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Reality and Truth! Oh my!
by Stewart Blackburn

I recently was sent an email that called on me to be as clear as possible about two things that I try to avoid: reality and truth. I present to you this exchange not so much as a teaching of wisdom, but rather as a seed for thought and discussion. I hope you find it useful.

Where is the line between the Truth and solipsism? Where does the actual real world end, and my perception of it begin?

Further, what are the limits (are there any?) of what can happen by truly believing it can happen and intending it to be so? ANSWERS:
From a philosophical perspective solipsism (the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist) isn't what we're talking about when we say that the world is what╩you╩think it is. This is merely a way of saying that my reality, as I experience it, can be very different from the reality that you experience.

I, personally, stay away from words like reality and truth because the implication is that there is an objective reality out there that is independent of me and that the "truth" is also independently objective.

The problem with these notions is that all knowledge is dependent on observers who both observe and interfere with experiences differently. It has to do with meaning, which is the story that connects two or more experiences in our mind. We make up meaning; it come from the imagination. We can make it up any way we like and we can change it when it suits us.

This is why we say that effectiveness is the measure of truth. The closest we come to any BIG truth is when something works well for us. Otherwise, these ideas are assumptions we make that may or may not be useful. I don't find the idea of The Big Bang very useful so I don't have any opinion of its "truthfulness." The essential goodness of all humans I find to be a very useful assumption. So I would call that a "truth." However, it really is only an assumption I choose to make.

From a shaman's perspective, all of what we call "reality" is a dream. In fact, there are numerous spiritual philosophies that declare the perceived world as all an illusion. That is only useful to me if it implies that I can then change my reality with my will. So I make that assumption as well. Does my experience validate my assumption? It does often enough to encourage me to keep it. But that certainly doesn't mean that it works all the time. So I make up various reasons why it did or did not work and move on.

To me the next rational question is, on what basis then do I make my assumptions? Since I can't really know everything about what is going on here and the evidence is contradictory, at best, what can I do with this big confusing mess known as reality?

My answer is to look at what is important to me, and judge on the basis of how any assumption or meaning works in my life. Since I have chosen to be happy, I make assumptions that foster my happiness. I make decisions based on the overall pleasure they will bring, and I make up meanings that support my happiness. That is, I find stories that make me feel good.

I don't have to make these choices this way. I could choose any way I like to sort out the mysteries of life. But none of the other ways gives me the deep satisfaction that I love. So I choose the view of reality that I enjoy most. And in living this way, things seem to turn out in my favor most of the time.

Again, from my perspective, the happier I remain, the easier it is to experience those things that I desire to experience. Part of that, undoubtedly, is a willingness to enjoy whatever it is that I am presented with. The masters of the East were very good at finding happiness this way. However, I think that we are also creative beings and that part of our role on Earth is to be dissatisfied to some extent and to explore new arenas of pleasure. So the ethic becomes one of pleasure being the highest good, so long as the experiences are genuinely pleasurable. This, of course, takes us into Hedonism and then on to the higher realms of spiritual experience.

As a part of that experience, changing reality with our minds is quite do-able, it just requires a great deal of focus and energy if that reality we seek is very different from the consensual one. Just the same, it does seem that all things are possible, though some may not be worth the extra effort.

We are playing a game, like checkers or chess, that we call life. We have certain rules that we play by. You can move a King four spaces to the right, but then you're not playing chess. In the same way we have rules of existence on Earth and some things we desire go beyond those rules. Can the rules be changed? Probably. There's no reason not to go find out. I encourage you to go exploring and report on your results!

Stewart Blackburn is an Alakai of Huna International living in Hawaii. He is the author of The Skills of Pleasure: Crafting the Life You Want. His website is:; email:

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