the concept of energy. If we can only change its form but not end it, then how did it start?
        Anyway, I'm turning in, hope you have a good dream tonight that will open it all up :) Thanks for your thoughts.
        • thumb
          Nov 7 2013: Hi Adriaan, I know that one of the faithful's argument is the complexity of nature.
          However, let's not forget that nature had billions of years of trial and error. So if you take this time frame, then something like a human being was just a question of time, given that the basic conditions for life where met on earth.
          I can't see evidence of any supernatural intervention, especially, since we have a pretty clear picture of the tree of life, how live evolved over time.
          Further proof is that most genetic material of all living beings is to a large degree identical.
          About love: Love can have many meanings such as love for nature, love for your spouse, love for your kids, love for your pets, etc. Each kind of love is different.
          So, what is love ? And why do you think love requires the existence of a god ? Love is just one of many feelings that we can have.
          Also, love requires a person. If this person dies the love coming from this person is gone as well, which makes it clear that love is nothing disembodied but just a product of our organism.
          As to energy, True, where or when did it all start ? This is a valid question for which we don't have any answer.
          However, just because we know it doesn't mean we need to invoke the supernatural.
          If you assume energy was created by god then one would also have to ask who created god and then who created god's creator and so forth into infinity.
          But, if you say that god always was and always we be and doesn't need a creator, then you could make the same argument for energy. It always was and always will be.
          Have a good one !
        • Nov 7 2013: Harald,

          The conception of love I use isn't based on feelings, it is a conscious choice pro well-being which can endure even when someone ceases to be... though in actuality everyone continues to be in one form or another.

          Note that one does not actually have to ask who created God... also note that the concept of infinity and/or 'nothing' may themselves be temporal-dependant notions To sort of use your logic the idea that 'at first nothing existed' begs the question who created nothing. Just like past-present-future-infinity can co-exists in a singularity instant and be meaningless 'before it' ... something, everything including nothing constituted at a singular instant and be meaningless 'before it'...
      • thumb
        Nov 8 2013: Harald, just one more comment about the most important word in our post, love.
        Even though the word “love” is so often used, still hardly anyone knows what love is. When we stop to think about it, we find that we cannot form any image of it in our thoughts, so we say either
        that it is not really anything or that it is simply something that flows into us from our senses, and conversation and so influences us. We are wholly unaware that it is our very life, not just the
        general life of our whole body and of all our thoughts, but the life of their very least detail. Most people can grasp this when you ask, “If you take away the effects of love, can you think anything? Can you do anything?
        As the effects of love lose their warmth, do not thought and speech and action lose theirs as well? Do they not warm up as love warms up?” Still, the grasp of these people is not based on the thought that love is our life, but on their experience that this simply is how things happen.

        The difference between love and no love is the same as between spring and fall.
        And I really love the saying that "We are what we love"!
        We can limit what we love or who or what behavior we love. We can even limit our reality to the physical world and say, only what my senses tell me is my reality..
        • thumb
          Nov 8 2013: Adriaan,
          It is not clear who you speak of, when you say "these people" who "hardly...know what love is", who cannot "form any image of it in... thoughts".

          I agree that we (humans) have the ability to limit what and who we love, and we can limit our reality to whatever we choose.

          MY reality is that love is something that I carry in my heart and mind. It is not something that comes and goes with certain people. I believe that "we are what we love" in the sense that for me, everything is interconnected. I do not believe that we have to love something/someone externally to "BE" and carry love, which seems to be what you are suggesting.

          I respect your reality, and it is not everyone's reality. When you write about "these people" who do not know love, it appears that you are saying everyone who does not accept YOUR beliefs do not truly know what love is. That is NOT everyone's reality.
        • Nov 8 2013: I hold that the grasp is based on the thoughts that love is our life, on the experiences that this is how things happen, the feelings stories distinctions cultivated, the sensations each has and a couple of other things.

          "We are what we love"!
          We become what we think
          We experience what we feel
          We give what we have

          Keep in mind how each gives their life to the words each uses ... Which words, thoughts feelings, experiences to you want to give your life to and enliven? Yes we can limit what we love or who or what behavior we love just as we can love infinitely certain behaviors, ideas, feelings, individuals, things... the question isn't to love or not to love, the question be how to love each thing... for some gifts we want to openly develop them, for some care for them, for some keep them bound and wrapped locked away never to be opened nor allowed to develop.

