This all got started yesterday when the conversation drifted into the idea that we live in a world of self created realities. This is nothing new when you think about it because it is one of the things that separate us from the rest of the animals. Money is nearly universally accepted in the human world and it’s even gotten to the point where money is even more imaginary, and perhaps therefore more powerful than ever. Once, gold was traded for goods and services, but the value of gold came and went. Money these days is fairly stable. You know you can pay your bills online and never see a person, never see the money itself, yet you firmly believe in the system that keeps your lights on and the music playing on your computer. But the money is imaginary. It doesn’t really exist. Moreover, even when we did have our money in our pockets, it was a shared reality. The paper bills have an agreed value that nearly all humans invest in believing.
When I was in the Army two other men and I shared a room with three beds and a bathroom. There wasn’t a lot of squabbling or arguing because we simply did not have a choice in our living arrangements. Once out of service I had roommates but where there was more freedom to move or stay, there was also more conflict. The two realities that I shared with two different cultures dictated how I reacted to people who lived with me.
We share realities with everyone we know and everyone we interact with in our lives. We’re trustful of the people who serve us food in restaurants and we mistrust strangers in dark places. Women live in a different reality than do men. Women have to be more careful as to where they go when they are alone whereas I am very rarely in the company of other humans. I often wonder if I was a woman would I seek out the company of other humans for protection or would I simply adjust my lifestyle and carry a firearm?
All of this so far has been to set up an idea that I have about my reality versus the reality that others have. Sure, I do live in the world where I stop at red lights, pay taxes, don’t scratch my private parts in public, and wear clothes to work. I greet my co-workers, ask about their weekend and their kids, and I function throughout the day, reasonably so, and get paid. Yet whatever else might be going on in the realities of other people, most of what I think about doesn’t exist. At any given time I’ve got about three writing projects going. These projects all involve fictional people who have names, occupations, genders, and some of them will die horrible deaths. Some will be eaten by bears. No, really, they will.
Imagine you work in an office with seven people. The stratification begins with gender, age, length of time at the job, occupational position, race, if others share the same religion or go to the same church, sports teams, fishing, hunting, or even if there is a sexual attraction between two people, or more than two people for that matter. Yet all of this is based in realities shared by most other people. To be the only Muslim in an office, or the only person who keeps venomous snakes, or the only person who writes fiction, is to be a little more than a little different.
Here’s the part that’s really got me thinking; I suspect that if you were the only Muslim or the only writer in an office and no one knew about it, you would still be different from everyone else and they could, in some way, sense this difference. I don’t talk about writing and I never write in the office, yet at some level what I think about during the day as opposed to what everyone else is thinking about is radically different. While there’s some commonality in people who have kids in school, and perhaps the same school, even if they don’t talk about it it’s still a gravitational pull in future conversations, but there isn’t any way I can talk to people about writing even if I wanted to do so.
“My kid hit a home run today at school”
“I had three members of a rock band get eaten by a bear last night”
I’ve learned to listen patiently when someone is telling me about something one of their kids did at school, but I don't have kids. They are not part of my reality. When someone tells me one of their kids played sick to stay at home and intercepted a letter from the school detailing some disciplinary problem the kid had, what I start thinking about is a kid staying home from school and using his neighbor’s computer to threaten the president and have the poor man arrested by the Secret Service. The kid wants to use the man’s pool and the man won’t let him so the kid is…
“…and I have no idea where he gets it from.”
Oops. I kind of wandered away from the conversation there for a minute or seven. I’m this way about hunting, fishing, cars, trucks, shopping for things having to do with hunting, fishing, or cars or trucks, religion, politics, blood sugar conversations, and grandchildren. Don't get me wrong here. I do care about children and I do care deeply about their lives. But as a non child person it doesn't run as deeply as it does in parents.
The realities of the normal, kids and spouse, and school, and hunting and fishing, and NASCAR affect the people who live those lives. It creates a bedrock of interest that is a shared reality. My reality is centered around creating fictional characters and twisting the lives of these people so it’s an interesting read. And I suspect it gets deeper as it goes along. I’m willing to bet if you get ten people in a room and one of them is a writer or a poet or a painter, it won’t be long before that person is doing a detailed inspection of the house plants or talking to the cat.
Creativity affects a person’s ability to live in the reality shared by other people. I doubt it is as always pronounced as it is with me, but it still exists. The human mind accepts shared reality as a cultural norm and those whose realties are used in some art form cannot easily share the process of creation. We can only share the results.