Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Reified Optical Illusions of Self & Nature


How Ideas Create Optical Illusions of Oneself and Nature

This post examines how ideas and language combine to create subtle optical illusions within our mind’s imagined sense of reality. Examining how we build on the ideas learned in early childhood to create conscious illusions of knowing. Explaining how looking into oneself is as difficult as looking into the sun. For just as l adopt a reified sense of the sun by conflating my idea of the sun with the reality of the sun, l am guilty of reifying my own and nature’s reality.

Guilty of unwittingly mistaking my mind's learned ideas about reality for what is truly real. With my thought processes reifying my reality with the ideas l use to describe my facial anatomy, for example. Effectively creating a reified conscious illusion because just as my eyes can’t see the elemental reality of the sun, I cannot consciously know the elemental reality of my eyes. 

So using the philosophical frame “a map is not the territory” while looking at this photo of my face, I feel for a visceral awareness of Einstein’s “reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” Trying to understand the how reification underpins the reality mapping purpose of our abstract ideas. Becoming viscerally aware of ideas and words as surface impressions lacking a true depth of comprehension.

Lacking a depth of insight and understanding, as an illusion of knowing, conceptually reduces my face to something like a two-dimensional drawing. And although I can’t remember being taught the idea I speak as the word David. l imagine this was how l began to conflate abstract ideas about reality with reality.

While the meaning of conflation — joining, combining into one — blends with the meaning of reification (regarding something abstract as a material thing), whenever l unwittingly project the abstract nature of the word sun onto the material reality of the sun. Or whenever l regard the abstract nature of the word face as the material reality of my face. If l don't differentiate the subjective nature of my mind from the objective nature of reality, I commit the sin of a reification-fallacy.

And these days l can feel the way my reification-fallacy became functionally automatic long before l learned to ride a bike, and only hope this bike riding analogy conveys an initiating sense of perceptual wisdom this blog is about. As this post explains a prison of consciousness, as the way we use our imagination to form reality identifying ideas and soothe our existential anxiety.

While in the philosophical context of no map being the territory, do our faces have a kind of landscape or terrain? And just as l have used my smartphone to gain an informed awareness of the optical illusion of sunrise, l use its camera to transcend illusions of knowing my reality. Studying the muscular motions of my face, especially my eyes to realize I don't know the cause of these movements.

Sometimes I catch my phone recording the facial motions of a spontaneous smile, not the half-face smile seen in response to a conscious command, but a subconsciously orchestrated, full-face smile. A smile that involves the muscular language of my body, as 43 muscles beneath the skin of my face respond simultaneously to a whole body sense of feeling good.

And noticing my face’s involuntary muscular motions helps me become more aware of other reflexive movements like walking and talking. Helping me to understand just how much my behavior is subconsciously orchestrated by my nervous system without any need for conscious awareness. Reminding me of the way adaptive behaviors become and remain functionally automatic. And how l was born with an instinctive capacity for behavioral adaptation and a sentient ― endowed with feeling consciousness ― awareness of reality?

And just as l imbibe — receive and retain — the elemental nature of earth’s atmosphere, l let the reality of this snapshot photo of my face pour into my eyes. Then deliberately use my smartphone camera to contemplate the existential difference between what l see and feel when looking at the photo of my face and what I see and feel when watching a real-time video of my face on it's screen.

Doing so with a awareness of all the images l have seen depicting reality beneath my skin, like the unseen muscles and nerves that create a spontaneous smile. Images and information about my internal reality that have been instrumental in my struggle to understand the illusory nature of my consciousness. Wanting to understand how Einstein’s notion of a prison works as a real-time experience of being alive.

Often wondering, “is an existential prison created by my imagination and an almost complete ignorance of my reality?” Like the self-ignorance of imagining the word brain contains any insight or understanding of the 100 million cell composition of my brain. And just as l contemplate the seen and unseen reality of earth’s atmosphere, l contemplate the seen and unseen nature of my body. Using the images and information available on the internet, to discover the adaptive realizations that enable me to escape the perceptual paradox that imprisons me.

While from this perspective of conscious illusions, I try to comprehend the real-time way I see nature’s reality in the background of the above photo. And every word I think of lacks the depth of comprehension inherent in human language. With this lack of in-depth awareness created by assigning names to everything I see. As if I see the multi-layered reality of nature yet simultaneously press the flatten button on an image manipulation program inside my head.

With the outcome of my automatic edit of seeing reality as mere words acting like the instruction on the above image, “merge all layers into one and remove the nature of reality?” And paradoxically, whenever I am focused on the physical actions of doing something, I can easily lose the mindfulness of reification and distance myself from reality with the automatic functioning of my mind. Until I remind myself that ideas as words like plants, concrete, head, hair, pendant, Naga serpent, beads, etc., are the functional illusion of my mind’s ability to map the outer surfaces of reality. 

As I try to experience Einstein's idea of an optical delusion of consciousness and why R. D. Laing said "we are all in a post-hypnotic trance induced during early infancy." An influential comment in my effort to understand how my mind’s cognitive skills and psychological projections became as automatic as riding a bike. And whether a subtle imaginary-blindness underpins Laing's comment. An ongoing effort to understand and communicate that led to this video:

This video explores the way feelings of parental love create our trance state consciousness and how it is induced during our early life behavioral adaptation to the distinctly human behaviors of walking and talking. Suggesting that adaptive realizations about our conscious relationship with reality can create feelings of rapture towards the miracle being alive within a Cosmos that is overwhelmingly hostile to human existence.

This notion of trance state consciousness and our conscious illusions of the seen and unseen nature of reality is explored in the next post.

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