          - "MY reality is that love is something that (we) carry in (the) heart and mind. It IS something that we can get, and can give the thing is it can be created when giving it and when receiving it (but not when demanding that it be given) . Love can be something that comes and goes with certain people just as it can be amplified with certain people.
        • thumb
          Nov 8 2013: Adriaan, I think everybody has feeling of love unless he is some kind of psychopath or sociopath.
          My point was that love comes in many shades and is difficult to define. Most probably, everybody has a different perception and expression of love (and other feelings), which brings us back again to the point that the reality we live is a relative and subjective one.
      • thumb
        Nov 8 2013: Colleen how do you connect these two?
        "I believe that "we are what we love" in the sense that for me, everything is interconnected."
        and
        "I do not believe that we have to love something/someone externally to "BE" and carry love,"

        Does this mean it is enough to say e.g. "I love knitting" without doing any knitting, or even knowing how to knit?


        In relation with that, would you mind explaining what you mean with "everything is interconnected,"
        Thanks
        • thumb
          Nov 8 2013: Sure Adriaan....I'm glad to explain if you do not understand my comment:>)

          I believe that everything and everyone are energetically interconnected.

          Your statement..."we are what we love" can be interpreted to mean that when/if we love something/someone externally, then we have love. Although something/someone externally can contribute to our feeling of love, I believe we can also have love independent of an external force.

          Your comment..." “If you take away the effects of love, can you think anything? Can you do anything? As the effects of love lose their warmth, do not thought and speech and action lose theirs as well? Do they not warm up as love warms up?”

          This suggests again, that love is something outside your "self".

          Thus my comment..."I do not believe that we have to love something/someone externally to "BE" and carry love".

          In other words, my perception and reality is that love is in me, and therefor does not need validation/verification from an external source.

          I know how to knit and I LOVE it.....thanks for asking:>)
      • thumb
        Nov 8 2013: Hi Esteban,
        "Yes we can limit what we love or who or what behavior we love just as we can love infinitely certain behaviors, ideas, feelings, individuals, things... the question isn't to love or not to love, the question be how to love each thing.."
        You may well agree with Swedenborg that love, by it self, really is nothing. That there should also be wisdom, to know how and what to love. In fact he calls the relationship between love and wisdom "the heavenly marriage."

        As humans, he says, we have a will (love and affections) and an understanding (truth and facts). By way of our freewill we create, with those two, our reality.
        • Nov 8 2013: I hold that love is love.

          I do agree that love ought to be accompanied with wisdom, and faith and truth, and 'determination' and 'others'
          to know how and what to love ought to be put into practice in love with love and through love

          BTW If we hold that love, by it self, really is nothing THEN we are saying that nothing is love and love is nothing. That's why I prefer to say that I hold that love is love.

          In relationship to the notion of 'nothing' ... well here its a bit paradoxical because 'nothing' is actually 'something' that involves 'nothing'. To frame it a bit different 'not choosing' remains being a choice one chooses to make that involves holding that "what isn't is and what is isn't"' instead of just choosing to hold a more suitable form. Notice the difference of 'I did not choose' and I choose to postpone my decision on the matter-subject. Which one more accurately reflects what really happened? Another example : 'She made me do it' vs 'I chose to do what she proposed I did and did do it' .

          It can be a fun exercise to talk in inverse form and say the opposite of what one means until confusion becomes understanding and understanding becomes confusion. When someone who is wrong tells me I am wrong I thank them for confirming how right I am (of course assuming the premise that they are wrong and I am right happens to be rich). When someone who is wrong tells me I am right I have to validate and wonder if its because they seen the truth of the matter or because it just happens I am wrong ...

          The heavenly marriage I consider involves body-mind-spirit and a bit more.

          the relationship between love and wisdom is quite important though in reality they are a bit interchange for true wisdom leads to true love and true love to true wisdom ...

