Ever since I was a teenager in an English midlands city, I have been aware of the feeling that I was somehow missing something rather important about reality. Nothing else could explain why, unlike everyone else, I didn’t want to work in a factory or a bank, or why the other boys had girlfriends and had seemed to lose their virginity at the age of ten, whereas I still didn’t know how to say hello to them.
Later, at University, the feeling became even stronger. It was not so much a fear of missing out, but a fear that I was living in the wrong reality. I had not studied any quantum physics then, but I was already painfully aware that there was more than one universe.
The world we think we live in does not exist out there. Out there, it is all light waves and lots of things we can’t see, and dancing particles that exist for a nano second. Reality is being created and destroyed all around us all the time.
The grass is not green. It is something that reflects the green part of white light. It has no colour itself. Nothing does. The colour bit happens inside our heads, where, interestingly, it is totally dark.
There is no sound out there, either. Out there, there are silent wave patterns zipping around, and when they enter our heads, our brains turn them into music and birdsong.
My random reading of philosophers and the great religious teachers and mystics, all said the same thing.
The world I sense is like the desktop on my computer. To gain access to this file, I click on an icon at the top left of my screen, and it comes up in front of me. It works; it is useful. But it is not true!
What I am looking at does not come from the top left of my computer. It doesn’t actually look like the icon.
If I could see what it really was . . . circuits, chips, numbers . . . I wouldn’t be able to write this post. Most probably, I would go mad.
Reality is the same. We sense the desktop of reality, and it enables us to eat stuff, drink stuff, make stuff, even buy stuff, but it is not the actual stuff itself. Our brains filter it, codify it, censor it, and we forget it is all constructed inside our heads.
Just as the word “rose” is not a rose, so the thing “tree” is not really a tree!
And now, I read in Quantum Magazine . . . a serious source, I think . . . that my worst fears are confirmed. Reality does not exist! It is almost official.
The American neuro-scientist, Donald Hoffman, sums it up in the truism that the evolutionary quest for usefulness will always trump the quest for truth.
Hoffman says, “quantum physicists marvel at the strange fact that quantum systems don’t seem to be definite objects localized in space until we come along to observe them. Experiment after experiment has shown—defying common sense—that if we assume that the particles that make up ordinary objects have an objective, observer-independent existence, we get the wrong answers. The central lesson of quantum physics is clear: There are no public objects sitting out there in some preexisting space. As the physicist John Wheeler put it, “Useful as it is under ordinary circumstances to say that the world exists ‘out there’ independent of us, that view can no longer be upheld.”
So I was right all along. I was in a different world to all those beautiful girls. No wonder I couldn’t get to kiss them!
But the final laugh is with me, for now I am no longer there, they have no verifiable existence! I conjured them up, and I extinguish them in the blink of a particle.
(p.s. no offence is intended to any of my readers who I never meet!)