An excellent editorial from one of my favorite writers on the web. Our advice after reading something like this (beyond shutting the TV off) is just “do the best you can do and ignore everyone else!”
Fair warning! This is a long and dense read and not intended for the faint-hearted
While most of us would accept there are two states of mind when it comes to perceivingreality, belief, and disbelief, I posit there are three. And this third state of mind, the suspension of disbelief, is employed by nearly all of us most of the time when interacting with our own perceived reality.
If we are to recognize the prevailing global cultural insanity as a long duration event, meaning it started many centuries ago and will last many centuries beyond today, being logical and rational, while an essential component of survival, can only be viewed as a significant disability when trying to make sense of an insane world.
This is particularly true when we closely examine group and individual psychology and how it affects everything from culture to money to politics and all the prevailing memes in-between. Any sober assessment of the human condition leads to one conclusion only. Everyone is insane, including you and me. It is only a matter of degree, not if.
That said; for the sake of this article let us assume one can be sane enough to recognize his or her own insanity. While nearly all will point to the actual behavior of the insane as proof of the illness, I tend to focus on the driving force behind the behavior. My experience shows this to be our horribly distorted belief system(s) which propel us deeper and deeper into our madness.
But belief is a misnomer for what actually occurs in the real world. The word belief implies action, intent, and effort, as in a verb or adjective. However, this should be differentiated from passive belief, which is a subconscious and conscious embrace of a thought or idea which we embody in whole and absolutely.
Most of our fundamental beliefs are foundational and so resolute doubt never enters the equation. When I stand on solid ground or sit in a stout and sturdy chair I expect, aka believe, it will support my weight. I believe it so completely I give it no thought, care or concern. Or at least until the ground shudders or the chair creaks.
Thus the ground or chair beneath us is realbecause we (along with everyone else) believes it to be real. This concept is completely foreign to us because we have been taught from the moment we are born that everything surrounding us is real, therefore we believe it to be real because it already is real.
We are conditioned to accept that belief follows reality rather than belief precedes reality. Or more directly, we are taught to accept reality creates belief rather than belief creates reality. And that our persistent reality cements our belief rather than our cemented belief maintains a persistent reality. These are the fundamental, and unshakable, beliefs which underpin all that we believe to be real, including our self.
Or as Albert Einstein is alleged to have said: “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
Because we have been conditioned from birth to believe untruths, that we do not create reality but rather reality creates us, the ultimate cognitive dissonance and the genesis of our insanity, we have developed coping mechanisms which enable us to navigate a real world of our own making which we believe we have not created.
The principal coping mechanism ingrained into us from birth is the establishment and use of the suspension of disbelief.
Non-passive, meaning active, belief is almost always expressed in the context of faith, conviction, trust, certainty, and confidence. One simply cannot be cognitively, emotionally or intellectually passive when one is expressing a belief, as opposed to the mostly passive belief in/of overall reality. In other words, to express belief is to make a conscious or unconscious decision to accept and/or support, often (but not always) at face value, something or someone.
And to be fair, belief comes as a natural extension of our perception of reality because reality appears to be self-evident, thus to disbelieve reality in its entirety is to question our very existence. The term ‘seeing is believing’ speaks volumes to our collective delusion that reality is ‘real’ simply because it is perceived as real. Thus no sane and reasonable person would seriously question what is obviously real, leading to a collective and shared delusion that is self-sustaining.
Ultimately beauty reality is in the eye perception of the beholder. The greatest trick the reality manipulators ever pulled was to convince a world of conscious beings we are not reality creators, but rather just creations, thus victims, of reality.
So let me expand upon the concept of coping with our insanity. Instead of actively choosing between belief and disbelief, the first enabling and the latter inflaming our insanity, what’s really going on nearly all of the time is mostly passive and without force or conviction. For a wide variety of reasons, but mostly in an effort to eliminate or reduce conscious/unconscious emotional stress and anxiety caused by our underlying insanity, we seek a more neutral footing from which to conduct our day to day lives.
I’ve broached this subject because I recently read an excellent article by Chris Martenson, posted on his blog PeakProsperity.com, titled “Believing the Impossible”. In it, he outlines how insane the present day financial markets are and what is required of us to believe in order for the financial insanity to continue.
