The Bridge To Reality
In Plato’s “Theory of Forms,” are we introduced to a very important concept which I feel needs to be explored. I am no philosopher by means of education, schooling or training, but that I exist and therefore will have thoughts is the only authority by which I pen the following.
In the simplest of terms, Platonic Reality posits that “reality” is a shifting construct, like shadows cast on the roadside as cars pass by at night. I hope to explore the two components I see at play, here (and why I chose the word “play) as well as the bridge which connects them. My conclusion should leave the reader with a renewed sense of hope and purpose for the generations yet to be.
Platonic Realism, as it turns out, is not a thought unique to myself or a small group. In fact I find it interesting that many of the philosophical questions I have toyed with were discussed by Plato, which tells me these are questions humans have as part of the wiring that also gives us speech, language and stuff. We’ll get to the stuff in a minute.
Platonic Reality is fluid and dynamic in principle. As there are several billion of us cognizant, hairless apes running around in SUVs and sports cars and such, reality is constantly shifting, whether we want to acknowledge or not. A lot like science. Wait…
We’ll get to that, too. Just need to stay on track here, first.
As we all do stuff, all kinds of stuff; flying kites, making phone calls, walking, running, jogging, parasailing, so many things the human form can do just in the day to day. Many will encounter others. In line at the coffee shop, crossing at an intersection, in the same aisle in the grocery. This is the nature of mammals on terra firma. We bump into each other. Sometimes its on the sidewalk. Cars sometimes end up on sidewalks. You see where this is going?
Reality changes every single moment with every encounter. The human mind, at 12% Max capacity so far (I “think” that’s the current record), cannot process this. Hell, we can’t process the amount of raw data coming at us in a given moment. Our sensors, ears, eyes, skin, tongue and snot-box, are constantly sending its data to the brain, which has been trained, taught and educated to filter out a vast majority of that data. Data that is unusual gets the brain’s attention as does data linked with fear, pleasure, etc. Data that the brain will need to respond to somehow. This training is natural; it allows us to recognize “mama” at a very young age in a room full of women. Most creatures with any mobility have a greater “vocabulary” of data to which a response is required and those appropriate responses prepared. “Fight or Flight.”
Military is the most clear example of this process in action. Kids, 18 years old, are brought in, scrawny for the most part, and are neither really skilled at nor prepared for anything. Within 2 years in the military are these hoardes of blank humans molded and sculpted into a massive machine with as many moving parts are there are trained people to be those parts. Its a closed system, but the training is comprehensive, certainly for the front-line soldiers. These guys can, with experience, tell you what firearm is firing, how far away and in what direction. The primary mammalian sensor at work? The ear-holes.
Now, what if that same 18-year old blank human was trained to use the ear-holes differently? What if you could train the brain via the ear-holes so well that you no longer need the ear-holes? You would have Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as a testament to the bridge we are about to cross.
Music, and to a greater degree The Arts (capital “A,” please), are a bridge between Platonic Reality and Personal, or experienced Reality. Platonic Reality *should* be described, or at least qualified, as reality without personal ego or influence in it. No matter how I feel or what I do, the earth will complete a rotation about its axis in 24 hours. It is objective reality over time. The foundation of the “same river twice” axiom.
We shape objective reality, and objective reality shapes us. The sounds of gunshots to an untrained person, or someone unfamiliar with that sound, could easily mistake them for fireworks or someone’s hot-rod backfiring. Gunshots to some invokes panic and fear, and to the trained soldier, a defensive response. Likewise, the trained soldier may overreact to a celebratory fireworks displays if not prepared for that experience.
To cultivate a healthy relationship with this Platonic Reality is to be better equipped to handle experiential reality. This might get a little muddy. Platonic Reality is like science (I told you we’d get there). Science has no concerns whatsoever with human constructs like money or religion or identity. The sun will appear on the horizon every 24 hours no matter what you smoke or what you poke. You can bow to the east or howl at the moon, nothing is going to change the arrival of the sun.
Therefore, a platonic relationship with reality is needed. That is, we need to cultivate a culture where we can recognize when humans are not a factor in the equation. Astrology, for example, is the projection of ourselves upon that which is not recognized for the beauty already present. We have a need to personalize Platonic Reality and, just like platonic relationships when they become personal, things get messy in a hurry.
Disney, for all the money they have fleeced from the spawn of generations in perpetuity, have committed the greatest sin to developing a healthy understanding our personal relationship with Platonic Reality; They anthropomorphized dangerous, ferocious predators for profit. Anyone remember Bagheera? Baloo? Ska? These are deadly, vicious creatures whose initial introduction to children is that of reasoning adults armed with only language and logic.
