There are many kinds of realities, but the reality that the majority of us readily perceive and understand is the, ‘state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them’.* When we suffer pain we acknowledge the ‘reality’ of that pain. Our experience confirms the truth of our situation, unless we are deluded by some form of psychosis. This observable and often measurable reality is what I call ‘tangible’ reality.
We use information from our senses to determine what ‘physical’ reality or ‘material’ reality is for us. The flaw in the argument is that our senses can be deceived, because what we see, touch, smell, taste or hear can be influenced or distorted by contextual circumstances. For example, we all know that adjacent, but opposite colours of the spectrum emphasize their differences by contrasting with one another, as do the neutrals white and black. White looks whiter when contrasted with black than with cream, of which white is a constituent. There is no white in black.
Conceptual reality is a construct of the mind, and many of us escape from our tangible reality by entering our conceptual reality, which to us is sometimes more real than the tangible. Conceptual reality exists entirely in the mind. It has no bearing or dependence on actual or material objects, space or time.
An in-law of mine is coming to terms with the fact that she has had her leg amputated. She cannot believe it has happened to her, and yet she can see the evidence. She has lost her leg. On her part she has to adjust her mind to acknowledging that she will have to live the rest of her life without her right leg. She will have to learn how to move about on a wheelchair, or on crutches, and, perhaps in time, with the help of a prosthetic leg.
If she cannot adjust to her new physical reality she may retreat into a conceptual reality where she happily abides, while others attend to her physical needs.
Understandably, the world is unsympathetic to people who do not live within the norm of general or shared reality where one is expected to cope, earn a living and pay taxes. The irony is that the world is comprised of many people, any of whom may find they are suddenly and unexpectedly placed in a position of dependency where their new reality deserves compassion and care.
*Concise Oxford English Dictionary definition of reality.
Reality (Oxford Dictionaries.com)
Reality (The Free Dictionary)
Reality (Idiom Thesaurus – the Free Dictionary)
What is Reality (Newscientist.com)
What is Reality?
What is Reality?