Things You Think Are Real But Are Actually Not Real
This is an evolving post...
The following is a list (so far just one) of things that seem to be one way, but are not actually that way. Or so I’ve found after my own reflection.
You Think You’re Inside.
You’re not Inside. There is no Inside. The feeling you think of as Inside is a convenient fiction.
Inside, indoors, sheltered. There’s a feeling to this state that isn’t easy to define. It’s that safe, smug difference you feel when you walk into a warmly lit house after being outside on a dark and alienating night. That difference is one of those feelings that spills the bounds of its literal definition. What I mean by that: The reductionist, literal definition of being indoors is that there are four walls around you and a roof over you. As a physical fact that’s pretty two-dimensional. There’s not much interesting to say about that. But the way it feels is enormous. That feeling doesn’t seem to fit into the small and shallow container of
four walls and a roof.
For me, at least, it’s a total shift in perception. As I cross the threshold it’s like entering or exiting a drug experience. The nature of reality as I knew it outside the door is replaced wholesale with this new Interior reality. The world contracts to the perimeter of the walls. I can see the outside world through the windows, but it’s like a flat, simulated image - incomprehensible that there’s depth to it… The reverse is true - I walk outside again and the interior of my house is erased from my perception and inaccessible to palpable imagination. The boundaries of experience explode out in all directions. In, out, in; parallel universes.
It’s a paranormal feeling. But it’s also comforting. It’s a warm and cozy buzz.
The feeling likely has roots in our ancient animal history. It’s not just that we’re between walls, it’s that we’re: out of sight of predators, protected from weather that could kill us, back amongst our kin.
For people in relatively safe parts of the developed world, those deep evolutionary comforts are rendered irrelevant. There is no sabretooth tiger waiting in your azaleas to tear out your throat. You’re unlikely to be killed by the weather on most days. Being amongst your kin is nice, but isn’t necessary for survival.
Once you see that, then you must trim away the extraneous warm and cozy buzz that gets smuggled in with Inside: all you’re left with is our bare, reductionist definition of
four walls and a roof. You have no grounds to feel that aforementioned paranormal safe, smug difference when you walk into the warmly lit house…
The special sort of warm and fuzzy Inside that you thought existed at the beginning of these paragraphs doesn’t exist.
The only one that exists is the literal, reductionist one: four walls and a roof that hides the night sky from your view.
So this is one sense in that there is no Inside…
But wait! That reductionist, night-sky-hiding Inside matters more than the warm and cozy one with its ancient connotations! We’re scientifically-literate, modern, thinking apes! We understand our place in the universe! For that very reason we should be more thankful for the reductionist definition of Inside.
I lied to you with the previous conclusion… the fuzzy Inside feeling is not a holdover from our evolutionary prey past. But your senses have lied to you, too. You’ve been granted a temporary amnesia 1:
“I’m not floating in an infinite black void. I’m in my kitchen!”
The fuzzy feeling is what it feels like to temporarily forget about our terrifying place in an infinite universe. To forget that you’re a pile of particles - or worse, a bunch of vibrating fields.
You can’t escape that truth, it’s always out there, Outside. You can’t go Inside into an alternate space that doesn’t occupy that ontological real estate. But the illusion of the walls and roof helps you to forget for a while.
So, as I said above: You think you’re inside, but you’re not. Because “Inside” – – isn’t. Sure, walls and roofs exist, but the really meaningful form of “Inside” doesn’t.