A follow-up to the preceding post, Reflections: Life as fantasy:
Here is a meditation condensed from great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu’s Butterfly Dream story.
I dreamed I was a butterfly,
fluttering here and there.
I followed only my actions as a butterfly,
and was not conscious
of being an individual.
Then I found myself awake,
once more in my body.
Was I a person
dreaming about being a butterfly,
or am I a butterfly
dreaming that I am a person?
How about you? Can you be sure you are what you think you are? Might you be a butterfly dreaming that you are a person? Might your life be a dream? When do you awaken?
All I think I know for sure is real is this present instant. I think I have memories that tell me how I got to this present instant, going back some 54-55 years to when I became cognisant. I think I have stimuli being reported by my senses, providing input. I think I have a few pounds of nerve fibres that constitute “me” (my personality, my intelligence), supported by rather more pounds of skin, bone and other organs and tissues that support the nerve fibres that also to a lesser degree constitute “me”. My brain uses the other stuff for output: movement, speech, writing.
I might be wrong:
– I might be floating in a tank, connected to “The Matrix”.
– I might have just been created with my 54-55 years of experience faked. (Comparable to the way some fundamentalist “Creationist” Christians would have us believe that their God created the universe 6,000 years ago with fake fossils that make the planet appear to be millions of years old.)
– I might be the dream of a butterfly, or the dream of a god.
A couple of years before he died my father believed he was a 20,000 year old Nephalim (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephilim). Maybe he was right? Maybe he wasn’t? Who can say?
Well… I think I can say.
I think that if you conjure up alternatives to what appears to be a self-consistent picture of what we call reality then, as with my father, that way lies madness, or religion (if there is a difference).
My father died of progressive supranuclear palsy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_supranuclear_palsy) “a degenerative disease involving the gradual deterioration and death of specific volumes of the brain.” which may have had something to do with his odd beliefs towards the end of his life, but he had plenty of other odd beliefs well before then. He made his living as an astrologer for many years, for example.
I think I shall continue to believe in my senses and my memories and consider the natural world around me to be as it appears to be. I certainly hope it is not a fantasy of mine, as it is such a mess that I would not want to think I could dream up something so chaotic.