Other Worlds and Local Reality

Unless you are a visitor from another planet, then your home world is Earth. Yet within this planetary domain there are many different “worlds” and differing realities. Even within countries those “worlds” vary. When these “worlds” collide miscommunication, misunderstanding and prejudice are common. Although I live about forty miles from London, my world is not the same. We share a commonality of language, currency and many other things. But, out here, there is less noise, less commotion and generally lower stress levels. Although I once lived in the city I am now more bumpkin than city-folk. They have strange ways them city-folk.

Perhaps my use of “world” is a little extreme. But think about it for a while. If one grows up in a village in rural Africa, then the components of that world, its values, its beliefs, differ from metropolitan London. The whole basis of interaction is different, yes there is commonality, yet the mores and ethos are not the same. There is a tendency for people to only interpret things through the lens of their world-version. What is customary in one place is weird and strange in another. Until one has experienced the sensory onslaught of say Africa, one has no idea of how intense smells, colours and sounds can be. The word vibrancy has less meaning than it might. This sardine thinking, that everyone in the tin, should look the same and be the same, is a bit silly. There are vast differences in experience amongst our human species.  What is important to a city slicker in not so vital for a person with a large extended family for whom they are the breadwinner. The priorities diverge. The very nature of their conceptual local reality is not the same. The social devoirs are differently ordered.

Without recognising that there is likely to be a difference in outlook, it is pretty difficult to communicate effectively, and assumption is the mother of all cock ups. Just that little thing, considering that someone is coming from a different place, a different world, a different reality, can make a huge difference to the quality of communication. Until one has lived a world, one cannot know the pressures, economic and social, it has. One may read about it, but that is not the same as knowing, though many assume these equate.

If one leaves a world we have the Educating Rita situation, or the Platonic Cave thought experiment. Outside a world, things are different, when you go back into a world, there is difficulty explaining to those who never left the world what lies outside. Moving from one world to another changes you and you can no longer fit so well back into the old world. People in the old-world sense this though there is a desire for conformity to the old ways, the old world. They cannot see and rarely accept that you are different now and seek to apply the old world-rules to you, they want compliance with something that no longer fits. It is a non-sequitur that you are somehow different, and you can be berated for this. People do not like the coterie of their world-version challenged by people leaving it and then having a kind of temerity to come back. There is an assumption that the local reality of world-version pervades universally when it does not.

My function for over a decade was to be an academic, that world academia, has rules, a social hierarchy and a lot of gossip. I am no longer of that world, though it has influenced me. My academic ability has not changed though my status has. Because of this I am likely to be viewed as less able than I am, simply because I am no longer a world-member. My kudos battery is depleted and uncharged. People may even feel sorry for me because I am no longer in the club. It is a bit fucked up, but there you go.

We each of us have our own local reality which will overlap with others in the same “world” as us to an extent. We may be members of a given world. As such we need, at least in public, to subscribe to its mentality, its games and its public relations statements. These local, personal realities, are everywhere. We all have them. I know the parameters of mine fairy well. These do not coincide with what others may think they ought to be. The history does not predict the actuality of the present, my trajectory from the norm has diverged. This is conceptually difficult for people to accept, it does not make sense back in that world. I no longer share the same aspirations, which is a kind of heresy. I have my own local reality and it does not fit into the set of local realities that comprises the other world, the one to which I used to pertain.

There is a problem with worlds and world-versions in that they assume a completeness and that they are encompassing. The boundaries to world are not transparent and are perceptually adiabatic. Nothing can flow in or out of the world. World-versions can become myopic and insular. They can be defended with arms. And when world-versions or cultures interact there can be war. These world membranes need not be so concrete. Today there is at least a wider theoretical understanding of other cultures; arts and the cinema can provide some fleeting insights. Few have lived them. Anyone who has made a transition between worlds knows that there is some discomfort along the way. What one once held to be true, is no longer inviolate. New experience alters one. One hasn’t transitioned into the new world entirely yet and there is a middle ground where nothing seems to work all that well.

I have made a few illustrations of worlds, world-versions and local realities. It can be helpful to at least consider that the “reality” to which we adhere is imperfect. It is a starter for ten in trying to understand that living in sardine mind is not broad nor inclusive. There is a whole bunch of stuff that we do not know, though we may profess otherwise. I am of course talking a little about humility as opposed to an arrogant assumed omniscience.

What is so wrong with admitting that there are many things in life that we do not yet know or understand fully?