Everyone has ‘a view of reality’ and it seems to me that this may be the explanation of a great number of human foibles, certainly most of so-called behavioral issues. The fact that each of us has a ‘view of reality” may be the one common feature of all human beings that needs to be understood a lot better. This weird but true innocent story will demonstrate:

Dinner at a restaurant with close friends, an elderly couple, Dan is 70, Fran is a year younger, both conservative and old school, but a lot of fun. At one point another elderly woman sidled up to the table for a friendly chit-chat about this and that, when I felt a sharp rap on the leg from Fran who was sitting next to me. Knowing Fran very well, I immediately realized what it meant: “there is a lady addressing you and, as a gentleman, you must show respect”. I jumped up to join her husband who was already halfway up. In Fran’s world I was a gentleman and therefore she was making sure things happen as they should. That was her ‘view of reality’ but not mine. We had a good laugh afterwards, after our acquaintance left the table, but I thought that it was a bit weird. A perfect example of how points of view control our behavior, even to the point of irrationality in the eyes of another. It happens a lot!

I agree that ‘good manners’ are important as a guide for personal behavior, but as a yardstick by which to judge others it becomes extremely problematical very quickly. Most would probably disagree with me and insist that we should, or strive to, have universal codes of behavior by which to judge ourselves and others. We should, perhaps, but it is impossible to agree on such yardsticks unless we change our ‘view of reality’.

Everyone does have a naive view of reality and the vast majority accept at least part of it as true, accurate and reliable, both for themselves AND others! It is, therefore, quite easy to see how conflicts come about amongst individuals or different self-identified groups; racial, ethnic, religious, political and even gender. A person or group, wed to a particular view, inevitably concludes that those that are opposed are driven by irrational motives, or worse.

A more sophisticated view of ‘reality’ will easily defuse many, if not most, of these conflicts, whether of a personal or communal nature. At a minimum, many of these conflicts will be exposed as misguided or not worth the time and energy.

A search for reality could start at any entry point one chooses; a dictionary, etymology, art, music, food, physics, biology, neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, history or religion, etc. In the end it is a search for truth.

At this point, suffice it to say that all of us humans are severely challenged by this little quest. In order to understand reality one must understand all the components that make it up. We do not have a full understanding of any of these components as yet, and many despair that we ever will. Some are more positive. Despite all the confusing evidence, there appears to be progress. Already, it seems that a naive acceptance of reality as it appears is very uncertain and complicates our already very complicated existence.