Perception vs Reality: From Quantum Truth to “Real Life”
PART I- Reality, Perceptions and the Human Brain
Confabulation (def.) “a disturbance of memory, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive.” Wikipedia
Humans don’t perceive reality accurately, or truly, or objectively. Nowhere near. And memory is even less accurate.
People argue over who said what, “clearly remembering” different versions of a story. Police detectives know eyewitnesses often have starkly conflicting memories of a crime, often in direct conflict to video and other (more) objective evidence.
“True” reality is the realm of physicists studying quantum mechanics, who observe a reality where things can be in two places at one time…at least until that reality “knows” someone is watching. (For a deeper understanding of quantum mechanics from Einstein to some of the astounding implications of this past decades research, I recommend reading Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology (2015, Johnjoe McFadden, Jim Al-Khalili).
But that quantum world is smaller than an atom, and is not the reality in which humans perceive, act and live. Humans are designed to perceive a reality scaled for the size and speed in which we live. And despite the errors and randomness, it generally works because we believe it’s true.
Our personal reality is one we construct from our perceptions, which in turn arise from a tiny fraction of the trillions of nerve impulses pouring into our brain, which are in turn colored by our existing accumulated memories to then build new perceptions in a constant swirl of perceived truths with very fuzzy edges.
Neuroscience, psychology and sociology study human brains and behavior. Neuroscientists strive to understand how the brain deconstructs the chemistry and mechanics of how each individual constructs their reality today, in the here and now. In this very moment the process of perception begins with the firing of a neuron. It might be from a spot of light hitting the retina, or a pressure receptor signaling movement of muscle, or a hair on the arm signaling touch, or an inner ear hair signaling acceleration of the head. The neuron might fire from a chemical receptor in the gut, or the blood, or the lungs.
And sometimes the neuron can momentarily join with the inputs of millions of other neurons in a “neural ensemble.” An ensemble firing together which can be the creation of a fleeting thought.
The thought dances on our neural hard-wiring, from the basic hardware of breathing and moving in the medulla and cerebellum, to our reptilian emotions in the amygdala, and very human prefrontal cortex of this moment.
Of those perceptions and thoughts, a nanoscopic fraction create enough of a change to be retrieved at a later time, melded with our accumulated memories to construct our perceived reality of the moment.
Perceived reality drives behavior, and is studied by psychologists who chart how our ego shifts our memories to position ourselves in a personal narrative, one with us as the star of the story. Both neuroscientists and psychologists attempt to understand how new memories enter our accumulated perceptions and recalled memories, changing our memory of our perceptions.
Also, humans are social creatures, and sociologists study how culture colors those perceptions. Attitude and biases add to the mélange of our perceptions, which changes our perceptions by changing the sensitivity of the nerves to firing, and shifting the sensitivity of our outlook.
Changes in nerves change memory, and we construct our perceptions from nerve impulses from what we see and hear, taste and smell. But the “5 senses” taught in elementary school are a nanoscopic fraction of the nerve impulses pouring into our brain from our body.
Our perceptual reality is our personal construct, and most of the information coming into the brain never touches our consciousness. We’re simply not wired to access most of our biological functions, no matter how much we try.
Unknown and unconscious to our awareness and percepts, nerves control the pituitary secretion of hormones, and coordinate digestion by smooth muscle (the kind we can’t control) and secretions from the liver, pancreas and intestines. The network of nerves and ganglia around the intestine is considered by some to be a “gastric brain” that may even affect our thoughts, but is nearly completely reflexive and unconscious.
In fact, we’re unaware of most neural input that we do have the wiring to be conscious of. I can perceive my fingertip when I move my finger to type… if I pay attention (which I almost never do). I just type. However, regardless of whether or not I am paying attention, the nerve impulses are there.
So what does this have to do with posture? Focusing attention on the sliver of neural input we can find, and then blowing on that spark, is the key to strengthening posture.