Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Reality, page 191

...replaces all objects of belief with one single thing: reality itself. We believe only in this universe. We don't believe in the afterlife. We don't believe in the sovereignty of nations. We don't believe in money or power or fame. We don't believe in our idols. We don't believe in our positions or our possessions. We don't believe we can be insulted, or that our honor or the honor of our family, our nation or our faith can be offended...

We just believe in reality. Just this.

...doesn't ask you to believe in anything you cannot confirm for yourself. It does not ask you to memorize any sacred words. It doesn't require you to worship any particular thing or revere any particular person. It doesn't offer any rules to obey. It doesn't give you any hierarchy of learned men whose profound teachings you must follow to the letter. It doesn't ask you to conform to any code of dress. It doesn't ask you to allow anyone else to choose what is right for you and what is wrong.

...is the complete absence of belief. ...is the complete lack of authority. ...tears away every false refuge in which you might hide from the truth and forces you to sit naked before what is real. That's real refuge.

Reality will announce itself to you in utterly unmistakable ways once you learn to listen. Learning to listen to reality, though, ain't so easy. You're so used to shouting reality down, drowning it out completely with your own opinions and views, that you might not even be able to recognize reality's voice anymore. It's a funny thing, though, because reality is the single most glaringly obvious thing there is... Yet we've forgotten how to recognize it.


Matt Blodgett said...

What's the source of that quotation, Paul? That pretty succinctly expresses why I'm an atheist.

Phil said...

Hardcore Zen!

Me said...
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Me said...

Isn't "reality" pretty open for interpretation? What's real to you and I may not be real to someone else, and what's real to someone else may not be real to you and I. Not that I'm disagreeing with what's being said here entirely...just that this seems to be a narrow view of "reality".

Eric Eldon said...

Paul, thanks for using this blog to keep it real. It's a refuge from the BS storm coming through my feed reader.

Paul Buchheit said...

Mike, you must be reading the quote differently. Reality is what is. It doesn't get any broader than that.

To the extent that we each have our own local reality, that is still reality.

Perhaps you read the quote as denying the existence of certain things, excluding them from reality. That's not how I see it. Reality is what is. Accept truth, whatever it may be, and belief isn't a big issue anymore.

Eldon, thanks.

Matt, Phil has the answer.

Know Nonsense Investor said...

It may help clarify if we can say reality is one thing, truth another. For instance, it is reality that many people have beliefs, which they may or may not be able to prove scientifically. It is reality that those beliefs are the cause of significant misery, individually and globally.
Truth is what is, actually. Truth is fact, once we can prove our belief, it is no longer a belief, it is a fact. The problem is correlating the reality of believing with the belief held, which is not the same thing. The act of believing is reality, people believe things. The belief itself may or may not be truth.
Demonstrating a belief to be false, is truth. That’s science. Scientists, if they do proper science, try to disprove their theory, they use negative thinking, which is the highest form of thinking.
Belief gets us into trouble because we mostly don’t look for ways to disconfirm our belief. If we did then each time we uncovered our error, we would be better off. But we like to be right, we want our reality to be truth. We look for supporting evidence of our reality and ignore evidence that disconfirms it.
Millions of personal, social, business and investment decisions are made by the confirming evidence method, very few by the “what’s wrong with this?” method. People in New Orleans wanted to believe the levee would hold, Bush wants to believe everyone craves democracy, terrorists are so completely delusional, who knows what they really believe? Most people believe that groups, institutions and governments can solve basic human problems, despite huge amounts of evidence to the contrary. (Our institutions can’t even keep the bridges standing, protect students just trying to go to class, reduce drug dependency or the prison population, one could go on forever.)
As Paul points out, the need is for a change in the mind of each of us. Methods don’t work, gurus, don’t work, beliefs surely don’t work. The problem, if one must call it that, is not “out there.” it’s in here, in the way thought itself has taken over the mind, made us self enclosed, frightened, desperate for security, to remove uncertainty. So we run to the group, the guru, the analyst, priest or politician and beg to be told what to do, how to think. Why ask them? They are all as confused as the ones they lead, or they wouldn’t have become gurus, priests or authorities in the first place. Rather than run to them, we might want to ask ourselves, deeply, why do we follow?