If Simba is hungry and you are slow, Platonic Reality will become Personal Reality really quickly.
It is at this point I hope to add some meat to the second part of the Platonic Realty components. Representation. This is über-important because we, in the United States of America, live in a representative democracy. Representation should be a hell of a lot more important than it is, and I hope we can correct our course yielding the current results with a shift of understanding “Representation” within the context of Platonic Reality.
As Platonic Reality is reality without our personal presence or influence, so, too, can Platonic Reality be managed in the brain. Little, thick, maybe, but let’s use math as an example of this concept.
Long ago, before we had written language, we had counting. We counted in 5’s and 10’s because that’s how many digits the early hairless monkeys had. (Yes, a digit is a finger, kids, and digit is the root of “digital,” which your life has become) Since the early markets were barter, we had to find a way to keep track of what we were trading and establishing value for. We “represented” the quantity of an item by the number of scribe marks in a tablet. While not a *whole* lot easier to manage, the representation of the number of fish is easier to deal with than the actual fish.
This is a natural development of our relationship with the Platonic Reality. It shaped our language by adding base-10 numbering to our lexicon, dig? We describe the world around us using adjectives, age, distance, color, texture, and, now thanks to basic rudimentary market math, quantity. We can now point to a box containing a gross of soup spoons and, without ever going near the box, know, in our minds, clear as the azure sky on a cloudless summer’s day, there are 144 items designed for getting soup into human pie-holes contained within.
Having a clear distinction of these two components, and a clear understanding of its erroneously over-emphasized counterpart, we can now discuss the current dysfunctional relationship, its current yield, and the corrective course we can take.
We have, as a society, over-personalized everything. One of the largest consumer product sectors appeals to our vanity and appearance. We live in response to others. We are responding to reality personally. This is unhealthy and dangerous, as demonstrated by many a Florida Man. Pumbaa is not a bumbling boar and friend; it is a viscious animal that will gore you just because it is in the nature of a boar to be an asshole and gore other animals. You know, like a hornet, but much bigger.
The reason Disney gets away with it is the same way I get away with a lot of the shit I get away with is because it is Art. Not all art is helpful or constructive on the surface, but Art is not superficial. Art has the responsibility of bridging our personal relationships with Platonic and experiential, or Personal reality.
Within a healthy relationship with Platonic Reality, we can more reasonably approach the world and that which is in it besides ourselves. We become self-aware at a very profound level, realizing that while we represent realty in our heads, our interaction with reality makes it personal. Not all of it goes according to plan, but sometimes we are the Golden Ticket. No matter the situation, the prepared mind can easily adapt and overcome. Reactions are completely optional. And personal, actually.
In every healing process is anger, and other emotions, an overwhelming component. The outrage, whether by a group in response to a tragic incident, or personal from an individual victim, the result is not factor in the equation leading to an outcome. This is because the outrage is a projection of Personal Reality onto the Platonic Reality.
On the opposite side of that coin is the development of the deranged mind, which is in direct chronological opposition to healing, with the same factors at play. The derangement of a mind starts with the individual taking a very small sample base of erroneous data and extrapolating an entire worldview from it. Over time, feeding the sought-to-fit datasets will add to the damage, along with other factors associated with lifestyles that are unhealthy themselves. The results will be an expression with heinous results.
This inverted timeline can be superimposed on the implosion experienced by homeless, addicts, and depression leading to suicide. The decline can be directly linked to an unhealthy relationship between the individual’s Personal Reality and Platonic Realty. In fact many suicide notes include the phrase “the world is better off without me.”
The true issue, then, is learning how to develop a healthy relationship between an individual’s subjective Personal Reality and the objective Platonic Realty. Where better to learn this than school? Platonic Reality can be awkward at times. It can be funny. How does a developing human develop this healthy relationship? Where will young minds of different backgrounds be in the same place at the same time to explore these conversations?
Young kids are curious and unabashed. A friend I worked with for years, who has since passed, lost most of one leg in a bizarre and tragic accident. He was one hell of a guitar player, but, obviously, he would need help setting up and such. There were many times he would play gigs where children were in attendance, including worship band performances. It was common for curious kids to ask him questions about himself and his chair and whatnot as he was different and therefore worthy of closer inspection and curiosity. The most common question, and often the first, was; “Does it hurt?”
