The essence of a serene life is to align our point view as closely as possible with how things actually are.
That is where we left things in part 1. The main point of that article was to establish the idea that our view of “how things are” is important since it affects our reactions, behaviours, and our experience of life in general. Clarifying our ideas about the nature of reality is a valuable building block in the creation of a serene inner life.
The next step in this process is to be sure we know what our purpose is. Determining where we want to go with our investigation is necessary as it will help us remain clear about our decisions and keep us on track. What track is that, you ask? It is the purpose of this entire website – learning serenity. If our purpose was to attempt to prove or disprove a particular view of reality, the investigation would be specific to that purpose. We would work on finding absolute proofs of our assertions and engage in debate about the alternatives. As will become clear, keeping our purpose of learning serenity in mind will be a huge help in filtering the many ideas about reality.
Reality is “everything that exists”. There are many descriptions of reality and how it works. Here are some of the most common ones (with links to Amazon for further reading):
1. Reality exists outside of each person and is independent of what we think.
2. Reality is a creation of the mind or group of minds that perceive it.
3. Reality is created by a force existing outside of it, called God if personalized.
4. Reality is a projection of another spiritual realm not directly perceivable by the mind.
5. Reality is a complete illusion and perceived only because the mind believes it is there.
There are a variations on these essential ideas, but these capture the most common views from which we can choose. What they do have in common, despite the obvious differences, is the fact that they all have the same premise – that reality is a certain way. Even the idea that whatever we believe becomes reality contains the assumption that this ability to create is already there. In other words, whatever the mechanics of the mind creating reality may be (if it actually does this), it is already the case that the mind can do this. So a starting point that would seem reasonable is that reality and the way it works is given. In other words, it just is the way it is.
So if it is given, where did it come from? This is where trouble begins and we start to get sidetracked from our purpose, learning serenity. The question of where it all came from sends us down the road of speculative metaphysics and all the philosophical problems entailed. These have been debated for centuries and so far, we are no closer to any certain conclusions than when the questions were first posed. The idea of God creating everything from nothing is a popular notion and the foundation of great religions. But it presents the problem of endless regression. If God created the universe, where did God come from? This question can regress forever until one decides to stop at some point. The stopping point will be that of “something” always existing. It is simply a personal choice as to what that “something” is called. That “something” will be what is actually real – the absolute reality. Name it what you wish.
Let’s come back to here and now and see if we can get our bearings. Our situation is that reality is a given, regardless of where it came from. It is our direct situation that we must deal with no matter what we think about how it all started. Also, since being inwardly peaceful is state of mind, it can only happen in the here and now. So we must deal with our actual existential situation and find our inner peace within it.
So I look at how things seem to be and work from there. Namely, that reality appears to be outside of me and my thoughts about it are in my mind. The closer I can get thoughts to be in accord with how reality seems to be, the better off I will be. I must conform to the rules of reality as they are given and attempts to act in defiance of these rules can generate misery. Even if it turns out to be the case that it is only an appearance and reality is something different from what I perceive, I still seem to have no option but to accept it on its terms, not mine.
For those who firmly believe that they can change facts with just their thoughts, this is probably where we will part company. I want all of us to attain a serene inner life. One of its components is the understanding of the limitations imposed on us and learning how to best successfully manage them.
We can certainly change how we interpret and react to reality. More on this later but step one is accepting that reality is given and is what it is.
Bottom line – My immediate experience is that reality is outside of me I am in here looking outwards. My perceptions and interpretations will determine my experience for good or ill. Now, let’s learn how to live well……..