Sunday, April 1, 2012

Knight Vision

Photo by Diveofficer .  licensed under
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.
I've continued to indulge my Bigfoot fetish over the past few weeks.  I watch a television show called "Finding Bigfoot", and I always enjoy it.  Despite being skeptical that Bigfoot are real, I enjoy the possibility that they could be real; and watching these people who seem to genuinely believe they're real makes it easier for me to suspend disbelief.  Plus, I enjoy the vicarious experience of the wilderness expeditions, and the thermal images and use of night vision give the whole enterprise a distinctly sci-fi feel.

Watching these Bigfoot researchers also has another effect on me.  As I consider their work and watch their endeavors, it gives me a hint of the potentially illusory nature of my own life and perceptions.  If these educated people can devote their lives to the pursuit of something that is not supported by any irrefutable, empirical evidence, then certainly some of my own anxieties could be similarly misguided.  If held to the same loose standard as Bigfoot evidence, maybe the cold, hard aspects of our reality could be seen as comfortingly fictitious.  Perhaps I don't need to go to work every morning, pay my bills, do my taxes and go grocery shopping.  Maybe the widespread discord I read about in the news isn't real.  Maybe some day Bigfoot will pull up in an El Camino and beckon to me with a hirsute arm extending out from a chrome-bordered window.  The El Camino will be a UFO (of course), and we'll fly up to Venus and meet the Venutians.  They will inform me that all of my daily responsibilities and concerns are meaningless, and tell me I should just write 24x7.

All kidding aside, sometimes it's comforting to perceive your life as an illusion.  It can all get so intense.  The Buddhists say that life is an illusion, but they don't mean that it's meaningless.  On the contrary, being born as a human is supposed to represent the result of a series of spiritual evolutions.  And the purpose of this grand illusion that we call life is supposed to be our continuing spiritual evolution.

But some people perceive the insanity of life, and they decide that nothing matters.  I think many people--especially the more intelligent among us--are secretly existential nihilists.  That's one thing you have to give the Bigfoot researchers credit for: they are passionate about their quest.  Whether they are figurative Percivals or Don Quixotes is open to debate.  I suppose there's also the possibility they are figurative Rasputins.  But I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

So, when I'm watching the Bigfoot show, I feel an almost serene detachment from reality.  And maybe the thing that I like about the show is that these people are believing in an illusion, and then trying to prove it's real.  I'm doing the opposite in my life:  I'm accepting that empirical reality is "real", but at the same time I'm desperately trying to prove it's an illusion.  Or, to put it another way, I'm trying to experience that there is a duality intrinsic to empirical reality that cannot be measured or quantified.

It's clear that weird stuff happens in quantum physics.  There's that experiment with quantum entaglement where the act of perceiving a particle is the only thing that gives it a determinate charge (to anyone who knows physics, I apologize for this clumsy explanation).  So, at the quantum physical level, perception does literally equal reality.

And I found this quote in a United States Central Intelligence Agency study:  "People tend to think of perception as a passive process. We see, hear, smell, taste or feel stimuli that impinge upon our senses. We think that if we are at all objective, we record what is actually there. Yet perception is demonstrably an active rather than a passive process; it constructs rather than records "reality." Perception implies understanding as well as awareness. It is a process of inference in which people construct their own version of reality on the basis of information provided through the five senses."

I think this passage explains the mentality of the Bigfoot researcher quite well.  Every falling branch becomes a Bigfoot "wood knock".  Every unusual howl in the night becomes a sasquatch call.  But who am I to question them for that when I try to interpret every bad thing that happens in my life as part of a spiritual journey?  In a way, I don't think that much differently than they do.  And maybe that's why I feel like I'm among friends when I watch their show.