In his essay, The Reach of Imagination, Polish Mathematician and Historian Jacob Bronowski says, “The tool that puts the human mind ahead of the animal is imagery.” For us, memory does not demand the preoccupation that it demands in animals, and it lasts immensely longer because we fix it in images or other substitute symbols. With the same symbolic vocabulary, we spell out the future-not one but many futures, which we weigh one against another.
Imagination is uniquely human. It allows human beings to create a rich, vivid perception of reality in their minds. The mighty human imagination can behold far more than what the eyes can see. It enables human beings to tell stories, imagine future situations, empathize, contemplate potential explanations for why something has occurred, share knowledge, and above all philosophize. All of this becomes possible with imagination.
The only boundation of human imagination is that it can only go as far as the knowledge in the culture or society is given to human beings via books, movies, folklore, or any other media.
The power of imagination also gives every human individual the capacity to form his personal reality and have opinions. That being the reason, life for all entities other than human beings is relatively less miserable, less dramatic, and more natural.
Perception and Reality
Perception isn’t reality. But, perception can become one’s reality. Perception acts as a lens through which human beings view reality. The perception influences how one focuses on, processes, remembers, interprets, understands, synthesizes, decides about, and acts on reality.
Our tendency is to assume that how we perceive reality is an accurate representation of what reality actually is. But it’s not. The problem is the lens via which we perceive. The lens is distorted by our genetic predispositions, prior knowledge, past experiences, preconceived notions, self-interest, emotions, and cognitive distortions.
Perception is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information and conscious understanding of something. Whereas, the reality is what is there in existence and has always been, independent of anyone’s perception. This is the difference between perception and reality.
Personal Reality vs Existential Reality
The bombardment of half-baked existentialist literature in these times has led human individuals to seek the essence of life in their personal construct of reality.
This has created a lot of inconsistencies among human beings since they have naturally evolved to coexist and not live individually. What is true for one person will be false for another person. In the absence of knowledge about the nature of reality, humanity has evolved in a random fashion.
There is a common notion called “life is a dream” or “life is an illusion. We can equate it to the personal reality of each individual. Most of us never step out of our personal reality. All our lives, we remain ignorant about how existence actually is and keep living our personal dream.
Parmenides of Elea was a Greek philosopher from the pre-presocratic era. In his work: Greek: Aletheia, ἀλήθεια or “The Way of Truth”, he explains how all reality is uniform, change is impossible, and existence is timeless and necessary. Parmenides’ philosophy is best explained with the term “whatever is is, and what is not cannot be”.
In a nutshell, there is a reality of this existence and it is omnipresent and fixed. It exists here and now and everywhere else and understanding this reality as it is, is the purpose of human life. Once this is understood, human beings can direct their imagination to abide by the rules of reality. The goal is to remove the delusion of the incorrect perception that has been given by education and culture.
The gaps between perceived personal and existential reality will always be a cause of pain and suffering. Human beings are here to understand Reality and enrich the planet by producing more than what they take out from the ecosystem.