Don Quixote

Rated PG

The dragons I face are purely in my head.

They were seedlings in the past that took roots and flourished in the fertile, dark fields of my mind. They are imagined. False. Without shape or substance. And yet, they are as real to me as the earth and sky.

Physics and biology tell us that all perception is an illusion. Sensory input is manipulated by the brain to create a world that makes sense to us. As Maharishi Mahesh Yogi told us, the central nervous system, which feeds its impulses directly to the brain, is unable to tell the difference between the real and the vividly imagined. We can stretch this – believe it, and it is so.

Does light have color? Study physics and quantum mechanics and the answer is, no. A photon is a photon. It is so small a unit that it cannot possess any additional units that would define its color. For the sake of imagining, assume all photons are white (all colors). As a photon travels through space or reflects off an object it vibrates at a wavelength. The photon is still colorless. One photon vibrates at one wavelength while another photon vibrates at a different wavelength. These photons strike our retina. Our brain is given a problem to solve. The photons are physically identical, yet they carry some useful, extra information – their vibration speed – their wavelength. Our brain could give us a number (if numbers were natural) for each photon that we perceive. But wouldn’t that be a mess? Trillions upon Trillions of numbers floating around every little thing you see.

Like a salesman trying to make understanding easy, our brain decided on a graphical approach. Apply a color to represent a wavelength. The photon is still the photon, colorless. Bright means a lot of them. Dark means none. But blue means this wavelength. Red means that wavelength. Colors are not real. They are windmills in your mind – but useful windmills.

Noting this, we then understand that I do not see what you see, and you do not see what I see. Because we have language, another interesting mental construction, we have come to some agreements and understandings. A leaf is green. I may not see the color you see, but we both have agreed that the color we each see, we both call green.

So everything any of us perceives – anything we see, hear, touch, taste, smell, feel, and even think – is a construct of our own minds to make sense of the world around us – or the world that may not exist at all except within us.

Our minds construct a world that makes sense based on our own understanding. I have learned that the English name for the color of a new leaf is the word, “green.” So my brain uses that construction to help me identify a new leaf from colorless photons, nerve impulses from my fingertips and olfactory center, and so on. My understanding of the world – my world – is based on my past experiences and my brain’s unique construction techniques.

But to me, my world is real. As real as your world is to you. But how wholly unique they must be from each other. And if, in my past learning I experienced dragons – real or imagined – my brain has acquired that information and uses it to construct the world in which I think – and therefore, I am.

The dragons are real. They cannot be otherwise, given that they exist in my world. The fear that, should I say, “Hello,” to a pretty lady, she will become a harbinger of pain and stab out my heart with her talons and then stomp on it like a cigarette butt – that fear is as real as the knowledge that chocolate milk is the best tasting beverage on the planet. All your protestations about the reality of that fear – or what is the best tasting drink – are meaningless. Until such time as I can obtain significant statistical data that shows otherwise, my mind will use the calculations that it has accumulated. It has no other choice. It must create a world that makes sense based on past experiences.

We cannot change the past. Quantum mechanics tells us that the past is there, and it is here. It is ever present. It still exists. Thinking that the past is gone, that it somehow evaporates into nothingness is like the number 11 thinking that the number 10 does not exist. The past is real. Our perception of it is based on our own mind’s construction. And having been perceived, it is locked into the system – more data for future calculations. So it is no less real today than it was yesterday. But we also know, we cannot go there. We cannot change it. It was. It is. And that is that. The arrow of time flies straight and true and cannot be altered.

So how do you slay your dragons when the acts of jousting and tilting are the very things that give the dragons life? And worse, should you elect to not pick up your lance and sit back and wait, all you do is confirm to your mind that the dragons are waiting for you to start jousting.

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