Sometimes — oftentimes — we can get caught into the vortex of virtual realities. These are not virtual realities like technological experiences one has wearing those wrap-around goggles in which you can fly through the air like a bird or ride a mountain bike over a cliff. I am talking about the realities we gorge ourselves on as we consume worldly information from all-you-can-never-eat virtual buffets. Experiencing the world near us, the world around us, and the world before us is an important part of growing. We develop understanding; we confirm preconceptions; we reject biases. However, we have to be very mindful that the vicarious experience is a sensory one, not necessarily a thoughtful one.
Thus, we must alert our cognitive senses to the thought vacuum that the vortex of news and Twitter, and Facebook and talk shows and podcasts and gossip portend as reality. This week is a good one for spring cleaning. Use it to clean out the clutter — including the clutter of the mind. Set aside a handful of minutes to escape the back-and-forth exchanges between a smorgasbord of similarly different viewpoints that stoke the senses, and instead, think about a heated debate that occurred almost 900 years ago.
This week, we should consider one of the ultimate divides between one set of realities and another. Here is a fascinating conversation between the Mongol Khans and European Christians that took place in the mid-thirteenth century. There are several things to notice in their back-and-forth exchanges. First, notice their sincerity, as each side tries to portray to the other side how correct their point of view was. Second, see if you can pick up on the passion each side represents. The Mongol Khans and the European emissaries, representing Pope Innocent IV, believed — they believed deeply in their respective correctness, in their respective authority, and in their respective rightness of interpreting the world. These realities, were argued, in a virtual sense, over the course of several years as each side exchanged letters — and other forms of pressure — to spread their messages.
These were loud and cacophonous virtual exchanges — through letters — between one continent and another, between one set of ideologies and another, between one base of power and another. Finally, notice the seriousness of their intellectual impasse. Both sides view of reality were equally real. They both believe they were both right, and they were both wrong at the same time. What would have happened had one party given in to their understanding of the world, their preconceptions, and their biases? Therefore, consider this...how do we think about which realities are really real?