FORM AND OBJECTIVE REALITY
By Roland Watson
I want to examine another abstract concept now, which I have already mentioned a couple of times. This is the idea of objective reality.
What is objective reality?
What do I mean by this? Objective reality is simply reality, what really happens. The reason this is an issue is because we are self-conscious beings, who are in a sense able to step away from reality. We then go on to look back at it and interpret it. But, through doing this we introduce a subjective perspective, and which moreover is often flawed, if only in small ways.
Everyone does this, and this in turn generates a variety of perspectives, on something that has happened or which is about to occur. And, some of these perspectives may well not agree. We often have disagreements, and even conflict, not only over something that has really happened, but also over something that we just think has happened, and for which we are actually mistaken.
This is another basic condition of life, and for which I don't think there is any real solution. Science, the science of physics, even has something to say about it. There is an absolute or invariant reality. We are all looking at, and interacting with, the same thing. However, each of us is doing so in our own unique way.
The clash with form
Why is this important? The reason this is important is because a basic tactic of behavioral form is to try to replace objective reality with an alternative view, a view the adoption of which somehow benefits the source of the form. Indeed, there is so much form now that objective reality has been pushed aside.
Modern life is often comprised of a series of subjective realities, a series of different messages, the different "sales pitches" to which we are exposed. Because of this, many people have lost their grasp of what is objective. But, such a reality does exist, underneath all the form, and in the University of Life I have done my best to describe it.
Life is the intermixing of forms. I'm formed, and I'm trying to form you, to get you to fulfill your part in my world of form. And, you're formed, and you're trying to form me, to get me to fulfill my part in your world of form.
Where's the reality?
How to distinguish the two?
Form and reality also regularly coincide, so it is difficult to distinguish which is which. For example, we can see this clearly with the feelings, such as joy or grief, that different situations elicit. For the second, if someone close to you dies, you mourn because you are grieved by the loss. However, you also act this way, particularly at the funeral, because you are "supposed" to.
In addition, another factor is that what is real to one person will be form to another. In modern society, this regularly occurs with artistic expression. To the artist it is real, but when it is packaged and put on sale it often becomes form. For instance, much popular music, from country to hip hop, does celebrate the wishes and interests of the general public, and it is also a means by which, as individuals, we can excel. But this has been seized upon by the music industry, and reshaped and manipulated to serve its interests.
Another example of this occurs with sports. They are reality to the athletes who are involved, but many people watch them because "everybody else" does, which is form. Also, sports perpetuate the values of militarism and competition and us versus them, and the ethic of winning at any cost. The idea that one should be a good loser, or winner, has largely vanished.
Furthermore, to satisfy the needs of their sponsors - meaning corporations and the media, and also governments - sports are used as a means to bring about global sameness. Everyone is told to play the same games. And finally, sports fulfill the role - like materialism - of a new religion. They are an artificial "deep" belief system that has been constructed to fill a purposely-created spiritual vacuum.
Also, another place where objective reality and form regularly clash is in government. What I mean by this is that for any government decision, the real concerns that underlie it are objective reality, and the politicking that surrounds it is form.
Holding onto reality
What can we do about this? How can we preserve our grasp on reality, in the face of so much form?
Only by substituting reason for emotion can we preserve objective reality, in all of its aspects. Our various means to this end include the pursuits of science and philosophy, both of which have as their goal the comprehension of reality.
Counterintuitively, Eastern meditation is another such example, if you think of it like this:
We do not have the outside or total view of the universe, only the inside view as part of it. We therefore want this view to be as clear as possible. But, we are trapped by the form of others, and the deceptions that result from our own self-interest. Hence, we meditate, to fight form, to eliminate our desires - the self - and the impositions of others. And through this, we strive to become one with the universe: with objective reality.
Of course, form can never be eliminated completely. Indeed, we have seen that there are some forms that we want to keep, such as our cultural traditions, particularly those that support ethical behavior.
But, here is another paradox. In a deeper sense we, as life, are perpetually seeking new forms. Therefore, not only are we struggling with the question of appearance versus reality, and the distinction, or lack of it, of ourselves from reality; in some ways we want to keep it, the present reality, but in other ways we want to throw it away and create something new.
The resolution of this complex or multiple paradox is to recognize that at this level there is only one reality, but that it is not fixed. Rather, it is dynamic. It evolves.
Further, regarding "separateness," we have seen that there are often many perspectives on any one thing, any one reality. But - and this is one of the deepest messages of the field of physics known as quantum mechanics - such perspectives actually form part of that reality. In a fundamental sense there is no such thing as observation, only participation. And, by extension, participation itself can be mistaken - in error. Your perceptions can be wrong, and, as we have seen, also your memory.
However, while at this level the subjective and the objective merge - as in meditation, at the higher or social level they remain distinct, and with serious ethical consequences. Subjectivist ethics derive from a subjectivist view of reality. An unchanging set of ethical principles derives from the one true objective reality. And, as we continue to impose our form, so the subjectivism will remain. Therefore, the admonition that form must be fought must stay in force.
The benefits of being real
At this point, it is important to stress, once again, that this is not a negative responsibility. Rather, it is positive, with many benefits. For instance, through fighting form you will experience the joy that comes from finding and associating with like-minded rebels. To give another quote from Aldous Huxley, you will meet "the most interesting set of men and women in the world - all the people who, for one reason or another, have got too self-consciously individual to fit into community life. All the people who aren't satisfied with orthodoxy, who've got independent ideas of their own. Everyone, in a word, who's anyone."
Even more importantly, you will experience the continual satisfaction, and at moments - the moments in life most worth living for - the ecstasy, of being free. For the first time in your life you will truly be free. You will have the liberty to be and to do anything that you want, which, in simple terms, is life's greatest reward.
In the final article in the series, I will review how you can be original.
© Roland Watson 2015