          "As humans, he says, we have a will (love and affections) and an understanding (truth and facts). By way of our freewill we create, with those two, our reality". From a certain perspective indeed .. two or four
      • thumb
        Nov 8 2013: Would you mind explaining what you mean with:

        "..everything and everyone are energetically interconnected."



        Then you say
        "Your comment..." “If you take away the effects of love, can you think anything? Can you do anything? As the effects of love lose their warmth, do not thought and speech and action lose theirs as well? Do they not warm up as love warms up?”

        This suggests again, that love is something outside your "self"."

        Let me add or emphasize some words please:
        "Your comment..." “If you take away the EFFECTS of YOUR love THAT IS INSIDE, can you think anything INSIDE YOURSELF? Can you DO anything? As the EFFECTS of love lose their warmth, do not thought and speech and action lose theirs as well? Do they not warm up as YOUR love INSIDE OF YOURSELF warms THEM up?”

        Does this not make it clear that love is inside ourself (being us) and the effects are in all the actions our body does (only then noticeable outside our body).?
        When love for something is missing, we say he/she is 'just going through the motions.'

        Hope I understood what you wrote and that this helped
        • thumb
          Nov 8 2013: Adriaan,
          There is energy everywhere in our world....I think that is scientifically proven.

          Adriaan,
          Please be clear about what is YOUR comment and what is MY comment? You are using quotation marks inappropriately (they seem to give credit to me for something you wrote) .

          Those comments you have labeled "Your comment', are actually YOUR comments Adriaan. Your previous post is just totally confusing and inaccurate!
      • thumb
        Nov 8 2013: Colleen
        "There is energy everywhere in our world...."
        I don't want to put words in your mouth, but is that another way of saying 'We all exist'?? I do not see any use of that expression.


        I copied from your post, just above. Can you not still see who said what? You had a wrong interpretation of what I said, so I added some explanations about my statement. That's all.about love being inside of us. Outside of us are only effects.
        • thumb
          Nov 9 2013: Adriaan,
          I perceive my statement to be clear...."there is energy everywhere in our world"....in and around us. If you do not see any use of the expression, as I stated it....so be it!

          Regarding your post above...
          I am aware that you added some words and capitalized some words for emphasis. As you wrote... "Let me add or emphasize some words please:"

          Adriaan, I KNOW who wrote what, and it is clear in previous comments. When you add words to a previous comment, it changes the meaning of the comment, and therefore is not an accurate quote anymore. This practice confuses and misrepresents.
      • thumb
        Nov 9 2013: Hello Esteban, I'm sorry for saying "love without wisdom is nothing." Love indeed is never 'nothing' but is love. What I really meant is that without wisdom, love has no way of expressing itself and so becomes useless. We can love something but if we do not know how to use what we love, or the use of what we love, it's empty.

        This really brought to mind the expression that 'this universe was created out of nothing.' While it was created not only from infinite Love (nothing? :) but also through infinite Wisdom. And that makes life, because love and wisdom combined, creates use.

        This again reminds me that Swedenborg said, love is the substance and wisdom is its form. Goes to show, there is no-thing in this universe that has not both, substance and form.

        Thanks for your point
        • Nov 9 2013: Adriaan,

          I hold I knew what you intended to say, I just choose to show you a subtle distinction that had to do with nothing and something and everything :-) Love with wisdom expands both love wisdom and many other divine things... Love always has ways to express itself and become useful. Its evident to me that one can love without wisdom. Granted that with wisdom love takes a whole different dimension. I believe that God created the universe and constituted quite a bit setting in motion infinite upon infinite possibilities (some of which ought to remain as just possibilities). Just like thinking about 'a before' of the singularity in which time came to be is meaningless, I hold that 'nothing' before of the singularity in which something formed and came to be is also meaningless. I realize that this may seem a bit counter intuitive to some ... especially those who still use dualities...

          I do like the idea " love is the substance and wisdom is its form" and wonder where be the spirit and the individual soul...

          FWIIW when I read and write I consider each word and categorize it as belonging to +,-, neutral. I prefer a bias towards +, aways from - and may at times use the neutral ... I see that we each give our life to the words we use... thus if I have to chose between 'without' and 'with' I will prefer to use the with for the positive and without for the negative ... give each a bit of their own... while always focusing on leaning what ought to be learned...For example when someone propose 'to negate the ego' I propose to educate the ego according to loves ways... acknowledge what be while cultivating what ought to be...

