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Mind Blown

The best kind of book is when you not only forget that you’re reading fiction but you’re so lost in the story that you keep forgetting that the events aren’t really happening in the world around you.  The last time that happened I was reading The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker.  I had to keep reminding myself that our days weren’t growing longer and birds weren’t dropping out of the sky.  And even so, I kept saying things like, “We can’t do that because the sun will burn us through our clothes!  Wait, no, it won’t.”

It happened again this week reading Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter.  It’s a science fiction thriller about a man who crosses dimensions and encounters other versions of his own life.  That’s pretty much all I can say about it without ruining anything, but I spent the week forgetting that it wasn’t real and that we couldn’t twist the laws of physics.

I kept expecting to see myself every time I turned a corner.


Then The Atlantic continued to blow my mind by telling me that “the world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality.”


[That was my mind exploding.]

This is the article in a nutshell:

Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that allow us to survive. They guide adaptive behaviors. But part of that involves hiding from us the stuff we don’t need to know. And that’s pretty much all of reality, whatever reality might be. If you had to spend all that time figuring it out, the tiger would eat you.

All we see are symbols or surface information, and we use that information to guide our decisions, but we never pause to really consider that all we know is this surface information.  Or, to put it more succinctly: “My snakes and trains are my mental representations; your snakes and trains are your mental representations.”

We are all just points-of-view walking amongst other points-of-view.

So how does this apply to infertility?

I can talk to you about my headache and believe that I am communicating effectively with you, because you’ve had your own headaches. The same thing is true as apples and the moon and the sun and the universe. Just like you have your own headache, you have your own moon. But I assume it’s relevantly similar to mine. That’s an assumption that could be false, but that’s the source of my communication, and that’s the best we can do in terms of public physical objects and objective science.

We think we’re effectively communicating with each other because we’ve both experienced infertility (or we’re both women or we’re both Jewish or we’re both American, etc), but I have no clue if you really understand anything I’m saying because all I have is this first-person experience.  And I read you, thinking I understand you, but maybe I don’t understand you at all because how I am understanding your words is only through my own point-of-view because there is no single reality.

As you can see, I’m having a trippy sort of week.


1 Chickenpig { 12.06.16 at 7:46 am }

Aaaaaah. But some of us exceed simple reality. Thank goodness. I can’t wait to read that book. I can use some escaping my reality and slipping into another for a while.

2 Jenn P { 12.06.16 at 8:09 am }

That first book sounds really good! I am not much for thrillers or mysteries so I might have to pass on the second one. I have had similiarly all-consuming reading experience. The only one my post-migraine brain is thinkong of is the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. I always think I’m going to start book jumping.
As for communication and words and personal realities, I always found this interesting back when I was a performance poet (I think I even have a poem about it). I wrote from my personal experience but each listener or reader had their own reality and word associations that filtered what I said. Fully imparting my exact experience was less important than making a connection with the listener.

3 a { 12.06.16 at 8:34 am }

I printed that article to share with my co-workers last week. It’s so relevant to us because we’re constantly being pushed to be more transparent and make it so anyone can see what we see. But that chafes, because in the end, it’s merely my opinion and must be judged on what others think my reliability is. If someone else comes to a different opinion, their reliability will also be judged.

4 Ana { 12.06.16 at 9:48 am }

I LOVE having my mind blown by a book! I just checked out the first one and put the 2nd one on hold

5 Brid { 12.06.16 at 11:00 am }

Cool… reminds me of Leibniz… monads, I think?

6 knottedfingers { 12.06.16 at 11:45 am }

My therapist tried to explain this to me. It took about 4 times before it honestly truly stuck with me. That’s why I try to never ever invalidate someone’s feelings. I see it on my facebook often ‘How dare you compare this to this! I went through hell!’ and I think ‘Well they are going through THEIR own hell right now. Stop invalidating them.’

I will check out the books! I need to read more and broaden my horizons

7 Click { 12.07.16 at 3:27 pm }

Your last paragraph struck me because I had a conversation about this earlier in the week.

I vividly remember being about seven and eight and wondering if the shade of blue that I saw in the sky was the same as what other people saw. And also, I thought that my mum looked very pretty but my friend’s mum just looked old and I wondered whether my friend actually thought her mum looked pretty and didn’t like the way my mum looked.

I guess I was quite a deep little kid, but it’s something I still wonder about today. And when people say ‘I understand’ I can’t help but wonder if they really do.

8 Amber { 12.07.16 at 4:26 pm }

I love books that are so thoroughly engaging!

9 Lori Lavender Luz { 12.08.16 at 1:01 pm }

That Atlantic type of thinking is how I framed the election. There were people I respected who voted both ways. Each voted their way not because they were idiots or brainwashed or immoral or fooled, but because their vote reflected the slice of reality they filtered in.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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