What is and what isn't

by Jon Sullivan - 2023-12-16 - Status

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I hope my vast readership is not becoming annoyed at the endless posts about how sad it is to not be crazy anymore.

I keep telling myself I need to stop beating the dead horse and move on. It's fine. The magic is gone, the joy is gone, the inescapable beauty is gone. It's fine. I still have the lessons I learned, and I know how to be a better person now. That's enough. It's fine. It's fine. Surely.

But it's not fine. When I stare into the abyss now I no longer see peace and light and love and joy pouring out of it. I only see the gremlin temptation of how easy and comfortable being a pure hermit again would be. But I don't want to be that person again. I want the magic. And every day, for months now, I fight back against those gremlins. If, dear reader, it's gotten tedious..... I'm sorry, not sorry. It's my life these days and this is my blog and when it's time to sit down and fill this virtual page with compelling prose I'd be lying, in a way, if I wrote about more varied topics. So..... Here we are again with the thoughts that keep me up at night.

What is real and what isn't? What is objective reality, and what is only the mind's subjective interpretation of reality? And what is the relationship or boundary between perception and object? Does being crazy make things less "real"? Towards the end of my crazy period it became obvious to me that my perception was getting further and further from reality. I can assure you, during the last few crazy months I was hallucinating everything all day every day. Yes, really. While completely sober. The most obvious example was how contrasty subjects, like trees against a blue sky, would look animated, like a picture drawn by hand. It was not unusual for me to just stand and stare at the tree tops. And all of my senses were doing something like that. Intense, beautiful, magical. I'd drive down the road and cry with joy because it was so wonderful.

That's how I know the exact time I stopped being crazy. Because it's the moment the trees stopped looking like anime.

Who drew those crazy trees? My mind? Sure, obviously my mind. In real time photons would stream into my eyes, my retinas would convert some of them to data, nerves would send the data to my brain which would paint a picture, then my brain would slice and dice the picture and convert it into subjective perception. It's a pretty simple process up to where it gets converted into conscious perception. And of course the crazy didn't change how my retinas or nerves handled the data. So it had to be my preconscious brain. What we "see" is whatever the preconscious ghost in our physical brain matter hands us.

Thus, when we ask, what is real and what isn't, can we even know? If trees looking natural or animated changes from one day to another, some part of my brain chemistry or structure was the difference. What we "see" is limited data interpreted by some part of our mind we have no control over or even knowledge of. Some evolutionary ghost in our mind hands us whatever version it wants, and we call it reality. We assume it. We "see" it, so we know it's real. As a recovering crazy person, I can assure you it's not real. We don't see what's real.

But.... I was crazy..... And obviously hallucinating for months on end..... So..... the grain of salt thing.

And since EVERYONE ASKS, no it was not drugs. This was my sober experience.

What is real and what isn't? We can't know. The only objectively objective picture of a tree would be the total electromagnetic particles/waves reflected or generated by the object. And our retina can only interact with a fraction of those waves. Even just inside our eyes we lose a great deal of the data which makes up how an object really looks. Our nerves then turn the filtered waves into bits of data, which adds it's own loss of reality, then our preconscious brain mangles the shit out of the limited filtered data and hands us a picture we call "seeing". But it's obviously not real, any more than a Photoshopped photo of a tree is an actual tree.

Empirically in my sober mind the natural and animated trees are equally real. But if what I "saw" while crazy was dancing cupcakes rather than proper trees, would that still be equally real?

And here we get to why I have to lie awake at night thinking about this crap. It wasn't just the trees. It wasn't just what I was seeing. It was everything. It was what I was hearing, and tasting. It was YouTube videos. It was talking to people in the grocery store. I remember helping an elderly gentleman buying some granola at WinCo. Nothing out of the ordinary. But the interaction was so beautiful that it brought me to tears as I walked away. Everything was as crazy as the animated trees. Was it all real? Some of it? None of it? I need to know. For now, and I'm still churning through it, I choose to believe both versions are real. Which almost makes it worse. Because the intensely magical world I lived in for two years is just as real as the happiness that I get from being a hermit who avoids everyone and everything. And since it's cheaper and easier to be a hermit, why not just do that?

People ask if I'm fine. But I'm not fine. I'm struggling to be happy with the boring natural trees. Fucking boring real trees. It's fine. I'll deal with it constructively. But it's not fine.

Today's photo : From Bandon beach at sunrise. I'm still kicking myself for sleeping on Milky Way photos this year. So this is all you get. I've already blocked out time for it on my calendar next year. But it's obvious the experience will be wildly different than doing it out in the desert. Wet, cold, windy as I stand still for hours freezing. Much bundling and layers will be required. And everything here is marked closed from dusk to dawn, which is a regulation I'll be violating on the regular. No idea what the bright blue star/planet is there. It's not the moon.

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