This post is also available in: Deutsch (German) Español (Spanish) Français (French) 简体中文 (Chinese (Simplified)) Nederlands (Dutch) Italiano (Italian) 日本語 (Japanese) polski (Polish) Português (Portuguese (Brazil)) Português (Portuguese (Portugal)) Русский (Russian)
Recently I saw an interview of a journalist with an artist, in which the journalist asked the artist:
‘Did you just make that up or is it real?’
This question contains what I think is an interesting paradox. The use of the exclusionary ‘or’ in the sense of ‘either – or’ suggests that the thing in question is either ‘just’ the artist’s imagination or reality – but by no means both. Fantasy, according to the underlying general thesis, is not reality and reality is not fantasy.
I think this is fundamentally wrong ! – Reality is pure fantasy.
Or to put it another way: reality only takes place in our heads.
When I sit on a chair, it is real. There is nothing to shake about it. Is there? I think there is. Because the statement is not precise enough, because an important addition is missing: for whom is the chair real?
For me, who sit on it, for my wife, who sees me sitting on it, and for all those who have seen this chair before, this chair is real. For everyone I tell about this chair or who reads about this chair, this chair is real.
But what about the vast majority of people in this world who have never seen or heard of this chair? Does this chair exist for these people? Does it appear in their thoughts, stories or actions? No, it simply does not exist for these people. It is therefore not real for the vast majority of people in this world – because something that does not exist cannot be real.
Only when these people somehow learn about this chair by seeing it or hearing or reading about it does it become real for them.
Reality is created in our minds. We create reality with our thoughts and memories. Our own reality. And this basic characteristic that reality is created in people’s minds is, in my opinion, the reason why people’s reality differs from each other. Sometimes even seems to be contrary to each other. Only seems, not is. That is very important.
Take the example of a chair: let’s assume that two people see the chair today and talk about it tomorrow, i.e. this supposedly unambiguous piece of immovable reality. One person might say that the chair was oak-brown and the other that it was mahogany-brown. Who is right? The one whose statement agrees with that of a third person, for example the chair maker? Is reality a question of majority, something democratic?
No, I don’t think so. Rather, both are right. The one who remembers the chair as mahogany brown may also have seen a mahogany brown chair. The one who remembers it as oak-brown may have seen an oak-brown chair. Although it is the same chair and no one has repainted it in the meantime.
It could be, for example, that the person who has seen an oak-brown chair does not know any mahogany brown. Instead, the only shade of dark brown he knows is oak brown. Then every dark brown wooden chair will be an oak-brown chair for him. Because his reality, the reality of all of us, depends on the reality that already exists in our heads. From what we already ‘know’. Mind you, not on the already existing reality in the heads of other people. There, the chair may be acacia brown.
Reality is what takes place in our heads.
Psychologists would now say that what takes place in our heads is our perception of reality. Because they know that, for example, the chair still exists even if it does not exist for the majority of people in the world. But something that does not exist cannot be real. Because the majority of people do not perceive this chair, it is also not real, non-existent for them. This brings us back to the starting point: reality is something subjective that we create in our minds with our thoughts and memories.
These thoughts become even more interesting if we consider the concept of ‘truth’ alongside the concept of ‘reality’. But I’d rather procrastinate on that now …
Thus the question ‘either fantasy (made up) or real’ is nonsensical, since it poses a choice between two things that are the same. Another, similarly nonsensical question would be: ‘Is it raining outside or will I get wet if I go outside now?
Imagination plays a very special role for artists. After all, it can be an important source of inspiration and thus an important source of their creative work.
Somehow fantasy, the process of ‘thinking something up’, is often portrayed as the opposite of reality. Yet it is artistic creativity, artistic imagination, that underlines the fundamental quality of reality. Why is that? Well, the artist allows what arises in his head from his imagination (or inspiration) to become reality. For example, by painting it or writing it down in the form of notes. Here, reality is created from thoughts. For others, mind you. For the artist, the piece of music was already reality before he wrote it down. In his head. By writing it down, he only made it a reality for those who read the notes or listen to the piece of music.
So when the artist, when asked if he has made a thing up or if that thing is real, answers ‘it is real, of course’, he is right. Even if this thing has not yet become reality for other people, or never will.
Interesting thought experiment, I think 😉
This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)