Sep

27

I've always been partial to the notion that reality is largely an illusion, one crafted by presumptions that are largely imposed upon us. All too often what we conclude is an immutable function of what we expect. Which is problematic because society lies, and that's where we get the expectations from.

From a recent NYTimes piece:

"…when the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt told a friend, a Parisian doctor, that he wanted to meet a certifiable lunatic, he was invited to the doctor’s home for supper. A few days later, Humboldt found himself placed at the dinner table between two men. One was polite, somewhat reserved, and didn’t go in for small talk. The other, dressed in ill-matched clothes, chattered away on every subject under the sun, gesticulating wildly, while making horrible faces. When the meal was over, Humboldt turned to his host. “I like your lunatic,” he whispered, indicating the talkative man. The host frowned. “But it’s the other one who’s the lunatic. The man you’re pointing to is Monsieur Honoré de Balzac…”

Vincent Andres adds:

There is a nice novel on Humboldt, Measuring The World .


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  1. reid on September 28, 2009 5:56 pm

    The illusion may be driven by our hard wiring for survival in the wild. For in-depth discussion on this idea see “Your Money and Your Brain” by Jason Zweig. Zweig presents the idea, among others, that our “anticipation” centers control our actions by means of chemical bathing of our brain with the sense of euphoria. Result - we gain greater chemcial reward in the pursuit than in the reality of success. In other words, what we expect - or the expectation of a positive outcome - may be controlled by our most primitive systems distorting our perceptions of modern reality.

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