In the pages to come you will find an invitation. It’s an invitation to consider a strange and counter-intuitive possibility:
What we see when we open our eyes in the morning is actually not the world itself but is rather our shared description of the world.
Now, you would think that we simply use a description of the world to think about it, to talk to others about it, and to act within it. That’s as our culture’s explanation would have it. However, in this other possibility, we are instead reemerging from our nighttime sleep to a multi-sensory picture that represents our description of the world. The world and its description are two very different things. And I have found that this idea compels a reexamination of who and what we are.
During the course of my examination of this idea, that we humans focus our attention on a description of the world and not on the world itself, I found myself changing my idea of what is pointed to by the term “human being”. During that shift I came to see that very few of us have ever examined what we mean when we use that term.
In the normal course of events, we take for granted our existence as separate creatures.
We use the term “human being” to identify what we are, but we take the meaning of that label as a given.
For most of us, being human is one of those unexamined foundational ideas on top of which we place all kinds of other assumptions and conclusions. I hope to show that examining those predicates will call into question everything we’ve ever believed about who we are.
My intention in recording this story is twofold. First, it is for me a way to clarify and further sharpen my sense of the continuity and evolution of my journey. In doing so I’ve also found it to be an illuminating and deeply settling experience. And second, it’s another experiment in what has revealed itself to be a lifelong chain of experiments. It is an attempt to see if my understanding of my journey—and my acceptance of its central idea—can be communicated in such a way as to encourage someone else to come to the conscious awareness of who we really are and what our lives have actually been about.
I will present this story in three parts. First, I will describe the idea that captivated me in as much detail as I’ve been able to appreciate. Second, I will present a selection of my personal memories, my life story as seen through the lens that the idea provides. And finally, I will examine what might be the implications of living within the scope of the idea.