Choose your own reality? As the candidates themselves (and many others) have observed, this Presidential election seems at bottom a contest between two very different versions of reality. Each “knows” a different world and each argues he/she is right. But what if it is a matter of personal choice?
Sometimes facts are facts and lies are lies—it can be that simple. Disregard of the former and prevalence of the latter have reached epic proportions these days. That’s troubling, to put it mildly, but not my point.
More often, the reality of a situation is subject to inconclusive debate and disagreement. We can argue which path is better or worse, but as a practical matter we might never know. Reasonable minds might always differ. Both sides always have their economic experts, for example, and the world is usually too chaotic to definitively isolate independent chains of cause and effect. This is the domain that demands agreement to disagree (when reasoned persuasion fails).
Is there a third case? I think there is. I think reality can be a matter of choice in many respects, a matter of preference. That might sound odd, but I believe it.
Two people can face almost identical circumstances and find themselves in very different realities. For one person a challenge might breed dred and resentment, self-pity and self-defeat. For another, the same challenge might inspire conviction and grace, acceptance and growth. Very different realities indeed. Which is right? Neither. What’s the difference?
I suggest the difference is choice. It is the idea summed up in the pithy mantra “choose to be happy,” the same idea explored to profound depths in Viktor Frankl’s successful search for meaning as a concentration camp prisoner. We control our own experience, in every moment. We create our own realities.
Maybe the point is not to argue which version of the world is “right.” Maybe the point instead is to recognize the version you’ve chosen. If we can understand our role in creating our own realities, and hold ourselves accountable, perhaps we might make different choices, producing better outcomes.
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