Individual Reality

Anna - Morganton, North Carolina
Entered on February 28, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

Have you ever sat down and thought about reality– seriously pondered what it is? Have you noticed that you may see an event taking place around you in a different way than the people right next to you? You know what I mean. It’s like when your parents say they have told you to do something, but you really have not heard them say anything at all. This gap happens because your perception of events, your reality, remains unique to you. I believe that every individual sees reality in a slightly different way.

Over the summer I had the privilege of spending six amazing and thought-provoking weeks at Governor’s School, a program that brings in students from all across my state to two different college campuses. We were all in Winston-Salem to learn about the specific area in which we were interested while getting a little taste of college life. During those six weeks I attended three different science classes, a philosophy class, and a self and society class. Of these five classes my favorite was philosophy. It was just one of those classes where nothing I said was wrong. One day I walked in and Amanda, my philosophy teacher, said, “Today we will be thinking about knowledge versus perception versus reality.” I was mystified; I had never actually considered that my perception of reality differed from any other person’s. Then followed the most complicated discussion I have ever had; if everyone perceives reality in his/her own way, then how can any one person define what should be done and why? Can you lock someone away because of something he has done when he may have felt that what he was doing right? Can I really stare someone in the eyes and tell him that his perception of reality is wrong?

I had one other encounter during those six weeks, though not quite so complicated, with this very concept. I had recently attended several science classes where we thought about the many ways to solve problems that most people would never consider. The particular problem we pondered focused on spaghetti. Sounds silly doesn’t it? Richard Feynman was known as the smartest man since Einstein. As a physicist and a genius in general, he worked on everything from the Manhattan project, by creating a theory on the separation of Uranium and the building of the actual bomb, to investigating the crash of the space shuttle Challenger and deciphering Mayan hieroglyphics. Yet one day he and his friend wanted to see if spaghetti always broke into three pieces. They spent several hours investigating and soon discovered that it does always break into three pieces. My class remained engrossed in this question for almost two days, and we found that our spaghetti broke into everything from two to seven pieces. This does not mean that Dr. Feynman was wrong in any way; it simply means that in his reality spaghetti always broke into three pieces, and in ours it didn’t. That doesn’t make either of us wrong.

Is any one person’s way of thinking wrong? If his way of seeing the world is different, should I declare his way invalid? I have the power to choose which reality is right for me, as long as it does not infringe upon another’s life, liberty, or safety. I believe in every individual’s right to perceive reality in his own way.