How could you answer that? “Not now.” “Not anymore.” “Only when I jump rope.” He had a slew of them at the ready, for every age group and setting. From church to nightclub, he could have you rolling, but could he ever bring the Personal Reality of “hurt” through the sterile environment of Platonic Reality for another person to understand in relation to their level of developing Personal Reality? For a kid “hurt” might be scrapping a knee riding a bike, to a vet it might be getting shot in the leg by a sniper in some foreign jungle.
I now bring The Arts back to more fully explore its responsibility in a civilized society. Art is meant to bridge that Platonic Reality by presenting snapshots of ourselves and our relationships with each other and with Platonic Reality. Bill Cosby, for nothing else, understood our parallel Personal Realities and for the greater part of his career was able to use this understanding to speak to kids in a way that had an impact on their developing Personal Realities in their neighborhoods. The Jell-O spokesman stuff aside, he was able to deliver amazing side-splitting comedy without using any curse words just by storytelling microcosmic aspects of our individual lives that are parallel across the socioeconomic and cultural divides of the time. His Fat Albert series is still an amazing set of stories designed to help kids in less-than-ideal neighborhoods shoot for something better.
Fred Rogers was also instrumental in influencing developing Personal Realities. He used stories and other forms of art to bring Platonic Reality to children. His guests included The Wicked Witch of The West, miss Margaret Brainard Hamilton, to explain the role of The Witch and the career of being an actress, demystifying the scariness of the story and elevating The Art of acting. He also famously invited an officer to share his little foot bath pool and, as Jesus had done in his day, dried the man’s feet with a towel for him out of respect and humility. At the time it was blasphemous to the status quo. The medium Mr. Rogers chose for his Art was television.
Education, as it is currently constructed, excludes the development of this relationship between the Platonic and the Personal realities. With Arts as a tool for education can we introduce awkward and unexpected situations and proffer healthy suggestions as a response. To help developing brains interpolate that which is not theirs and that which is to grapple. To develop a more robust representative understanding of the world and that which is in it rather than a personal defense as default response.
Developing this relationship in individuals is crucial to developing a relatable understanding within our culture. Unpacked, it went something like this for me: I slammed a car into wall about about 60+ mph. It wasn’t intentional, but my actions weren’t entirely without fault or malice themselves. That reality which I experienced was very unpleasant. I cannot explain to anyone what it was like or what happened but in the most superfluous of terms. Others who have experienced such an event can directly relate, but everyone else has to imagine what it was like. This requires a strong relationship with Platonic and Personal Realities. We know it as “empathy.”
As a culture we have a bucket full of “hot-button” buzz-words that can send every talking head on the 3-letter legal liabilities into conniptions bordering on the need for medication. This is indicative of a systemic dysfunction in our relationships ‘twixt the two Realities. We are unable to relate to another’s experience. This can be summed in the coined phrase “it will not matter to you until it is important to you.” This is culture-wide and a base for an actually sickening amount of US currency flowing throughout the country. $1M or so for a :30 second ad during the SuperBowl halftime. That’s just to RUN the spot, not to write it, shoot it, wardrobe, makeup, lights, editing, recording, mastering and duplications. This is a stupid amount of money that, again, can only be directly related to by a select few people.
In a healthy society, there would be more emphasis on the development of the human spawn as a creature with responsibilities and rights. They are responsible for their own Personal Reality; they have a right to their Personal Reality; and they are responsible not to exceed Platonic Reality when expressing or responding to Personal Reality.
This is why we write songs and poems, compose scores and paint bridges. This is the Responsibility of Art in culture. Without it we are all looking for some way to express the range of emotions that fill us from day to day, year to year. Screaming into the voice is not an empty phrase. Its within the empty space created by the walls in a home where life is found.
Art is humanity’s need to relate with each other’s Personal Realities in the otherwise sterile environment of Platonic Reality. To know that love lost is not a reason to do harm, but to opportunity to relate to others’ experiences and more appropriately process and respond to that experience, adding to one’s own Personal Reality. It could be a painting, or a sculpture or a poem or any of The Arts within which we can see ourselves at that point in our development, reconciling Personal and Platonic.
A critical understanding of The Arts is the responsibility of the educators of our youth; ideally the proverbial “village”. Develop in them an understanding of Art as a language to communicate that which is inexpressible through language alone. Illustrate for them how Art can influence emotions and mental disposition, soothing the savage beast, as it were. How to use Art as a tool to express internal struggles and contradictions. That Art is the refuge for the dark places in our collective soul. That all emotions, good and bad, are valid human experiences which no longer warrant nor merit violence regardless of inanimate object used.