I made the pleasant mistake of listening to an interview with this professor at UC Irvine who has a theory that none of what we see/hear/feel is real, that we’ve all been bred over millions of years to filter an almost incomprehensibly complex reality down to the things we need to know in order to survive.

Part of his work is with synesthesia and his theory is that the phenomenon may be a different set of filters, not some kind of weird brain wiring. Or different sets of filters, I guess, depending on the type of synesthesia one has.

I keep thinking about this and the other podcast I listened to about the other professor who investigates paranormal claims and who starts from an assumption that people usually are describing something that happened to them, even if their interpretation of what happened is incorrect. He’s the guy who showed that the Kelly alien encounter was likely owls.

I guess the thing I find troubling and yet engaging is the thought that all life is like the Kelly encounter. Continually, something is happening to us, we’re giving it our best guess as to what it is, but we could be very, very wrong.

And I find myself feeling out of patience for people who dismiss paranormal claims now, because that first professor has made me feel like we don’t really understand shit about the world as it actually is.

Which is not to say that I’m now firmly in the camp that believes in ghosts (though ask me again after the sun goes down). But clearly people are having experiences and have had experiences throughout the ages. Their explanations and understandings of those experiences may be wrong. It may not be ghosts. There may be something else at play. Many times those things may be utterly ordinary (a cat! a psychological mechanism we don’t get! etc.). And sometimes we may not have a clear enough view of how reality actually works to know what’s really happening.

I don’t know. Regardless of the filtering we’re born with, it’s important to find predictive frameworks that work and don’t crush you in never-ending-depression. I mean, “people are shit and will eventually disappoint you” is a predictive framework that works. It will also give you a miserable life.

But I do think that realizing that we literally can’t perceive reality as it is, and are looking at the world through a very limited filter, makes me less patient with absolutes.

How can we ever say, with certainty, “this is” or “this isn’t”?