Façades of Normality

We live in our minds. Our world views are in our minds. We know nothing directly of the world. Our world views are attempts at making sense of the vast panoply of stimuli plying our receptors: visual, audio, olfactory (smell), tactile, and gustatory (taste). All is objectively chaos, helter skelter, and simultaneous.

Meaning is not inherent in the world. It is constructed in the world views of our minds. The world view is subjective in orientation. We are at the center of our world views. Our world views are benign when we feel safe and they are malevolent when we feel threatened.

Our world views contain ourselves, our families, our homes, our neighbors, our places of work, schools, forests and lakes, the skies, the moon, the sun, and the stars; just about everything we can conceive of, no more, no less.

Our world views seem so normal to us that we think they are not just our views of the world, but the objective world itself. Our minds, whose mechanics produce our world views, are largely invisible to us, much like the air we breathe or fly through.

Our minds are produced by our brains, which are part of the objective physical world which is unknown to us directly. Our minds are that with which we know everything else, but the knower can know anything but itself.

When we feel safe our world views confirm those feelings of safety by feeding up safe images, closing over the gaps in our safety, and camouflaging the real threats surrounding us. In other words, the world views of our minds are auto-correcting (much like Microsoft Word). Sometimes, however, those auto-corrections don’t quite correlate with objective reality; rather they correlate with our needs to feel safe, that all is ok, to feel that our world views reflect reality.

This is what may happen when we experience anomalies in our brains or minds. They are anomalies because, by and large, over the last million or so years our evolution as a species has proven that a fairly close correlation between our world views and the objective world has conferred on us an advantage for our survival; otherwise, we as a species would not have withstood the test of time. People experiencing such anomalies may not survive as long as people who don’t simply because they miss the cues and warnings our environment may provide us. It’s a bit like driving around blindfolded on a busy freeway. Such a person would have lapses in his situational awareness.

What can one do to ameliorate the potentially negative impacts of such an anomaly? This is not at all a trivial problem to solve. Remember that the knower can know anything else but itself, and the problem is in itself. Sometimes what’s going on around one is so compelling that he is forced to stop trusting what he thinks he knows for sure. For example, you are driving down a street. Some of the cars may be pointing in the opposite direction you are driving while others are pointing in the same direction, or you see a sign with an arrow pointing in the direction you are going. You know you are not travelling against the traffic.

You may see a car coming toward you on a street you know is one-way. You know the driver of that car is wrong but you get out of his or her way.

If all the cars are travelling toward you while no one else is travelling in your direction and there’s no divider between you and the other cars, you probably should conclude that you may be going the wrong way (against traffic).

What I’m saying is that our world views need reality checks from time to time.

If we can’t trust what we think we know, then we must rely on someone or something else to ameliorate the impact of our anomaly; otherwise, we might not survive, just like the driver who drives against traffic on a busy freeway. In addition to taking his own life, he’s likely to take the lives of other innocent people.

Some ameliorations might include:

  1. Letting someone else drive you, cook for you, or light your fires;
  2. Authorizing somebody you trust who lives nearby to act as your proxy for medical or financial issues;
  3. Asking somebody to make sure you take your pills so you don’t skip or double up on them;
  4. Authorizing the bank to automatically debit your account to pay recurring bills;
  5. Letting professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, and social workers help you;
  6. Telling the family doctor that you might not be remembering or processing information as well as you used to do. Write down your questions and ask the doctor to write down his answers for you. Share that information with those who care about you and have done so for a long time.

There are other ameliorations that might suit your particular capacities and limitations better. Thinking of an amelioration for an anomaly like this can be as difficult as trying to lift yourself up by the bootstraps.

If any of this makes sense or resonates with you or a loved one, print it out and tape it to a place where it’s not likely to get lost in the detritus of one’s rapidly diminishing universe.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel



Filed under Dilemmas, Essays, Essays, Dilemmas, & Philosophy, Uncategorized

6 responses to “Façades of Normality

  1. I know just where you’re coming from.

    • Yes but I also wrote it for myself, my future self, as a kind of living will and testament, as I realize that, knowing what I now know, if I should suffer such an anomaly, I would probably be the only one I’d trust to say what I said.

  2. Very well written Mike. It is not only applicable for someone with Dementia or another mental disorder but also speaks to feeling overwhelmed with the violence and chaos of the world and politics.

    • I’m not sure that feeling overwhelmed would qualify for the advice I was giving, unless one’s mind stopped processing as a result of the onslaught of negative stimulation, but maybe you are right because post-traumatic stress syndrome could definitely qualify. Is that what you were thinking about?

    • I too, at first thought of this post in terms of politics, and was going to argue that extremists have others driving in the same direction.

      The problem I see, is that relinquishing control to a trusted loved one is a rational decision, which may very well be beyond the capabilities of one experiencing the anomalies.Be it mental or political.

      As the old joke goes: A guy was driving on a highway, listening to the radio, when all of a sudden, the traffic advisory warns drivers on that highway to be careful of one insane driver, who’s driving on the wrong side of the road. “One insane driver?!?” the guy exclaims. “They’re all insane!!!”

      • My post was directed at people who are fundamentally rational but find themselves in the midst of a rolling disaster in which they are witnessing a loss of pieces of their rationality. Of course after they’ve lost a critical mass of their rationality I have nothing to offer them but my solace. Also you should take a look at what I replied to Barbara’s (Hoping4astory) comment: “… but I also wrote it for myself, my future self, as a kind of living will and testament, as I realize that, knowing what I now know, if I should suffer such an anomaly, I would probably be the only one I’d trust to say what I said.”

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