Reality is subjective

15 Oct
“Ceci n’est pas une pipe. This is not a pipe.” by Magritte

The painting above is of a pipe. Right? We see the photo and accept this observation. Till we read the caption. This is not a pipe.

But it is! Surely it is a pipe!  That was at least my first, confused reaction, maybe yours too. To contemplate otherwise, to accept that it is in fact something else than our initial sensory observation, would mean we need to find another function for it. That we need to challenge our existing knowledge and perception of a reality.

But what if, indeed, we entertain the possibility the above painting doesn’t simply depict a pipe? If we change our thinking towards the painting, then it does really become something else. Because reality is what we perceive it to be.

Anyone who considers themselves an idealist or an optimist, anyone who genuinely adores the old cliché of reaching for the stars and falling on the moon,  has probably heard the following phrase: Realist doesn’t get disappointed.

But the idea that optimism and realism would somehow close each other out of existence, that they’re total opposites and you need to choose one, is absurd. Because reality is changing, all the time, around us.

Let’s do a bit of time travelling. Do you think that when Wright brothers first came up with their idea of an aeroplane, people considered it realistic? Do you think that before yesterday it was considered realistic that a man could break the sound of speed, fall down 128,100 feet and land alive?( Few people did think so, Baumgartner and his team, but how many times have they been called crazy because of their dreams?

Felix Baumgartner

Do you think that in Ancient Greece, when geocentrism was the prominent cosmological view, it was imagined that one day this view would be turned completely upside down and inside out? Do you think that space travel, visiting the moon and floating in the edge of space were considered human acts?

All the above ideas were considered not only optimistic or idealistic, but down right ridiculous. Unbelievable.

However, all the above are also examples of commonly accepted views or universal paradigms that have changed through our time, like moving from geocentrism to heliocentrism. Who knows what we will discover next. So if reality can change this way, in a universal scale, why couldn’t you change your reality? Change the way you perceive your life?

To do this, to make something realistic, to make your dream achievable, all you have to do is believe that it is realistic and achievable. Optimism and idealism are needed to create progression.

Of course work is needed too. But if honest, solid belief if your basis for this work, if you know and believe in your heart that you can do it, then it doesn’t matter how many times you find yourself flat on the ground. Because when belief is your foundation, you don’t turn your gaze to the smudgy, grey leaves when you fall. Or at least, you don’t keep it there. You keep it fixed on your goal, on your dream, and you make your way towards it. Even if it feels that for a moment, you’re just going crawling-pace. But you’re moving.

Your dreams can be your reality. Believe it. Do it. Never give up.

Have a realistic, fantastic Monday!

Photo of the artwork from:


12 Responses to “Reality is subjective”

  1. David Emeron October 15, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    Dear lady, I am smirking here:. It is, indeed, not a pipe, but a drawing of a pipe.

    And, around 200 BC Eratostenes calculated the diameter of the Earth with an extremely clever experiment–and was only off by a few percentage points as well! Since that day, Virtually no one of any import believed the earth to be flat. They were, of course confused a bit regarding the lay of the continents; quite naturally, as no satellite images were available at the time! If had been around in 1492, it would have shown that notion to have been an “urban legend.” It has a similar historical veracity as the story of George Washington cutting down a cherry tree as a young boy. Neither is true. Both are taught in primary school in the US, for some reason. I’m not sure how these things come about, but they do seem to do so with some regularity.

    • daydreamdaisies October 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

      Wow, that is incredible. I never get enough of marvelling at human discoveries. Sometimes I even look at the contents of a shampoo bottle and think about all the chemistry that it has taken to create and put together or discover those ingredients. We’re pretty amazing, even if we are also capable of many sad things.
      But I see now that my dates were a bit off. Well, more than a bit! I must admit I need to revisit my history knowledge. But my point was notg about the dates really, it was simply that somewhere, sometime, it has been thought that the earth was flat. Or, for example, that Earth was the centre of our Solar System. Geocentrism was therefore the commonly accepted view, rather than heliocentrism. That was the reality at the time, but is it the same reality we live in now?
      Maybe I shoud rephrase the title: Reality is subjective. There are certain universal paradigms but even they have changed through the history of our time. So why couldn’t we then change our own reality, change the way we perceive life?

      • daydreamdaisies October 15, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

        Ps. I have now indeed updated the post a bit to accomodate the ideas and improvements I got out of your comment, thank you! : ) Hope my point is clearer to my readers now.

      • David Emeron October 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

        Well, there was no need to do that! It was just a friendly ribbing is all!
        As I mentioned, I’m really much more of a science guy than an humanities guy, to use the vernacular, however I’m married to a history and humanities nerd, and my very best friend other than she is an autodidactic polymath, who excels at “geeking out” on a variety of subjects, not the least of which is history. And I… well, I find myself the benefactor of their efforts, oftentimes.

