Fantasy, Reality, And The Pursuit Of Happiness

Did you know that if you hook someone up to a brain scan device, show them a banana, measure which parts of the brain light up, then take the banana away and ask them to think about a banana, the same parts of the brain light up. The conclusion to this bizarre experiment is simple; our brains don’t know the difference between fantasy and reality. To them, it’s all the same.

Yogis and other spiritual practitioners are well versed in the idea that we create our own reality. I don’t mean that we can conjure objects out of thin, but when something happens it is our choice whether we think of that thing as either “good” or “bad”, and how much attention we give to that thing or not. What one person will obsess over another will not give a second thought.

And it is a choice. We like to think of the world as being set in stone, or at least obvious in some way, but that is rarely the case. It’s easy to say the sky is blue, but your blue and my blue might be very different to each other, so who is to say which “blue” is correct. And ultimately, does it matter?

When we tell stories, we don’t need to conjure a picture in the reader’s head that exactly matches our own. It’s enough for them to get the broad strokes. They can fill in the little details on their own. In fact it’s better that way, in that it makes the story more their own. If we expend too much effort corralling the reader into a certain way of thinking we run the risk of alienating them completely. An author must give their reader room to breathe, whilst at the same time nudging their imaginations in the direction we want them to go.

So what about the stories that we tell ourselves? I saw a Tik Tok where the person said, “We have this idea of, ‘If not happy, then sad.’ But we don’t have the opposite idea; ‘If not sad, then happy.'” I thought that was very clever, because it ties in with the idea of choosing our own reality. Believe it or not we can, at any point, reject our unconsidered perception of events, and instead choose to view them another way. We can, if we so choose, simply decide to be happy.

Now I know many of you will scoff at the idea. Like the blue of the sky, we think of our emotions as fixed and immutable. If the sadness has a cause then it must be real. But all things inside our heads are conditional. A person isn’t sad because they don’t own a Ferrari, unless that person really wants a Ferrari. And they can rid themselves of their Ferrari frustrations by simply not wanting a Ferrari anymore.

Our fears and dreams arise unbidden from the subconscious, affecting our minds and our moods in a myriad of ways. How much attention we give the things that happen in our heads, and therefore how much we allow said things to affect us, is up to us. The happiest man on earth is he who desires nothing at all.

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