Chris is a sharp cookie and I have great respect for his intellect, reasoning, and logic. Unfortunately, he is assuming insane human investors approach investing and markets, and all that it entails, from a logical and reasonable point of view with occasional forays into the unbelievable. He believes this because there are ‘financial standards’ based upon history and mathematical trends that appear to buttress his case.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I have yet to hear or read a theory or supposition that sufficiently explains why each bout of financial madness, aka a bubble, seems to exceed the prior one on what appears to be a rising exponential curve. This is not to say markets are not extremely extended; only that more than just math, and the Federal Reserve, is supporting them.
In my opinion, instead of believing or disbelieving something, often what occurs is we simply suspend disbelief. While most certainly not a modern phenomenon, the desire to suspend disbelief has risen exponentially along with the ever-increasing penetration of ‘media’ into our minds.
When we plop down on the couch to watch a movie, what is actually going on inside our consciousness? Assuming the entire premise of the movie is fictional, to actively believe or disbelieve, meaning to invest a sum of energy and effort to accept it as a (un)truthful and/or an (in)accurate depiction of life or situation would be folly and contrary to the very definition of fiction.
Our supposed goal is to be entertained, to be transported somewhere else in time and space. This requires a suspension of disbelief in order to accept something which more than likely does not fit our perception and belief of what reality actually is.
Even just transporting ourselves into another person’s shoes to experience their point of view requires an altered sense of our own reality. One must find a way to adopt or adapt to their perception of reality in order to feel empathy and sympathy. This applies to everything from love stories to horror flicks and everything in-between.
Interestingly, when writing fiction the author must be careful not to color too far outside the lines, lest the author lose credibility with the reader. One must strive to make the unbelievable somewhat plausible in order not to strain the reader’s imagination, which is itself often constrained by what we believe reality to be.
Real life events, on the other hand, can be completely ‘unbelievable’ (as they often are) since they are assumed to exist simply because they occurred in real life. It is self evidently real because it occurred.
This creates a situation where the product of a mind materialized in 3D space, aka reality, is considered ‘real’ while the product of the mind created in 2D space, meaning written down on paper or displayed on a screen is not. How can this be when the Genesis is the same, only the construct differs?
When viewing (fictional) media, we switch off our belief/disbelief function by deliberately suspending disbelief in order to enjoy the movie. Please understand that to disbelieve something is NOT the same thing as suspending disbelief. Also, in order to believe one thing we must by definition disbelieve nearly all other things contrary to that belief.
This helps explain why we rarely suspend belief, but rather suspend disbelief. Our individual and collective fundamental beliefs (i.e. the chair, floor, and bed are real, solid and therefore support my weight) are so thoroughly and completely conditioned into our perception of reality that many beliefs are essentially impossible to stop believing, meaning to disbelieve.
Our default setting is to believe because anything perceived with our senses that also fall within a generally accepted range (i.e. a chair is acceptable, ghosts not so much) is considered to be self evidently real. Since our default setting is to passively believe without thought and effort, to explicitly express belief in a person, place or thing is simply a cognitive confirmation of what is already believed to be real. While an effort is applied, no big sweat is expended to do so.
However, to express disbelief is contrary to what feels natural and normal, therefore more energy and intent need to be mustered in order to overcome the default setting. It then stands to reason that to suspend disbelief simply entails not mustering the energy to object to what comes natural, meaning to accept as real what is self-evident to our perception, even if other indicators encourage doubt and questions.
It is far easier NOT to do something than to do something. Consciously expressed belief intentionally constructs a personal reality, while disbelief deconstructs, deforms or alters a personal reality. Both of these states of mind require effort, but one requires more effort than the other and is destructive rather than constructive.
If I do not wish to destroy the reality of the movie by disbelieving its apparent reality, meaning I wish to enjoy it without doubting it, I must suspend disbelief and simply allow it to exist. This is not very difficult because it already appears real. It is self evidently real unless I deconstruct it with disbelief and doubt.
To affirm it as real I simply do not consciously and deliberately destroy it with disbelief. Often the difference between belief and disbelief of/in a movie or TV show is how well, or poorly, the illusion is constructed and how well, or poorly, it matches our perception of what reality actually is.
This is why science fiction, where the entire premise is clearly stated as fiction beyond our personal experience, is more easily accepted as real (meaning disbelief is not asserted) than a fictional movie that closely shadows our personal experience of reality, but then shoots off into an ‘unbelievable’ or implausible direction.
