What if everything you knew was wrong?
I must admit I didn’t resonate with many of the answers. That is a very profound question, but many of the answers seemed to take it lightly. I don’t get how people can answer with confident certainty to a question that asks about the possibility of the complete disappearance of the very foundation of all certainty in your life, in your very sense of reality. Its quite obvious that I have a very different read on that question.
I can only guess that anyone who answers with confidence is someone who has never had the type of experience implied by the question. I have had experiences that undermined my sense of reality and my sense of self, and my experience is that there is no answer to this question. Any answer would be a further claim of knowledge which according to the scenario would be wrong. My sense is that most respondants in that thread weren’t interpeting that questioning in its deepest meaning. Some even seemed to just take it as a linguistic game rather than as a soul-wrenching inquiry.
I’m not surprised by the responses. As this is Gaia, it was unsurprising that they largely were typical New Agey viewpoints. This makes me think of the research on optimism. From my understanding, an optimist (almost by definition) can’t take such a question seriously. The question presents a non-optimistic scenario, and so the optimistic response to it is how to reinterpret the question. The research I’ve looked at concludes that optimists tend to not accurately see reality as it is but instead as it might be. There is a correlation between optimism and extraversion, and so an optimist generally desires to turn outward. This question, on the other hand, offers us to turn within to the very ground (or rather groundlessness) of our being.
I’m not saying that the answers in that thread are wrong, but they are quite different than my own view. The main point of my writing all of this is about how much our experience determines our responses. Experience comes first and the responses we give based on that experience come after. In that sense, our verbal explanations always carry an element of rationalization. We feel such a strong need to explain and justify our experiences to ourselves and to others, but ultimately our experiences are non-rational. Our experiences can’t really be explained or even communicated. Our experiences seem to be at best their own justification, but the tricky part of the question is to consider that maybe our experiences aren’t justified.
I have felt frustrated by this recently. The most deeply genuine experiences I’ve had in my life seem impossible to communicate. In fact, they bewilder me to the point I hardly understand them. As implied by the question, they undermine my very sense of being able to know anything at all. I partly get annoyed at others’ confident certainty because I lack it. Then again, I’m grateful for my lack of confident certainty because it allows me to more easily see multiple perspectives.
The real frustration comes because I do want to communicate. I identify as a writer… and, yet, the most important experiences of my whole existence can’t even be touched upon by words. So, I spend a lot of time talking around in circles never coming to any satisfactory conclusion. The reason I write so often about ideas is that I can write about ideas. That is relatively easy. However, related to the question, that which exists beyond all ideas forever nags at my awareness.
I’ve been feeling a desire to instead turn to fiction. In some ways, fiction can get at these non-rational experiences better than other modes of verbal expression. But I don’t know if even fiction can capture or satisfactorily allude to my confused sense of reality. The challenge as I see it isn’t how to answer the question. What I want is to find a way to get beyond the question itself.