Sunday, October 12, 2014

Making it Real

I have previously written about truth, reality and perception. Reality is just what is out there. Perception is how we experience what is out there. Truth is that which corresponds to reality. An accurate perception of reality is truth. Sometimes we are mistaken about what we see or hear. We perceive something but we are mistaken about what we perceive and the result is we believe to be true which are not.

Sometimes we can have preconceived notions or ideas which discolor our views of reality. We assume facts sometimes without any foundation for belief. We may have stereotyped views of people or things. These views may be based prior experience, but in fact they may not apply to the person or thing or event we are currently dealing with.  The overall point I am making is that often times for any number of reasons we have inaccurate- that is untrue- views of reality. Reality is that which is, but sometimes we just can not see that which is.

lars-crop.jpg I recently saw a movie which illustrates this point. The title of the movie is Lars and the Real Girl.  I found the story fascinating. The story centers around an extremely shy young man named Lars Lindstrom. Lars is a very shy, socially challenged young man. He hardly ever speaks to anyone; shies away from human touch and avoids human interaction unless absolutely necessary. Lars orders a life sized  doll- a sex doll. Lars creates a back-story for this doll whom he call Bianca. Lars tells his family that Bianca is paralyzed and unable to walk, thus he has a wheelchair for her. Even though Lars purchased Bianca, and received her through the mail, he sincerely believes her to be a real girl, with whom he has conversations. On the advice of the local doctor, his family and friends play along with Lars’ delusion. Over time the people in the town begin to accept and treat Bianca as a real live person.
(You may want to check out Roger Ebert’s review of the film at:

So… reality is that which is.
A doll is a doll - true.  
A girl is a girl - true.
A doll is a girl - false.
Yet Lars believes a doll is a girl. Even stranger is the people that surround Lars begin to treat Bianca as a  real girl (to humor Lars). As a result, she starts to become real in their minds. Now on a certain level they know that Bianca is not real. I suppose way deep down even Lars knows that Bianca is not real, but for Lars the delusion is very deep seated.

Lars and the Real Girl is in a way a re-telling of the classic children’s story The Velveteen Rabbit. In the story the Skin Horse tell Rabbit, “Real isn’t how you are made… “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you  become Real”, (Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real). As people begin to talk to Bianca and treat her as real, then so she becomes real to them. Their perception becomes clouded.

The recent Tom Hanks movie, Castaway, tells a very similar story. In this story FedEx employee, Chuck Noland (Hanks), is marooned on an island in the south pacific. Being all alone for months on end Noland draws a crude face on a volleyball (a Wilson, brand volleyball) and names the ball, Wilson. Wilson becomes real for Noland and becomes his friend and confidant.

We perceive reality through our five senses. But I think that one idea that is expressed through these stories is that whatever comes in through our senses is filtered through our emotions and psyche. Our psyche sometimes takes whatever comes in through our senses and turns it into something different.

Monday, March 24, 2014

More on Perception

It has been a while since I gave any attention to my blog of “Tim’s Theology”. My last entry had to do with perception. I made reference to the short story, The Country of the Blind by H.G. Wells. Perception is all about taking in information through the senses and coming to some understanding of it inside our brain. In the story the blind people did not know they were blind and were able to get by on just with four senses. It is thought that people who are deprived of one of their senses often make up for their loss by sharpening their remaining senses. This makes sense, but what of people who suddenly are able to regain their lost sense?

I read recently that the 17th century philosopher John Locke speculated that if a person who had been blind most or all of their life then were to somehow regain their sight, they would not be able to (at least at first) be able to “know” what is was they were seeing. He states that if they were shown objects in the shape of a cube or a sphere they would not know what they were seeing. If they were to touch the objects they would of course know, because they had previously known these objects by touch. But because they had not had the gift of sight they would be completely unaware of what they were “seeing”.  In modern times medical advancements have been able to restore sight to the blind and Locke was proved correct. It turns out that people who have regained their sight have had difficulty adjusting to their new sense. With time they have usually been able to adjust, but often with a difficult learning curve.

So what? I guess it just means that reality is out there and we all have to learn what it means as we are confronted with it. In our world, blind people are usually at a distinct disadvantage in many ways. They are often able to compensate for their lack of sight, but they are aware of their handicap and often times are able amaze sighted people with how well they cope. In the Country of the Blind, however, the sightless people are unaware that they are lacking a critical sense; they are perfectly comfortable living life with four senses and they can not be convinced that there is a reality  beyond what they are experiencing with their four senses.

What I pick up from this is as follows:
There may be a certain aspect of reality which if presented to us as new may be beyond our understanding. This does not mean it will be forever beyond our understanding, but at the time it is presented to us it just does not make sense. Just as a person blind all their life is cured of their blindness will not at first be able to identify a cube (from sight), but in time and with aid of their other senses they will come to fuller understanding of what a cube is.

I wonder what is out there beyond our senses. We have hints of something else being out there. One of the most fundamental ideas is that of God. We don’t see him- we can not experience him with any of our senses, but we believe in him. Of course everyone does not believe in God, but belief in God is certainly very widespread. This belief is arrived at by means other than direct contact through the senses. It may be by logical argument or faith or feeling, but not through the senses. What I wonder is there another sense (a 6th sense) that we are missing by which we experience the spiritual realm?

As a Christian, I believe in a life after death. I have had the opportunity to see a few dead people. It does not appear to me that they are experiencing much of anything. But yet I believe that for that dead person they are still experiencing something. Do they have senses that we do not have? Do they have more or less abilities to perceive reality? I don’t know. I do know what I believe- life goes on. I also believe life involves to some extent being able experience the reality that is around us. When I say that I experience reality “around me”, that means in physical proximity to my current location. One of the aspects of reality is location. For a dead person, we often hear is said, they have gone to a better place, but just where have they gone? I don’t know but it is a place not measured in conventional ways we measure distance- not a place that can be plotted on a map.
In the Nicene Creed it is stated…
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
Seeing is believing, but we believe in the unseen. That is best described as faith. I am going to wrap up this entry for now, but I will be pondering faith, the substance of things hoped for...