“The first step in avoiding a trap is knowing of it’s existence.” ~ Thufir Hawat in David Lynch’s Dune
One of the characteristics of being human appears to be that we do not have direct access to external reality. Information, and impressions about reality come to us through our senses, and are then sorted by our learned & inherited habits of categorization and labeling. This re-presents to us how reality appears in our “immediate” experience.
I use the quotes around the word immediate above on purpose. Modern science has revealed to us that no event propagates instantaneously across a distance. Nothing in the universe seems to be seems to be in possession of infinite velocity. It does seem like some portions of quantum theory lead to a violation of that maxim, but that point is hotly debated and only seems to apply to information transmission for the universe at large.
When it comes to being a human being, having an experience of reality, there is a limitation set into our very structure. Korzybski shows that all transmissions of information happen in sequence, and the speed of a particular sequence is limited by the maximum velocity of transmission of the component parts. For the human nervous system, the speed of signals traveling nervous fibers ranges from 0.61 meters per second up to 119 meters per second depending on the particular nerve tissue and the type of signal.
That means that even though the occurrence of an observed phenomenon may seem instantaneous to us, it never is. We always experience reality after the fact, albeit it often very slightly.
This puts us in a situation where our lived experience is not reality itself, but is a partial, and adjusted take on reality. What Leary and RAW called our unique and personal reality-tunnel.
Another lesson from Korzybski, “If words are not things, or maps are not the actual territory, then, obviously, the only possible link between the objective world and the linguistic world is found in structure, and structure alone.” In other words, the stories we tell ourselves about our experiences with reality are always representational only, and the only avenue we have for getting our reality-tunnel to sync with reality at large appears to be by getting the structures of the two as close as we can.
Facing this head on it seems that we are doomed to live in a prison of our own view. No matter how much clarification we go through, and how much experimental evidence we have to validate our reality-tunnel, it still is a partial and delayed take on reality. There does not appear to be any escaping this prison.
However, all is not bleak in this situation. It may be that we are prisoners of being human, but our stance toward that reality can be adjusted. We can take a hard look at the situation and come to terms with it. In a sense we can escape from being a victim of this prison to a full participant, moving withing our restrictions in a way we choose, rather than one which is dictated.
Gandhi used to look forward to being arrested. When he was in jail, or prison, he was relieved from the constant crowds that his work accumulated. He could catch up on his reading and corresponding. In a sense, when he was “free” he was in a prison of expectations and obligations, schedules and demands for his attention. When he was in a cell he was in a prison of restricted movement and view. By facing the truth of either situation he was able to see the advantages in both scenarios, and make happy use of them.
This trip is available to all of us. By coming to terms with our imprisonment we can go from being prisoners to free humans working fully within our situation.
In my experience the first step is to see as completely as possible the walls and structure of the prison. Getting comfortable within the limitations. There is more freedom than most of us think within these walls, once we stop pounding our heads against them.
It looks as if there is no escape from the prison, other than possibly death. But, what kind of prison will it be to you?
“Relax,” said the night man,
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!”
~ Hotel Californa, The Eagles