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Turning Points

What’s Real?

In some cases, this form of doubt becomes so pervasive people not only question the ability of others and the world to satisfy them in any lasting or deeply significant way, they even come to doubt the substantial existence of the outer world. Of a philosophical and intellectual bent, they sense that the world may be (or is) but an appearance, an inconstant reality which their senses cannot adequately communicate to them and which their minds may be falsely presuming to be as they think it is. To many Buddhists — after years of spiritual exercises — the world is seen as a play of spirit, conscious energy, reaffirming itself every split second, but it is essentially spirit and nothing else. Others say the world may be pure energy expressing itself in combinations of atoms, but the world surely has a relative reality since when you move your atomic head against the atomic wall, there will be an atomic pain and perhaps even an atomic bruise.

These "relativists" say whether you want to call the world an atomic/molecular phenomenon or not, it is real. Relativists further observe that however involved or non-material your philosophy may be, there are commonly shared views of the world which enable vast possibilities of interrelationships, whether each person's perceptions of reality are similar or amazingly divergent. Culture, society, learning, and thousands of other areas establish that there are numerous units of awareness shared in common each moment.

For example, billions of people travel each day, and most observe traffic laws and courtesies which protect life. At every intersection there is a sharing of reality, even in argumentative societies. Most of the time people agree who should proceed and who should wait for the light to change. Shared perceptions enable people to have standards in cooking, communication, chemistry, medicine, construction, law, and even rock-and-roll. So, relativists maintain the world is real, on its own, independent of human thoughts and feelings, even though each person's mind may register inputs from the world entirely differently.

A consideration of different views of reality is a fascinating pursuit on its own. However, the shocked and overturned doubter wants his pain to stop; he doesn't want to explore philosophies and physics.

Distrust of the World 

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