Throughout my curious wandering this week I stumbled upon an essay by Robert Anton Wilson called Creative Agnosticism. It was published in The Journal of Cognitive Liberties back in 2000 but is technically an excerpt from his book The New Inquisition.
The essay defines the concept known as Creative Agnosticism or — Reality Tunnels. The essay is long and there are times when I found it a bit difficult to follow because Wilson tries to tie the concept into a larger one. The main points can essentially be boiled down to this:
- Our senses are bombarded all day, every day. We’re slammed with sights, tastes, sounds, touch, and smells at every moment. Even right now, you’re registering the smell in the room you’re sitting in, you feel the pressure of your bed or chair, the texture of your clothes, you feel how warm it is, you have a lingering taste in your mouth, your eyes adjust to the light.
- You’re not conscious of these things all the time because your mind and brain can’t process that much information at once. Instead, it filters out what’s not deemed relevant. If your clothes aren’t scratchy or bothersome then you probably barely even register them throughout the day.
- We are all constantly filtering what we call reality. But because everyone has different filters, no two people’s version of “reality” is the same — as Wilson would say, no one’s Reality Tunnel is the same.
- Every choice you make, every habit you form, every default you set are all filters. These things shape your reality. Whereas everything else which is technically just as real drops away from memory, like the face of the person you pass on the street.
Change your thoughts and you change the world
~ Norman Vincent Peale
Reality tunnels seem similar to perspective, but there’s a slight difference. Perspective is your interpretation, whereas your reality tunnel is your experience.
A lot of people get stuck in their version of reality, or reality tunnel, by thinking they don’t have any control — that life happens to them vs something they participate in. In the same way, a person might complain about what’s on TV without realizing they can change the channel.
In the case of Wilson’s reality tunnel theory, you change the metaphorical channel of life when you change the filters you have set. For example, if you’re in the market for an orange car, you’ll start seeing them everywhere because you’ve added orange cars to your filter of things to notice.
It’s the same with people who are prone to be pessimistic. They notice more negativity throughout the day whereas an optimist notices more positive moments.
I don’t know how much control we have, or don’t have, over life — but I believe we have a whole lot more than we currently think.
Simple doesn’t always mean easy, but often the most simple solutions create the biggest impacts. A change of habit, an increase of awareness of ourselves and others, or finding five minutes of silence a day to just sit and be, can create lasting ripple effects that drastically change your life for the better. All you have to do is choose which filters to alter.
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