Is your reality the “right” one?

April 14, 2022

by Ravi Raman

​Beverly Joubert, the award-winning photographer, and filmmaker shared this amazing photo a while back on social media. 

Check it out…

Source: Beverly Joubert

What do you see?

When I first saw the image I thought it was a group of lost donkeys meandering through sand dunes. They seemed out of place. Perhaps the image was a statement about climate change and expanding deserts. I continued scrolling past the image but reversed back to take it in again. 

Then, I saw the caption:

“Where shadows become the solid form and striped backs are lost in the light. #zebramigration” 

Tricky zebra!

This dynamic is happening all the time. We see something in our experience of the world, and buy into it as objectively true, only to realize that something entirely different is going on. 

A few weeks ago I wrote about the slap heard around the world. I wasn’t trying to take sides, but instead, point out a fundamental principle of how the mind works. However, based on the number of opinionated responses I received, it’s clear that there are many different takes on the issue, and conflicting interpretations of what I wrote that differed from my original intent. 

Misunderstandings are inevitable and to be expected. After all, our reality cannot possibly be the “right one”. Even the title of this newsletter, “Is your reality the right one?” is a trick question. 

You can never have a “right” reality any more than your taste in art can be “right” or your judgment of what makes good or bad music can be “right”. Your favorite sports team is not the best one. Your beloved ice cream variety (mint chocolate chip!) is not unanimously tops either. People experience life through the eyes of the beholder, and right now there are nearly 8 billion beholders on the planet.

I don’t see this as a problem, as long as we remember this fact and hold perspectives at arm’s length. Even when you have strong conviction in your viewpoint, you can have an air-gapped understanding that your reality is subjective, and not a universal truth, like gravity or the first law of thermodynamics. 

The result of such an attitude will be a better understanding of important issues, less conflict, improved cooperation, and greater peace of mind. I can’t think of more helpful qualities to cultivate right now.

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