“Santa Claus is an old man dressed in red, hovering around the North Pole in a flying sledge, pulled by reindeers with wings”.
By and large, the sentence above would qualify as a symptom of a serious psychological disorder, if spoken by an adult. Yet, coming from a kid, it would make perfect sense. Not only we will validate that sentence, but we will reinforce the belief behind it, triggering behavioral changes in our children, based on the potential rewards given by this old man dressed in red. Which, obviously, doesn’t exist.
Or does it?
What makes something exist? The physical proof, the witnessing with our senses, or our mental investment in it?
If something exists only based on physical proof, atoms and electrons are just as much hallucination as Santa Claus. No one ever touched an atom, heard an atom, or seen an atom with the naked eye. One may argue that atoms are real, though, because we got to split them and harness the energy released. But, to a certain extent, Santa Claus is also real, because it does bring presents to kids, it does generate a positive emotional state and it harness our desire to be better.
I know, atoms do exist, in the sense that they are provable, whereas Santa Claus, as a real person, isn’t provable (not even plausible). My point is that our reality changes not so much based on the existence of provable situations, but on the mental investment in plausible ones.
Let me explain.
We decide and act based on what we choose to believe, not on what is provable only. We decide and act based on our expectations, our suppositions, our approximations, not on some universal, infallible logic (there is no infallible logic, by the way, just our expectation that logic should be infallible, an expectation which gets validated very frequently). And these expectations, suppositions or approximations aren’t always based on facts, but on previous expectations, previous suppositions, previous approximations. We learn our way out from approximation to approximation. And every approximation is, well, approximative, it leaves a lot of room for imagination (or, to be blunt, for hallucination). Even when we are at our best possible awareness level, we are surrounded by a mix of facts and, well, some imagination filling in the gaps.
From this point of view, we decide just as much based on our own hallucinations, as we decide based on facts. And these decisions, these actions, are changing our reality.
Adulthood is more the freedom to choose our own hallucinations, than the ability to live fully immersed in reality, every single second.
I find this liberating, though. I mean the fact that we’re still hallucinating – sometimes individually, each with our own, unique idiosyncrasies, sometimes collectively, investing our mental processes in common concepts like money or countries.
Because, if we know that these are just hallucinations, we might be less tense about them, so to speak. We may start treating each other just like kids believing in different versions of Santa Claus, rather than like adults who are “crazy”.