Unknown said...

Of course the problem with that excerpt is that it assumes man is capable of comprehending reality.

Do you think that's a fair assumption to make?

Jennifer Rodriguez-Mueller said...

Zen... atheism... there are various philosophies that sounds like to me, but I'd say it is quite distinct from those positions and instead is a modern-popular-simplistic reinvention of Stoicism mixed with a Libertarian-esque credo of radical refusal to emotionally participate in common social arrangements.

"We don't believe we can be insulted" is a denial of reality if you attribute the common understanding to "insult". Insults happen. They happen when someone communicates low judgement of another with significant harm or malicious intent. If a person is insulted then they may choose to take no umbrage, but that's not the same thing as "insults not being in the domain of the real".

Insults have social and political consequences even if their target is arrogant enough (or detached or whatever) not to care. It's true that insults (at least verbal ones) do not cast shadows, but they are part of reality.

Or at least (if you're going to insist on a non-standard definition of "reality" as well) the author's list (money, honor, family honor, ownership, fame, power, faith, etc) are no less real than friendship, love, humor, art, reason, exaltation, and other things I think are wonderful :-)

The original author's message of emotional and political disengagement from certain "traditional" kinds of social arrangements may be appealing as rants go... but personally I'd rather have value systems explicitly spelled out as value systems rather than hidden in sloppy metaphysics...

(Also, Paul, yay for posting! I was afraid after no posts for all of July that you'd given up on the blog, which is great.)

jeremy s said...

At the beginning of the quote it says "We believe only in this universe." Why grant the universe ontological privilege over everything else? I guess it's a rather subtle distinction, but for me it's relevant. What if the universe itself is merely another erroneous projection of our minds? Anyhow, other than that, i think that quote expresses a pretty mature way of looking at - um - reality.

Jennifer: i am really puzzled by your answer; here's how I chew on it. Real detachment from ego-created constructs, far from being the result of arrogance, allows real connection with people. If I don't believe I can be insulted, I can't - it's as simple as that. It doesn't mean I cease to know what the feeling is; I just no longer identify with the insecure, vindictive - in short, deluded - part of my mind. I can still have compassion for those who suffer from wounded egos.

Also why pigeonhole someone's ideas? This idea comes from a book which calls itself Zen, although frankly the above quote expresses pretty succinctly the basic idea of Science. Who cares about the form an idea takes as long as it points toward truth? I think it reminds you of Stoicism because Stoicism had pretty radically profound ideas about the nature of the universe, as does Buddhism. Truth always sounds like truth no matter who says it. Except for Libertarians. (j/k)

Anonymous said...


(This is Clare's dad) If you are not money as your blog says, I would pose the same challenge that Jesus posed to the lawyer all those years ago. And I hope you do better than I (and he) did. Let me know if you are unaware of the reference.

Best regards, Dave

Unknown said...

Jennifer, well said.

Jeremy, Jennifer wrote very clearly and expressed herself well. If you are confused, the fault does not lie with her.

Tinkering Master said...

1. What is the definition of reality?
2. How do you recognize reality when it presents itself?


Davorin said...
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Davorin said...

you should all see the film "Zeitgeist" (look it up, you can freely download it) and "What the bleep do we know".

ps ...i have nothing against faith, but everything against religion. i seek the truth, whatever it may be.

peace! :-)

Álvaro said...

I totally agree with you. Most of the actions people take daily are much more based on tradition and education than on plain logic.

Which just means people make bad decisions based on wrong assumptions.

Which just means this world is pretty messed up.

Unknown said...

Brad Warner Rocks!