        Not to mention the fact that, when I bring up ancient urban legends, they are both very quick to disabuse me of those kind of notions.

  2. David Emeron October 15, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    with footnotes!

    • daydreamdaisies October 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

      Oh I wanted to do it, don’t worry. I know you didn’t except me to. I like it better now and I appreciate feedback massively so I think it needed some modifying.
      And when it comes to geeking about science and humanities, I’m fan of both. I just happen to know more about literature/art/ than sciency stuff. So as a science guy, what do you think about this reality thing then, what’s your opinion, disagree or agree?

  3. Brie October 15, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    Love the post! I never give up and get back up again 🙂

    • daydreamdaisies October 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

      Thank you! And that’s great, be proud of yourself and take care! : )

  4. ruleofstupid October 15, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    Hey Daisies – it’s not a pipe, or a drawing of a pipe – it’s a collection of atoms. The atoms of paper, paint etc. They don’t depict a pipe – they depict another collection of atoms. We name that configuration ‘pipe’, but that’s a name, the thing of itself is still just ‘stuff in a shape’.
    I like your post, but I think there’s some confusion over reality and perception. We cannot change our reality – reality simply is. We can change things, our job, home etc. i.e. our lives within reality. We can change our opinions, understanding and views. But reality is fixed.
    Likewise reality has not changed from geo to heliocentric – we have just been able to see reality a little clearer.
    Not just pedantry, but a point about why we mistake reality so often – because we anthropomorphise, or egocentrise so much. We see what we want, assume, already believe, AND we think WE are right and the centre of it all.
    Similarly – to make your dream achievable, you can’t just believe it is. What if I dream of flying to Mars in a banana? One has to be wise with ones desires and dreams – they can be made real if they are realistic and we work at them.
    It’s true that many barriers between us and our dreams are actually only beliefs, but we must not cruelly judge people as simply ‘not trying hard enough’ if they dream of clean water which they don’t have to walk 10km for. Saying ‘anything is possible’ is also saying ‘you only don’t have it because you haven’t tried hard enough’.
    This supposed ‘new age freedom’ thinking is actually a toxic byproduct of a modern individualistic mindset, brought about from an admixture of false ideologies of meritocracy, a politics of greed and a culture of materialism.
    We don’t need to ‘be all we can be’ in a blind pursuit of things. Reality will not bend to our will. We need to look inside, learn what we truly need – wisdom, love, understanding, community – and only then ‘be a full expression of ourselves’ in a way which is harmonious to our reality.

    Sorry – I seem to have a bug up my —- about this subject as I wrote about it recently. I do very much like the intentions and ideals of your post (contrite face!)

    • daydreamdaisies October 16, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

      Oh no need to apologise, I loved your thorough analysis and am rather excited that my post sparked up this much to comment on!
      I think I see where you are coming from. I have also often pondered whether the ‘everything is possible’ approach is actually damaging because it can mean you aim too high and fall harder. Imagine if Wright brothers had simply jumped off a cliff because they were convinced that it is possible for humans to fly. But I believe that too often we have a tendency to underestimate ourselves, rather than overestimate. In a fit of disbelief or insecurity we can see our dreams as impossible and totally unrealistic. And overestimating ourselves sometimes is not bad because it might make us strive harder. Check out this great post about the matter by The Better Man Project:
      And when it comes to reality, I must say I might disagree with you a little bit. Because what is reality after all? Reality to us, whether you search for its definition in science books or in your own life, is always constrained by our perception. Yes, there is the scientific idea that when observing reality, we should always rely on sensory data to ensure objectivity, but even Popper himself argued that total objectivity over reality might never be fully gained because all people have preconceived ideas, beliefs, experiences, expectations and interest that affect their perception and observations, therefore also their understanding of reality. You actually demonstrated it yourself by challenging the idea that it is a pipe or it is a painting with your declaration that actually it is atoms. We could also say that at this current moment it’s actually also pixels because we’re not viewing the painting itself but the image of it on a screen. Therefore, it can be a pipe, a painting, an image, atoms, pixels or all these things, depending what the person who views it observes it as.
      But what I love is that there is so many different views on this, it’s pretty interesting eh? : )

      • ruleofstupid October 16, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

        I’m glad you responded positively. Post comment I worried I’d been a bit fierce panda – I read Betterman, and replied with my own post? – which is why I was so ‘geared up’ when I commented!
        I like your thoughts – and will poke some more by just saying…
        Popper et al. argue not over reality – or what reality is – they argue over our perception, a phenomenologist approach.
        I maintain reality just is, no matter what we do – we were heliocentric even when we believed otherwise – but our perceptions and interpretations change. I guess this is an argument about what ‘reality’ even means!
        Thankyou for jousting 🙂

      • daydreamdaisies October 16, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

        But isn’t reality shaped by our perception? 😉 Okay okay, guess we could go on forever. But don’t thank me, you started this. So thank you, I’ve enjoyed our little jousting 😀

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