The Illusion of Reality

I visited Euro Disney last year.

I found it funny for all the wrong reasons. Irony: it’s sometimes a curse, sometimes a blessing.

Each nationality would sit in their Mickyesque ghettos and laugh like drains at the habits of the others. The French Disney interpretation of breakfast was the furthest from full English you could imagine. Our hotel was the cowboy one and felt much like that sinister sci-fi-, Westworld. They played Muzak relentlessly, a foreunner, perhaps to Orwell’s telescreen.

It felt for all the world like The Village from that classic sixties programme, The Prisoner. I’m not a number, Walt, I grinned. I’m a free man.

So imagine my mirth, then, when Disney laid on Rovers as part of the amusement regime.

Image: Wikipedia

The Village in the television programme was a place where you went when you stopped spying. Or so it’s implied in the series. And you were kept there with drugs and other mind games and intimidation and numbers and, incredibly, these huge white balls called Rovers.

They would chase you. It would be funny if it wasn’t so acutely nightmarish. There was no escape. They would intercept you and swamp you, and bring you back to the village to be a number and not a free man all over again.

And there they were at Disney. 10 Euros for 12 minutes.

It was all too rich. these giant hamsterballs were the recreation of choice for the numbers that thronged Euro Disney.

Preposterous. The very idea of walking around in bubbles of our own reality.

Although, of course, that is precisely what we do.

Our bubble is not physically restrictive: it is called perception.Management theorist Tom Peters once wrote:”Perception is all there is. There is no reality. There is only perceived reality.”

We view the world through our own glass. With our senses we gather information, but our brain is unique and it interprets the information in its own sweet way.

We walk around with a secure idea of how the world is. We are certain, even, sometimes, a little smug about our world and how it is. We hear things and see things and draw conclusions and build on those conclusions without questioning whether our assumptions are rocky: whether the reality we are building is sound.

But questioning what’s inside the bubble is what makes you not a number, but a free man.

Yesterday I watched an incredible science documentary. Our BBC Horizon documentaries are superlative and award-winning. This one was called “What happened before the Big Bang?”

All these years, we have lionised Edwin Hubble. He noticed that things were getting further away with time. and he watched the retreat of heavenly bodies outwards and thought, what would happen if I used mathematics to reverse their path, and followed them back to where they came from?

He arrived at the Bg Bang theory. He tracked those bodies back to a fraction of a second before the universe started. Where matter began from nothing.

And this has become our reality. This is how the universe began, period.

But there’s a nagging question at the bottom of this:agow can something emerge out of absolutely nothing?

We built our perceptions on a rocky assumption.

Now scientists all over the world question Big Bang theory.

In Sandusky, Ohio, Plum Brook Station exists so that NASA could fabricate Nothing.

It has eight foot thick solid aluminium walls; it takes two days to pump out the air and another week to freeze out remaining molecules. And then, you have the best approximation to Nothing possible in this day and age.

Or do you?

For this Nothing has dimensions. Three of them. And light can travel through it.

It isn’t really Nothing at all.

We walk around with our perception bubble, and sometimes it never occurs to us to question what we are told. But even the basic ideas we all share can be questioned.

That ability: it is what makes us stand out as not numbers, but human beings.

Written in response to Side View’s theme: the illusion of reality

Picture source here


46 thoughts on “The Illusion of Reality

  1. I thought I saw a really great response to the theme, here. I didn’t really, of course, because everything is an illusion. Still, it was what I perceived – or is perception also an illusion? πŸ™‚

  2. The Prisoner was one of my favorite programs. I was often confused, but as a sixteen-year-old gaga over Patrick McGoohan, I didn’t worry much about fuzzy plot points. Talk about being in a bubble!

    1. Hi Blythe. McGoohan was pretty easy on the eye in the series, I quite agree! Thanks for commenting….and have you stopped hyperventilating yet? I do hope so – good luck in your NaNoWriMo quest!

  3. We think we are so modern. We have intimate knowledge of how the universe works, and a perception of its size etc etc – all in scientific terms.
    But it is thousands of years since man started studying the universe – when all he knew was that the sun, moon and stars somehow were a long way off and rotated in complete order. His idea of God started with the premise that whatever was out there was so ordered that it could not have started from chance or nothing.
    Hence Intelligence and Power were the attributes man gave to the Creator of all this. Perhaps one day man will be forced to admit that a Creator exists!

  4. Thanks for writing about nothing, Kate πŸ˜‰ Realising that once WE were nothing emphasises that soon we may be that way again. Better make the most of what we have NOW, and make sure we know where we are going….

  5. This post rocks!

    Or maybe it bounces.
    Like one of those huge hamster balls.

    Maybe it twirls . . . soars . . . and flies with ease.
    Like the man on the flying trapeze.
    Moving in a blur from Point A to Point Z.

    With nothing to break his fall.
    Nothing at all.

    It’s just illusion.

  6. Exactly! Those inflatable hamster wheels are the perfect visual metaphor – haha – but they do look rather fun. Most of what we think is probably inaccurate – nowadays I like to stop before I make a statement and think about whether I could debate it rationally and backed by evidence in a court of law or a school debate – I often have to backtrack πŸ˜‰

  7. This is incredibly thought provoking, Kate. It is such a challenge, a good one, but a challenge, to remember that our personal illusions are ours, and perhaps ours alone. And our perceptions change over a lifetime if we remain open. Science has no boundaries, so I do wonder what current illusions will be not just challenged, but debunked! It’s exciting! Your Disney experience humored me a great deal. You may think because I live in “Disney Country” that I’m full in! I am not. I have tremendous struggles with the whole “illusion.” But that’s another story! πŸ™‚

  8. You remembered Westworld! I was fourteen when that movie came out. That one really got under my skin. Then a number of years ago I had a computer I was convinced was spawned from left over parts of Yul Brynner’s Android. I conveniently donated it to a church -God help them and all that shtufff.

    When your right your right and I think your right. Nothing is something. But I cannot help but think, with all the resources and energy modern man puts into looking into space for answers if the answers he seeks could be right under the very spot he is standing. An insightful take and stance on SidevieW’s theme. ‘Funny for all the wrong reasons’ now that is truly humankind’s reality.

    1. Thanks, Hudson, and apologies for taking so long to answer! I love Westworld, and come back to it perennially. You are right: the great miracles are all around us, could we but see them.

  9. Reality is walking in front of a bus – there is nothing perceived about being hit by 7 tons of metal πŸ™‚

    Light has amazing properties – it is at once both a wave (allowing it to travel through a vacuum) and a beam of particles – allowing it to knock electrons out of atoms. No wonder we find ourselves in an ongoing debate about the Big Bang! Perhaps God was right and we should not have eaten that apple and maybe the Pope is right to suggest that having determined that there was a big bang we should treat that as the moment of creation and look no further. Yet science abhors a vacuum (unless it’s a space-like one) and the probing will continue because any statement by a scientist that cannot be disproved is not a scientific statement. All Crows Are Black… I rest my case πŸ˜‰

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