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The Fluidity of the Present

The third question (which I almost forgot to post because I’m that distracted — Look!  Shiny thing!  Where?), which loops back around to the first question and ties in the second question, is about shifting reality.  We know that our memories change over time.  We forget details or our brains change details, and the memories still feel correct even if we rationally know that we’ve embellished or tweaked our memories, most of the time without meaning to do so.

Though in some ways, it’s not just our memories that are slippery and shifting.  Our present understanding of reality is just as fluid.

In I’ll Give You the Sun, the author writes on page 369 (and I tweaked this so it would be spoiler-free): “Who knows if destiny is just how you tell yourself the story of your life?”  Maybe everything we do and how we process the world is entirely dependent upon our personalities.  That we shape the story we want to see.

We make ourselves the victim or the victor; and we do so even while someone else in the exact same situation would cast themselves in the opposite role.  Someone sentimental, who wants to find great meaning in a person’s final words, will carry them around forever in their heart even though another person would have forgotten them a few moments after they were spoken.

We tell half-truths, sometimes not admitting our real motivation for our actions, and in doing so, the people around us build their understanding inside that half-truth, growing it until it becomes more fake than real.

We make our own truth, we see what we want to see, we hear what we want to hear.

I guess in knowing this, in knowing how untruthful the truth can be, does the truth even matter?  Because what is the truth?  Is the story we tell ourselves more important than reality, and how do we even being to pick away at reality, at the hardcore facts of our life, when there is so much fluidity, so many tiny facets of our life ever-changing and flowing?

That was the final question the book left me with.  What do you think?

7 comments

1 Elizabeth { 09.15.15 at 7:53 am }

Is there any such thing as bare reality? If we could apprehend such a thing would we still be human?

2 Sarah { 09.15.15 at 8:09 am }

The idea of the untruthful truth is fascinating, particularly because once you think about it, it happens all the time. We are always altering reality to our own perceptions, and commonly putting value in events where really no value (or less value) should be. But by giving those moments value and having them define us, they become SO VALUABLE. For better or worse. It is interesting to me how two people can experience the exact same moment and walk away with it impacting their lives in completely different ways. Or even stranger, when it is life altering for on participant and the other barely remembers it. Either way, it is interesting to think about the role we play in creating our own reality.

3 Turia { 09.15.15 at 9:50 am }

Someone told me once that they read a study that showed if you keep a diary or a journal, every time you reread an entry from the past, you write a new memory of what happened. So your original memory is continually altered every time you read the description of the original event.

That made my head hurt.

I always find it interesting when Q. and I are talking about something that happened in the past and he remembers details that I have absolutely no memory of whatsoever, or vice versa. We both have these strong, vibrant images of that particular time, but it’s only when you compare them you realize just how much is missing out of each version. Makes you wonder about all the memories where there isn’t another person to help you hold all the details.

4 Lori Lavender Luz { 09.15.15 at 9:56 am }

Perhaps the notion of objective reality is like the tree falling in the forest. If there is no observer (the piece that makes it objective), what does that mean for the observed?

So, does truth matter? I do think there is objective truth, but our ability to witness it is limited. Everything matters.

Your post will continue to blow my mind today.

As I pondered this tweaked quote, I was thinking of the blind men and the elephant. Each trying to make sense of the tiny chunk of reality he’s been presented with, not always understanding that the whole reality is so far beyond his limited comprehension.

5 Ana { 09.15.15 at 10:03 am }

What do I think? I think I need to read this book, because this question is amazing. I also agree with Elizabeth—there may well be an unbiased absolute truth, but as humans, we are unable to comprehend it with our biased brains. Never have a discussed a memory with someone and found that we agreed in our perception of even what seemed like objective details. Each moment we experience is shaped by who we are, were, and want to be.

6 Cristy { 09.15.15 at 12:16 pm }

So many thoughts and questions springing from this post and your final question.

So, if truth is in the eye of the beholder, then one’s quest for truth is never complete? Because in order to understand “truth” of a situation or circumstance, we need all parties’ accounts of what happened. And even then, will we ever be able to understand as we build our truth from those truths?

7 torthuil { 09.15.15 at 10:43 pm }

The topic of how our minds edit reality is so fascinating to me. It’s one of the reasons I value my journals and now blog, because they give insight into how I have edited my life as I live it. In answer to your question, which is basically “how do we know what is reality and what is made up?” I think the answer is that sometimes we encounter a reality that challenges our ideas, and then we have to adjust them. The world is unpredictable and does not follow the rules we make up for it.

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