But WHICH Reality?

In my frequent discussions about truth/reality, I’m often asked a question of this general sort:

“But which reality? The one about how things actually are, or the one that people perceive or believe?”

It’s a very common point of confusion in our society, yet to me, the difference between the two is like night and day. The definition of reality that I use goes something like this:

Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to one’s perceptions, beliefs, ideas, traditions, interpretations, attitudes, or wishes about them.

Our culture has so conflated these two things as to have trouble telling them apart. And in so doing, it has attached the labels of “reality” and “truth” to many things that are not remotely true or real—and doesn’t realize that it’s doing it.

The way I look at it, this common question is like asking me,

“But which sun? The bright yellow thing that heats our solar system, or the moon?”

That is, the sun and the moon are not even remotely the same thing. The sun is always on, and always does what it does. And the moon reflects the sun’s light—sometimes. Sometimes it’s a “full moon”—-in which only half of the moon’s complete surface is lit by the sun. And sometimes none of the moon’s surface is lit. And sometimes, it’s somewhere in between zero and half.

But the sun is not the moon, and the moon is not the sun. And really, who in the world could confuse the two? But if we were to go around calling both by the same name, that would be very confusing, indeed. And that’s what so many do with reality and perception.

It was Lee Atwater who became known for that popular statement “Perception is reality.” The popularity of it, however, does not make it true, any more than the popularity of a statement like “The moon is the sun” would make it true.

But we must ponder it long enough to understand that Atwater’s assertion is the logical equivalent of,

“Seeing the ocean is the ocean.”


“Climbing the mountain is the mountain.”

Both are nonsense. Yet when Atwater pulled this fallacy, it found huge acceptance among the masses, who adopted it widely as some axiom of this world, yet having not thought it through to realize the flaw in it.

And this is what the world does. They had done it before with Einstein’s work on Relativity, and had walked away from it with the new (and quite ignorant) idea that

“Everything’s relative!”

It was an idea that could not be applied consistently to the real world. For example:

QUESTION: Is the lamp on?
ANSWER: Well, that depends; it’s relative.


QUESTION: Are you pregnant?
ANSWER: Relative to what?

Yet they ran with it anyway, now backed up, they would tell themselves, by “science”. Yet the scientist (Einstein) had asserted no such thing–and said so on the record. But did they care? No. They kept on saying it anyway—and taught it to their kids and grandkids. And people still say it and believe it today—even if they don’t know the story of where the idea came from.

A scientist, also confused by this “Which reality?” question asked me one day, “But do you believe there’s such a thing as absolute truth?” And my reply was “Is there any other kind?”

If you ask me the question, “Does the sun still exist this morning?”, I’m not going to tell you, “Well, it does for me!”. Some might think to answer that way, but I wouldn’t, because I don’t think of reality the way that so many have come to see it. No, the sun exists for everybody and its existence is absolute. I don’t think that I have my own personality reality, from which to view the world for myself. The state of things does not depend on anyone’s say-so–on their opinions or perceptions of it. The sun either exists or it does not. And even if we, or the moon, do not see the sun’s light, the sun is still there. It is not relative. And it makes no difference whether you believe in the sun or not.

Gravity is always on—absolutely. Time always moves in the forward direction—absolutely. Cause-and-effect is always on—absolutely. The rule that life takes work is always on—absolutely. And these things are true, even if you might never have thought about one of them—-and whether you might not even like one of them. They are absolute truths. And so is the fact that you just read this sentence—-as this sentence is aimed at those still reading.

So that’s what I view the “which reality?” question as being just as nonsensical as the question:

“But which sun? The bright yellow thing that heats our solar system, or the moon?”

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