          BTW I learned quite a bit from your comments and composing the response thanks
    • thumb
      Nov 6 2013: Hi ab. suggest there is one reality, but many contradictory beliefs or opinions about the nature of this reality and some will be more accurate than others.

      I hear what you are saying about the importance of the outcomes and actions or beliefs lead us to.

      But suggest there is value in more accurate understandings of reality, of the universe and ourselves. I'd rather my decisions be informed by our best understanding of what reality is rather than unsubstantiated beliefs that might have some utility.
      • Nov 6 2013: I'd rather my decisions be based on the best option according to what reality is regardless of being informed, or otherwise. Yea there might be value in more accurate understandings of reality,of the universe and ourselves though at this time the critically importance of doing what ought to be done as it ought to be done supersedes all that I'd rather my decisions be based on the best option according to what reality is .
        • thumb
          Nov 7 2013: I guess you are saying if you have a model that is not based on an accurate understanding of reality, but works empirically say based on rules of thumb or simple correlations or some mix of evidence intuition pattern making, then that is fine.

          sure something that works is better than something that doesn't even if based on false assumptions.

          However I suggest we have greater potential for improvement progress when our models more closely align with reality.

          I can think of some example of religious instructions that may have had value. E.g. don't eat shellfish in the desert without refrigeration. But suggest understanding bacteria and food poisoning is a more powerful position.

          With knowledge come s responsibility.
      • Nov 7 2013: Sure... that's quite reasonable... what I said was more on the lines of always picking the right path regardless of knowing which be the right path... and the odds of picking it .... then realizing that one always picked the right path... and even discovering why one managed to do that... what you said also works for me... though I would lose some of the negatives and include a bit more of the positives...

        Evidently if one's model more closely aligns with reality its much easier to get the right path every time; unless this life is a temporal plane where we choose without being able to discern what seems to be because it be and what seems to be because it seems like what be... in the context of this topic it would be being able to discern between 1- what we experience and think to be real and 2- what be real and we experience. especially when under the influence of what we think impacting on what be experienced and even what be real. Think of a insecure jealous individual and self-fulliing-prophecies that feed their notions... OR think of a secure confident individual and self-fulliing-prophecies that feed their notions... It gets even more interesting when others intervene and invite each to choose to go into their side... especially when one gets just one go at it and determine once and for all the direction one will head forevermore... Pascal's Wager kind of thing...

        with or without knowledge one is responsible for what one does (and does not do)... in many cases we better get our act together to ensure enriching sustainable-desirable-congruent survival ...
    • thumb
      Nov 6 2013: Adriaan,
      You say..."Seems to me that our reality is whatever we want it to be, like truth, and we can adjust it to accommodate whomever we interact with, depending whether they are seen as more important than our reality, or not."

      Regarding your statement.... "adjusting" your "truth" to accommodate whomever you interact with, depending whether they are seen as more important than our reality, or not".....

      Whose reality is it? Is it still your reality in your perception? Or are you adjusting and embracing a reality because you see that person as "more important"? You are willing to adjust your truth to accommodate whomever you interact with? Is it still "truth", if it can be adjusted to accommodate another person?
      • thumb
        Nov 6 2013: Hi Colleen. I was talking in general, about human beings, writing: our reality, we want, we can adjust, we interact, than our reality.
        We have as many choices as we give ourselves, that's why I say at the end OR NOT

        It is a person's reality or story, not yours and not mine. We can hurt, but when someone asks "how are you? we can say "fine."
        • thumb
          Nov 8 2013: I agree Adriaan, that we have as many choices as we give ourselves. Adjusting my reality to accommodate another person is not one of MY choices.

          You say..."seems to me that our reality is whatever we want it to be, like truth..."

          With your example Adriaan....telling someone you are fine when you are not fine, you demonstrate how we can adjust our reality to accommodate someone else.....AND it is no longer truth.....it is an adjustment of truth/reality.

          I agree that we can make small adjustments, as the one you mention, to perhaps help another person feel more comfortable (in your perception). When we start "adjusting" on a larger scale, however, it is no longer reality or truth.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.