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What is real?

When it comes to reality, is it really as straightforward as we might think? Our fairly recent wealth of knowledge with regard to the physical world clearly gives a certain grasp of things, but beyond that can we be sure of what matters most?

In saying that, I’m thinking in part of ideas around the nature of thought and the complexities of our natural environment (see Notes One): ways we take our fragmented perceptions as independent truths, not always looking to the interrelated realities lying behind almost anything we might meet in life.

Thought, consciousness, and life experiences are fascinating topics. And those ideas articulated by Bohm – of a complex reality perceived, often only in part, by thought – raise so many questions around our ability to see truly, to get beyond our naturally limited perspective with all its intricacies of personal meaning and identity (Note Two).

In a way, there’s life and then there’s this human overlay of thought: the ideas we spin or have spun about life and how it all works; ideas which, in turn, shape how we live and act (Note Three). Because surely our thoughts – invisible as they are – serve to create reality; in small and large ways, our ideas on life determine how we are.

So, in looking at reality, are the contents of our minds to be considered more or less real? If we are intelligent beings, capable of being guided by thought and understanding what we find around us, then is the thinking behind our words and actions more significant than we might generally realise?

All the ideas we may accept, go along with, or passively hold in mind must serve to inform our decisions. These thoughts or assumptions, even if unexamined or less consciously held, surely have consequences for the relationships we forge, activities we form a part of, and the larger social realities being sustained (Notes Four). Behind all that we do we can look to our beliefs and intentions.

In that, maybe our intentions and our impacts could in fact be seen as quite considerable realities: the meanings nestled behind how we are, and the human or natural implications we may or may not see as being ‘our fault’. After all, are we responsible for our intentions or the consequences of what we do or say?

It’s easy to see actions as more real, but words and ideas seem just as powerful in changing things; maybe even more so given how insidious they are, how hard to eradicate or correct once spoken. Many know that words are capable of altering the course of a life for better or worse. And once committed to an idea, it’s often difficult to convince someone of the error of their ways.

Life can be seen as an interplay of ideas and reality, the things we bring to life and our understanding of what we see. In that picture, what’s more real and where our responsibilities stop seem such pertinent considerations for how we live.

Notes and References:

Note 1: David Bohm, thoughts on life
Note 1: Nature tells a story, about the planet
Note 2: Mirrors we offer one another
Note 3: Writings on Education
Note 4: Does it matter if others suffer?
Note 4: Community – what it was, what we lost
Note 4: Age, politics and human reasoning
Note 4: At what cost, for humans & for nature
Note 4: The web and the wider world

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