Another bit of thinking from what passes for a mind in this sack of meat and chemicals. It follows a line of reasoning I’ve been picking at for a while, which starts from the assumption that reality, as we experience it, is a construct of our nervous systems and associated senses which translates it’s chaos and terrifying glory into something we can comprehend. The first filter is the point of contact; our senses. We can only hear a limited range of sounds, and see a limited range of the electromagnetic spectrum, so our view of reality is already restricted. This data is then filtered through our unconscious minds and edited according to a whole slew of psychological factors which we were either born with (animal fight or flight instinct, territoriality) or had imprinted on us during our childhood (Basic morals and ethics, social conditioning). Finally, the language we use comes into play when we want to communicate our experience to others and they want to communicate theirs to us. We have to organise our thinking according to the rules (overt and unwritten) of that language. What we end up with is a picture of reality that is more revealing of ourselves than it is of real Reality.
So, this piece starts from the assumption that “Perception = Reality”, of which the inverse is not necessarily true, and forms the basis of an honest personal morality. We’ve no way of knowing unless we can experience it directly, without using our nervous systems and all the baggage they come with and forms the basis of an honest personal morality.
I have added and edited for clarity and to improve the flow, jotted as this was in short spurts between editing images of scary children’s nightlights it was rather disjointed, more like lecture notes than anything publishable. This is the first piece that I’ve done this for on any great scale, and I will inform you if I do it again to such a degree. Onwards!
An Honest Morality
Perception = Reality
A simple enough statement you might think, it works on many levels and in many situations. It becomes really interesting when we consider the things that can influence our perceptions. Language plays a big role, bigger than you might expect. How you describe your reality to another person and the language you use actually influences your perceptions, sometimes quite subtly. Try removing the word “is” from your vocabulary. You can replace it only with existing words. Instead of saying “The sky is blue” you’d have to say “The sky seems to me to be blue” or some other variation thereof. See? Reality, or your perception of it at least becomes more flexible with the removal of ‘is’. There is no certainty, which reflects reality as it is. Language is a key component in our perceptions, we use it every day and like a drip of water building up a stalagmite over millenia, using language gradually imprints in us various attitudes and biases which influence our experience of reality.
Following this logic, if language influences how we see reality, then lying about the reality we perceive could distort it. Let’s start from there.
Lying distorts your perceptions. Honesty causes your perceptions to more closely conform to true Reality. This gives us a concrete basis for a personal morality that is not handed to us by an en external ‘authority’. Some guidelines which occur to me are as follows, in order of priority:
- Don’t lie to the universe. Don’t try and tell the universe it is something, when you have no reliable way of knowing what it is. Believing that you know, with certainty, what the universe is, is probably the ultimate distortion of perception, and removing it should be a priority. The best we can make are educated guesses, certainty is the height of arrogance.
- Don’t lie to yourself. Be truthful about your actions, and their motivations. Be truthful about your experience of reality.
- Don’t lie to others. When describing your experience of your reality be as honest as possible. It is worth remembering that language naturally distorts anything passing through it so until we’re gifted with telepathy we’ll have to do our best with what we’ve got.
- Don’t allow others to lie to you. Tricky, I know, but a good strategy is to simply be honest with them, they’ll be more likely to respond with honesty of their own.
- Accept nothing at face value unless you can personally verify it’s honesty to your satisfaction.
We can never assert honestly that anything ‘is’. I don’t mean that we can’t say that something exists, this is not solipsism. Something must exist, for us to be able to exist, we can never be certain about what it is though. All we have to base our personal picture of reality on is our limited senses and the filters of our nervous systems. As I have said before one of these filters is the language through which we describe our experiences to ourselves and others. It follows then, if we are using ‘dishonest’ language we are creating subtle flaws in the filters of our nervous system. These flaws become unconscious biases which in turn lead to such things as envy, hatred, greed, selfishness, pride, anger etc. (See a parallel there? – K[now]) and other less malignant biases, some may even be considered beneficial. It should be remembered though, that these ‘beneficent” are still biases, i.e. the result of flaws in our perception which may cause us to value one person, place, or object more than others. They may serve good purposes, but we should always be willing to give them up if their usefulness or beneficence fades.
The first step towards becoming aware of these biases, thereby the flaw, and ultimately the shape of the dishonesty that caused it, is simply to be aware of how you are describing the universe to yourself (thinking) and communicating your experience of it to others. By being conscious of the language we use to think, and talk to others, and testing it rigorously for honesty (always to our own satisfaction) we can adjust that layer of the filter through which we peer.
So the key to a personal morality is fairly simple; honesty. Honesty with the universe, yourself, and everyone else you encounter, and the ability to simply ponder a little about what you’re thinking and saying and why. We can all think can’t we? It’s not that hard.