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Interpreting Reality

By Webmdave ~

Reality for my dog is uncomplicated. She understands life to be a series of eating, sleeping, running, sniffing, barking, guarding, trusting some and distrusting others, and above all expressing affection and loyalty to her pack (human family). In short, reality for my dog is displaying the qualities usually associated with a dog. She neither searches for or desires a higher purpose, nor does she fear sickness or death. She does not accumulate possessions and is not afflicted by envy, avarice, or demanding addictions and passions. Beyond just living out her days according to her nature, there is nothing else. She is at peace and content with her lot.

Regardless of various differences in appearance, aptitudes and situations, dogs appear to be consistently content with their lives. People, however, are complicated. We believe we are somehow special in the universe and are notoriously discontent with nearly everything in our lives on a regular basis. Just sitting still for an hour can be torturous for many of us. Being unoccupied with busy activities is a burden that many find loathsome to bear. People are constantly on the search for purpose and meaning. They want to understand the purpose of the universe and why people suffer. They want a reason why some people receive so many privileges and blessings from life while others suffer privation of health and basic necessities. Many are of the opinion that the benefits of life should be equally distributed to all, and when it is not equally distributed, they think justice is not being served.

Of course there are others with completely different views of life. Historically, the various systematic interpretations of reality believed in and adhered to by human beings are as varied and as divergent as are the star systems in the cosmos.
“Life is opinion,” or “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations IV, 3
In my opinion, how any of us interprets reality is ultimately inconsequential to the operation of the universe. I sincerely doubt that the incomprehensibly vast universe is even aware of humanity, much less actively devoting any energy toward designing and assigning unique individualized purposes for our short natural lives. While it may be pleasant for some to believe that each of the nearly 8 billion people on this planet have cosmically significant (and even eternal) meaning, the likelihood of that idea approaching any level of truth is probably considerably less than microscopic.

Except for humans, no other lifeform on the planet believes their individual lives are invaluable to the cosmos. Only humans are guilty of indulging in self-congratulatory interpretations of reality that resemble self-aggrandizing fantasies.

Now, to be clear, my life is pretty important to me. And your life is likely very important to you. And both of us may or may not be considerably important to those close to us. However, is it reasonable to assume that the vast cosmos has singled each one of us out and placed extraordinarily priceless values on our individual lives?

There is no evidence that a supernatural (or natural) being outside an individual’s head is assigning value and meaning to an individual’s life. — Webmdave Some reject this thinking and believe their lives lack meaning without their god(s), their family, their job, their freedom, their culture norms, and hosts of other fabricated human constructs. Societies throughout history clearly indicate there just doesn’t seem to be a standardized system for interpreting reality, as each population group defines reality for themselves. In other words, there is no evidence that a supernatural (or natural) being outside an individual’s head is assigning value and meaning to an individual’s life. People ultimately make their own decisions and assign their lives meaning through their gods, their family, their clan, their country, their hobbies… (you fill in the blank).
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality” ― Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Letter 13 to Lucilius
This delusional thinking has likely at least in part something to do with our ability to imagine things that do not exist. Our imaginations predict optimistic and pessimistic futures for ourselves that more-often-than-not never come to fruition outside of our anxious imaginations. We observe happenings in the world and make unreasonable conclusions based entirely on intuition and feeling. Or, in other words, based on imagination. People hate to answer a direct question with “I don’t know.” They usually make something up for an answer based on – you guessed it – their imagination. It astounds me when I ask someone a question they could not possibly have an answer for, yet that person will immediately blather out an answer. Just answering with an honest shrug and an “I don’t know” is anathema to nearly everyone, or so it appears to me.
“People are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things.” – Epictetus, Enchiridion Ch 5
We do have the ability to reason things out. I think, however, that other animals also have this capacity, but of course in smaller doses. Our reasoning abilities outshine other lifeforms on the planet, and we rightly place a high regard on our demonstrated superior brain power. We dominate our planet because of our brains, but our understanding of reality is still woefully lacking. We really only understand the reality we create in our heads. Our interpretations of what we see, hear, touch and feel emotionally fleshes out our reality. In the end, our opinions frame our reality. Our perception is our reality, and our perception is frequently (if not always) incomplete.