Let’s get ‘Real’

Assuming we’re not hostile to Science for religious or other reasons, we really ought to take on board some of its newest findings, however strange or disturbing some of them might seem to be, especially if we’re at all interested in being ‘real’. Imagine you’re sitting at a table. It has a flat top, and four legs. Things can be placed on top of it and, if you lean on it, it’ll bear your weight. So far, so good. But stop, and think !

What’s that table made of? It’s made of atoms. What are atoms ‘made of’? The surprising (if not shocking) answer is, 99.99% empty space !! If an atom were the size of London’s Albert Hall, its nucleus would be the size of a pea, and surrounding electrons would be the size of fleas, whizzing around somewhere inside that cavernous emptiness. An atom is therefore extremely insubstantial. That table should be more like a ‘ghost’ than a solid entity. Why then do we experience it as a substantial ‘thing’ that’s materially ‘real’?

The clue lies in the word ‘experience’. There’s no little person inside our heads, looking through our eyes at that table. On the contrary, electromagnetic radiation (otherwise known as light) bounces off the table and enters our eyes. This incoming information is processed by electro-chemical activity in our brains, and is used to fabricate the mental image of a table, which we then experience or, in other words, ‘see’. That internal image, however, will not be of the actual 99.99% emptiness, but of a seemingly solid object, with shape and colour etc. It’s very helpful of our brains to do this. It stops us blundering around, and falling over everything.

Have we taken this on board? What we are ‘seeing’, is a creation of our brains. It obviously (and helpfully) bears some sort of relationship to what lies around us, but that relationship is not one of direct representation. What we ‘see’ is not what is there, in and of itself. You may now be thinking, “Wait a minute. I can touch that table and experience its solidity”. I have counter-intuitive and potentially disconcerting news for you. You can’t ! It’s impossible for something to ‘touch’ anything. 

Has it dawned on you yet that, like the table, you too are made of atoms, which means that you too are 99.99% empty space? Now you’ve no choice but to believe in ghosts, being one yourself !! Your fingers, as well as the table, are made of atoms. Outermost in these atoms are the electrons, which are all negatively charged. What happens if you try to make the same poles of two powerful magnets touch each other? They absolutely can’t, and neither can your fingers ‘touch’ that table. The electrons’ similarly charged electrical fields prevent any such thing from happening. Once again, it’s the electro-chemical processing in our brains which interprets what’s happening, and creates an experience, this time of what we call ‘solidity’ and ‘touch’.

To go back, for a moment, to our accustomed, ‘common sense’ notion of ourselves as ‘looking out’ at this universe in which we live, we now know, despite what ‘our eyes tell us’, that there is more or less nothing there. Nothing other than the ever ongoing, intricately complex, totally interrelated, whirling cosmic dance of the intangible and invisible force fields that we call ‘Energy’ (not that we can understand and explain precisely what that is) . Everything that we experience, what we see, hear, taste, smell and touch, is the creation of that self-same, electro-chemical processing inside our skulls. Every one of us is a creative artist extraordinaire!

This is something we have to come to terms with. It has to be taken into account in whatever beliefs we hold, and whatever opinions we offer. Let’s just say, for starters, that it seems to fatally undermine ‘materialism’ as a viable or useful world view. That view doesn’t seem to have very much in it ! Maybe it also is 99.99% empty space. Let’s think some more …..

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