Sunday, January 2, 2011

Affirmations and A Brief Treatise on the Nature of Reality

So this week in The Artist's Way we're working on positive affirmations.  Because most of us struggling creative types have lots of opinions about art, and creativity.  We think things like, "If I do my art, it will mean I'm constantly broke."  Or, "I can't do my art because only the really talented people make it."

Part of the homework assignment is to come up with positive spins/affirmations on our own thoughts about art and creativity. I can see the power in this because I've done a lot of thinking about the nature of reality and the power of conversations.  The conversations we have create our lives.  Stick with me here because this is kind of ethereal.

The only reality in life is based in conversations between people.  As follows:

One example is the United States of America.  In physical reality there is no such thing as the United States of America.  On the border with Mexico there is no line, like there is on a map, or in a cartoon, that outlines which side is Mexico and which side is the USA.  If you were just out walking and didn't pass a border stop, you would not know, until you started talking to people, that you had entered from one country to another.

The United States of America is a concept, conceived by people in a conversation called The Constitutional Convention, which took place over several days during which time men created something called the USA.  It isn't real.  It's a conversation.  Enough people had a conversation called "We Don't Want to be Colonists" so that the conversation led to actions.

King George had another conversation going on at the same time called "The American Colonies Belong to England," and the two conversations were incompatible.  So they fought a war, and eventually the Independence conversation won out.

It's an ongoing conversation, and one that the vast majority of people in the world now agree to.  But not everyone agreed all the time.  There was an event called The Civil War, which started from a separate conversation, a conversation called "The Government Can't Tell Me What to do with my Property," and "This Government Isn't What I Signed Up For."  Enough people had that conversation so that eventually it led to an action called Secession, and a conversation called The Confederate States of America began.

The two conversations were incompatible, so there was a war, and people died, and after four years the conversation called "The United States of America Isn't Something you can Secede From" won out.

There is no physical United States of America.  It's all a conversation that we have been brought up in as long as we were born, so it seems natural for us to believe it's real.  And it is real - in language.  Jesus said that wherever two or three people came together in His name, He was there with them, and that's how it works with creating realities as well.  You get enough people to have the same conversation, and it creates a reality.

You get enough people to think that every winter they should bring a giant living tree inside their houses and stick some lights and plastic decorations on it, and you get a Christmas Tree.  There is no such thing, inherently, as a Christmas Tree.  It's a conversation that started out of pagan festivals of light, and enough people agreed to it so that every year we bring trees into our homes, and we call it festive.

You get enough people in the world to think that there is something good about kicking a ball into a defined area, and bad about letting that ball go into that area, and you get soccer.  There is no such thing, in reality, as soccer.  Soccer is a conversation that the entire world has bought into, and it's yielded a beautiful result.

So the idea that none of these things are "real" doesn't make it bad, or sad, or anything. Soccer is wonderful.  I love it.  But it's not real.  There is nothing inherently physically better about kicking a goal than letting the ball go into the goal.  In some alien versions of the game it might be just the opposite.  They might play with rules that say that goals are bad.  The rules are made up, in conversation, and we all just agree to them.

Realizing that reality lives in language, in conversation, can give you power over the reality that you create.  Sometimes we joke about people living in their own world.  But it's true - each one of us really does live in our own world.  There are collective conversations that have become ingrained in us from an early age so that we mostly go through life thinking that our reality is the same as everybody else's realities.

Every once in a while we are surprised by something that reminds us that our way, our reality, isn't the only way.  Like a wife will insist that every meal has to be eaten at the dining room table "because that's how it's done," while the husband wants to eat dinner in front of the tv.  Many times, the wife will then complain to her friends; "my husband wants to eat dinner watching football!"  And because people generally gravitate towards others who share similar conversations and realities, her friends will probably agree that the husband is an oaf who needs to be tamed.

And that's not how it is.  All that's going on is that there are two separate conversations, which seem to be incompatible.  If people could only just get it that their realities aren't the right realities, or even the only realities, powerful changes in the world could take place.  Like the husband and wife could sit down and say, "In my world, we eat at the table" and "in mine we eat at the couch" and then come up with a new reality they invent together, which might look like, "in our world, we eat every other dinner in front of the tv."

Like let's take Israel.  I'm not an Israel expert, but as far as I can tell, there is no inherent place called Israel.  There can't be because the borders are always changing.  There is some land, which the Israelis believe is theirs because of promises that God made them.  This is a very powerful conversation.  There is also a conversation called Palestine, which is also a very powerful conversation.  The two seem to be incompatible.

But where it gets really messy is that both sides think that their conversation, their reality, is the only one.  When it's so clearly not.  But we look at these other conversations, which could be a threat, and we deem them "wrong" and "evil" when all that's really going on is two seemingly incompatible conversations overlapping each other.

Now if you could get the people on either side to see that their reality isn't the only reality, that the other side has a reality that is just as strong and powerful as their own, then you could maybe get somewhere.  But it's hard for people to admit that these conversations, which are so powerful and so ingrained in us, might not be really real.

Reality must be fluid when you consider the idea that, if ten people witness a car accident, you'll probably get at least five accounts of what happened.  If there was only one reality, you wouldn't have that happen.  Everybody would see the same thing.  Reality.

So where all this takes us to is the power of conversations.  Conversations have the power to create countries.  Conversations have the power to start war and genocide.  But conversations also have the power to create peace, if we would let them.

And this is where affirmations come in.  If conversations between people can create countries and empires, it follows that conversations we have ourself, about ourself, can create our lives.  And if you really examine people, most people live lives that are the product of the conversations they have.

For example, people who have a conversation called "There's Not Enough Money" will never have enough money, even if they win the lottery.  They just won't.  Because There's Not Enough.  Whereas people who make very little money, but believe that There Is Enough, generally seem to have enough.

Or women who have a conversation called All Men Are Jerks generally seem to find guys who are jerks.  And women who have a conversation called There Are Plenty Of Good Guys Out There generally seem to find good guys.

Is it possible that these conversations are creating their reality?  You betcha.  Because your conversations dictate your actions.  If your actions come from a place of There Are Plenty of Good Guys, you'll probably go out with lots of guys, meet a few duds but not let that color your opinion on the entire gender.

I have the following conversations about writing for a living:

Writing for a living is too hard.  You always have to be out hunting for the next job.  You have to be really super organized.  You have to work so hard to get your name out there and navigate the confusing world of publishing.  It's just too hard.

And so guess how my reality looks when I go to start pursuing writing?

It looks really hard.  The actions that come out of this conversation look like starting research, getting overwhelmed, freaking out, giving up, and then getting jealous when other people somehow make it.

But if I could change that conversation, if I could have a conversation that writing was actually really easy, and simple, and that you really don't have to always be out hunting for the next job, that it's not a life of scarcity...things might actually look different when I start researching things.  What if I had a conversation called Writing and Publishing Takes Effort, But It Can Flow With Ease?  What if my actions came out of that conversation?

On the simplest level, it would make my approach to researching and submitting things much more enjoyable. I might actually be more organized anyway, because I'm going with the Flow, and organization creates Ease.

On a deeper level, it might actually alter my reality.

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