We declare the latter experience ridiculous because it ‘jumped the shark’, meaning it suddenly veered away from closely matching our perception of reality into the unbelievable. Yet the science fiction movie is more readily accepted because we’ve already been given permission to suspend disbelief since it will not match our personal experience spectrum.
Because the fictional movie may involve plot lines, characters and situations that strain credulity and believability, the only choice we have if we wish to be entertained is to suspend the process of disbelief and simply accept what is occurring as self-evident because it is being witnessed.
I accept at face value someone can run full speed down an ally while aiming, shooting and killing various people who are themselves moving because that is what has been shown to be real in the movie. I accept with no belief or disbelief that all bombs produce huge fireballs when they explode because that has been presented as normal and natural. I accept as self-evident that people and things can be dematerialized and then rematerialized miles away because I just saw it happen.
While there are cognitive limits to what we are willing to suspend disbelief about, those limits are entire of our own making and are completely variable depending on the incentives we respond to. While our shared reality is, for the most part, a consensus creation (therefore it can only be altered or destroyed by consensus) there are portions exclusive to our own personal realities that are infinitely variable and controllable by us alone.
This is why I alone can do nothing to inflate or deflate a consensus financial bubble. And the consensus financial bubble only begins to deflate when the consensus no longer believes (or no longer suspends disbelief) in its existence.
A financial ‘crash’ occurs, meaning the financial bubble suddenly and violently bursts when the consensus consciously disbelieves in that reality. Remember, disbelief deconstructs what belief builds and a suspension of disbelief maintains.
Suspending disbelief is (mostly) a passive activity in which we will open the pathways into our mind to all manner of alternative realities. After all, most will say, what harm can come from this since what we are viewing isn’t real?
This is a tragically mistaken belief because our personal interpretation of reality occurs exclusively within our minds and not in the 3D world we describe as real. The act of seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and touching is actually an interpretation by our (non-local) minds of electrical impulses we assume arrive from our five (assumed) physical electrical impulse generators aka eyes, ears etc.
Our reality is a shared illusion collectively interpreted similarly mostly because the collective mind shares common interpretive markers and descriptions. The more complex the illusion the more time required to train and condition you and me to recognize and interpret these electrical impulses as reality in the same manner as everyone else.
We teach each other and are taught by each other, what reality is.
Is it any wonder then that of all the animals in this reality, humans require the longest (childhood) conditioning phase before becoming fully functioning in-sync reality interpreting bipedal animals?
The act of suspending disbelief is, in fact, the act of cognitively disarming ourselves, laying open the inner reaches of our mind to manipulation, suggestion and influence. What gains entry via media is often deliberately crafted and directed ideology and propaganda.
Those who protest that an episode of Gilligan’s Island is far from propaganda are somewhat correct. But interspersed within a silly comedy (which itself reinforces certain shared beliefs) are targeted commercials and cognitive conditioning. Once we begin to feel comfortable opening our minds to external influences, the war is already won by those who wish to exert influence and control over us.
Either we create our own reality or we live in someone else’s.
Contrary to what we want to believe, the process of suspending disbelief does not begin and end with each segment of the TV program or other media. And make no mistake about it; we all desperately need to believe we are our own cognitive keepers in order to maintain the illusion of personal freedom.
We must believe we are not (easily) manipulated or controlled if we are to maintain our own personal illusion of freedom and self-determination, thereby keeping at bay self-awareness and acknowledgment of our own personal insanity. Therefore we supply endless quantities of belief, disbelief and the suspension of disbelief in whatever manner to whatever is needed in order to maintain (or repair) the preferred personal reality in our minds.
Advertisers understand human behavior quite well and know we persist in the suspended disbelief frame of mind, even if just subliminally, for a period of time after the media has ended, either for breaks or at the end. Without going into a long dissertation on the mechanics of advertising, suffice to say much of directed advertising is quite effective, brilliantly playing off our full intellectual, psychological and emotional spectrum.
I accept at face value that gorgeous new car/widescreen TV will bring me joy and happiness because it was just shown to be so on TV by other people who look just like me. It is self-evident based on the reality I just witnessed that a diamond ring is the only adequate expression of my love for my wife that would bring her true pleasure and happiness.