“Seeing is believing,” so they say. And sometimes, believing is seeing. Yet while there is so much to see and believe, appearances and beliefs can be deceiving.
Consider the prism effect. Normally, “visible” light is, in fact, invisible to our eyes until it reflects off of something. But when light passes through a prism, the piece parts of “white” light move at different speeds, which makes a spectrum of colors visible to our eyes. It’s the principle that produces rainbows as light passes through airborne water. The phenomenon is beautiful, and it’s fascinating to consider that light always contains a spectrum of colors that are invisible to human eyes under ordinary circumstances. What you see is rarely — if ever — the total reality.
On the flip side, believing is seeing. Emotions are illustrative. Some in the scientific community claim emotions — despite their recurrent intensity — are nothing more than chemicals causing reactions in our bodies. Indeed, the presence of certain chemicals does reliably coincide with the presence of a particular emotion. But let’s not confuse cause with effect.
I remember walking through a cornfield on the old Smith family farm in Stockdale, Texas, and I nearly stepped on a mama rattlesnake. When I heard it and saw it, the adrenaline or cortisol or nor-epinephrine pumped into my system so quickly that I was able to jump up and away in a literal heartbeat. I felt the fear and fight-or-flight reaction instantly.
Now, it’s absurd to think that the adrenaline flowed first, thus making the snake appear. To the contrary. The fact of the snake preceded the adrenaline in my body.
Likewise with love. It’s not that a chemical flows and then I love the dearest people in my life. I love them. The love is real. And as a result, a chemical is released that warms my heart. The chemicals are a symptom — the physical manifestation — of the emotion.
This is not to say that a person’s physical chemistry never goes awry, or that science can’t introduce a chemical into the bloodstream that — reliably — creates a particular emotional feeling and response. Indeed, you yourself can duplicate the emotions of love — or the bliss of God — artificially. Witness the effect of a good margarita! More pertinently, scientists have identified an area in the human brain that is active when a person is feeling bliss, and by stimulating this part of the brain, a person feels bliss — one with God.
Yet, to say that the capacity to artificially create an emotional sensation therefore means that the emotion itself is merely chemical is an incomplete understanding of the evidence. The fact is, I can feel fear by taking a shot of adrenaline or by seeing a snake. I can feel bliss by chugging a shot of tequila or by hugging a dear friend. The resulting feelings from snake, adrenaline, friend and tequila are similar. The root cause is not.
But, let’s also not get carried away and convince ourselves that everything we believe based on heartfelt feeling is true. Maybe it is — the fact of love — and often it’s not — the wildly implausible things that so many cling to with fetishical fervor. Some people choose to believe incredibly flaky things — as if perceptible reality was not interesting enough. For instance, a survey in 2013 found that 12 million Americans believed that shape-shifting reptilians from other planets ran the government. Yep. Google it. This conspiracy theory and other absurdities from the dark side of insanity are still making the rounds today.
To cling to love is one thing. Love is a reliable force (even if fickle in human application), just as gravity is a constant force. Now, what we experience is merely the surface side of gravity, and what we experience of love is often superficial. But, I believe both are genuine forces in the universe. Shape-shifting reptilians? I can’t describe it properly in a family friendly, love-embracing blog.
So let’s just leave it with this: Embracing the absurd is to embrace ignorance and risk falling into hate. And, it is an abdication of personal responsibility. Or, it’s a short route to making money by fooling some of the people all of the time. Don’t be one of the suckers born every minute.
Blaming the bogey man is an easy way out with very hard consequences. Love is hard work, but the burden is light. Embracing love rather than foolishness will open your eyes to things you never dreamed you would see … or believe.