Seeing is believing, right? I mean, that’s what we’re supposed to believe in, the things we see. We’re taught that from pretty early on. The monster in your head isn’t real, the table in the kitchen is real. The imaginary friend isn’t real, the person telling you to pick up your clothes from the floor is real. If you can see it, it’s real. If you can’t, it’s not.
Science supports and expands this definition, as we grow. If you can test it, using a sense or a device that will feed information into one of the senses, then it is real. If you cannot perceive it using one of the five senses, test it and measure it – then, it isn’t.
This is a good simple definition of reality. It is one I can access and, being an intelligent person, can see the utility and the rationality of it. Really, it is not useful to walk into tables because you don’t believe in them. It is, in fact, painful. It is equally useless to run from a monster which will not catch you because it doesn’t exist. This is a waste of time. I support our belief system, where WYSIWYG is in charge (what you see is what you get) and am happy to rely on it.
However, when this system is applies to me, to the things I think and feel, believe and enjoy, it falls apart. Maybe there is an explanation involving neurons, childhood experiences, and genetics that explains my preference for the colour purple and distaste for green. Maybe there are reasons involving evolution, pheromones, nurture, and body temperature explaining why I love my children. These explanations exist, they’re fun to study and maybe they help some people. I, however, find them both unsatisfying and not very useful.
I like the colour purple because I like the colour purple. I don’t want to have my liking for purple explained away, because it serves me well to like purple – it helps me chose clothes, cards, decorations and anything else where colour is a factor. If I understood that my preference was based on the way the neurons in my head have built up, then why would I listen to that preference? And if I didn’t, how would I choose between the green and the purple dress?
Preference, love, courage, joy, belief…I would rather keep my ignorant, unscientific beliefs with no visible support whatsoever. If that means believing in imaginary friends, I will do so. “How,” ask certain of my friends “can you be so naïve, so unscientific? How can you ignore your senses this way? How can you be so dumb?”
Eh, I can be dumb. I go with what works. Believing that tables aren’t there doesn’t work for me. I bump into them and I get hurt. Believing that God doesn’t exist doesn’t work for me either. I feel bereft of support and I get hurt. Sometimes, that makes me sound dumb. Sometimes, the responses I get are, “you believe in WHAT?” I do. I believe in magic, and spirits and unicorns and I believe in God. My belief has given me much that is worthwhile, and I see no reason to dismiss it, just because it can’t be weighed, measured, proven or seen. I like the world I see when I believe in unicorns. It’s a more wonderful, more magical, more enjoyable world. I prefer “believing is seeing” to “seeing is believing” and I intend to go with that preference, even if there is no scientifically valid reason for it.