My Make Believe Parking Lot
Let’s say I drive to work, stop, and look at the parking lot. I see cars and trucks in front of me, laid out in vertical columns, and hundreds of empty spaces.
I’m not sure if any of this is real. How much of it is my own creation?
I know a few things. I know that the entire experience comes to me through several layers. I see it through the lens and retinal cells of my eyes. The retina sends signals to my brain, which chemically paints a picture that I ‘see’ with the same brain. So, I’m really ‘seeing’ a chemical representation of what might be real. A painting, so to speak. I’ve crawled inside, and I call it real.
A butterfly sees it differently. They have compound eyes with hundreds or thousands of lenes. As far as we know, their brain puts these hundreds or thousands of images together into one picture. It’s a good story, but I don’t know if any human has looked through a butterfly’s eye or seen the image painted in a butterfly’s brain.
Mostly, though, butterflies make their way through the world using their feet to smell. I don’t know if their brain puts together a smell picture or if they just sense an odor as humans do.
And what does the parking lot ‘look’ like to a mouse or snake? My dog would define it by sniffing tires. How in the world would a bacteria ‘see’ it? As shapes to scoot around in a search for food? Certainly, bacteria don’t see in the sense of having vision, but they do sense the world around them and respond to it. Probably exactly how God describes human behavior.
Are We Making This Up?
What interests me most is my capacity to make this whole thing up. Are the cars and trucks vertically lined up because I impose that shape on them? Could they just as easily, in my mind, be seen arranged diagonally? Could they all be shiny blue Lamborghinis if I imagined them as such? How closely does someone else’s vision align with mine? And if it’s all imaginary, how can a partner tell me how far from the yellow truck I hold my hand? Why don’t we argue about the color tone of the Lamborghinis? Robin’s egg blue or midnight?
All good stuff for thought. Or is it thought? I still wonder if I make it up.
Some say that ‘reality’ is made up, a construct, an imagination. Deepak Chopra says this and I have no basis for saying that he’s wrong. But, I see the parking lot in layers. Layers easily viewed by anything with a layer sensing device. I use eyes and a brain. A butterfly uses feet and a brain. My dog uses a nose and eyes and a brain.
Did Jesus Know It’s All Made Up?
Of course, Chopra explains that Eastern mystics have known this for millennia. But, how much of that statement is a construct? I wonder how much of what the Gods say reflects our own culture? When I read the Gospels, I don’t get any sense from Jesus that I’m inventing a personal reality. I sense that He argues from the point that what we see is very real. Even when Satan drags him to the top of the Temple to jump off, Jesus declines. Wouldn’t this be the perfect moment to call the disciples and show them reality? To teeter off the edge in comedic unbalance, and then to fall off, screaming, only to catch Himself, sitting at a feast of lamb, a foot from the ground? “Reality is as you invent it,” He would say. In Aramaic. And I would invent me knowing Aramaic. And understanding the whole thing.
I have some weird experience with this. Eighteen months ago I was on my bicycle and was hit by a car. After waking from a month-long coma, a went to Atlanta’s Shepherd Center where they hoped I would walk in two to three years. “Let’s talk about going back to work after he walks,” they told my wife.
Every Monday was test day with my six therapists. And every Monday they would drop their heads and say to me, “There is no way you are doing this.” In time, the called me The Miracle Man. In a month, I walked. The three, I returned to work.
I take no credit for any of my improvements except that I never once guessed that I couldn’t walk. I wore a boot, and when it was taken off, I started walking. It’s what I expected. When I left, I did all my entry tests over, to assess my condition. A doctor went over the results with me. “Those surgeons who put you back together,” he said. “They’re magicians. I can’t even tell how badly you were injured.” He looked at me with a smile. “And I saw you when they first drug your crumpled shell in here.”
I still hurt from head to toe during all waking hours. THAT’S the construct I’m working on now. But it’s so weird to me how my body knit back together without me really trying. Maybe knowing that I was in one of the country’s premier hospitals for brain injury made it happen?
This whole thing feeds into my fascination these days: to hold on to beliefs with a loose grip. With questions and forgiveness and mercy. Both toward yourself and toward other human beings.
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