Here it is, obviously real, solid as granite, 12 stories tall and full of lingerie, men's wear, lady's wear, swim-wear and kitchenware. It has steel ribs, cement floors, gaily colored wall decorations, elevators, friendly salespeople, sales on kitchenette sets and last year's VCRs. It has worried executives, a lady doing windowdressing design, and hundreds of busy people of all ages streaming through it.
It has a basement sale on all the items that haven't sold in the last three months, fire sprinklers hidden in the ceiling at every level, a credit department which keeps track of over 33,500 credit purchases and escalators which have been engineered to carry 50% more weight than the projected maximum customer load.
Let's take this busy store and examine it from the experiential view of a fiveyear old. The doors are huge and dangerously heavy; the place is full of kneecaps and hemlines, a forest of legs and ankles and the bottoms of display cabinets. Everything seems to be aimed too high. About the only exciting thing is the escalator which provides a wonderful opportunity to experiment with relative motions and try out your sense of timing.
Examine the same store from the point of view of, say, a man whose primary concern is building codes and structural integrity. He sees angles, stress, inches of concrete as a factor of footpounds of load, gauge and temper of structural steel relative to bearing requirements, degrees of variance in vertical alignment over period of sway under hypothetical wind conditions, angles and vector of center of gravity of various parts of the weight of structural sections, and so on.
Another inspector from the city might examine the same building in terms of fire escapes per volume of customer traffic, number of sprinklers per square foot of floor space, volume and quality of chemical foam delivered per head, strategic disposition of fire hoses, down and up staircases, probable scenarios of mass exodus under heavy smoke and panic conditions, and so on.
An executive from the tenth floor wanders through the same building and has his perception sharply colored by concepts such as sales volume per square foot of various departments, administration of return items calculations in central accounting procedures, sales reductions as a percentage of initial markup, supplier reliability, delivery schedules, allocation of shelf space for maximum exposure of maximum return items, coordination of sales and personnel management techniques.
Meanwhile, in the same building at the same time, a prospective bride is estimating the probabilities of fitting monogrammed bathtowels into the budget, coordinating china patterns, calculating cost versus fashion on different possible bridesmaid's outfits, weighing the emotional variables of father's financial worries versus motherin law's standards versus fiancee's underdeveloped sense of taste in appointments.
Passing her in the down escalator is a downandout poet cumcollege student who is wearing sixyear old tennis shoes and jeans with batteryacid holes in the legs. His mind is full of iambic pentameter versus e.e. cummingsstyle descriptions of the bizarre and misguided motivations in the secret heart of middleclass postindustrial women.
A security guard, watching him, is busy tabulating personality characteristics of criminally inclined types against body language, facial characteristics and dress styles, and also wondering about his imminent coffeebreak.
A whizkid from a hightech futurist consulting firm down the street trots through the building to buy a fast anniversary present for his wife on their third anniversary. He senses the entire store as a kind of mercantile dinosaur, an outdated relic from a system of goods distribution that goes back to the Stone Age. He fantasizes momentarily on a network of computers distributing all the information about these perfumes and earrings and brassieres and enabling all the women in this department to receive exactly what they want at home the following morning without leaving home -- a kind of CompuServeplusUPS network. He chooses a bottle of "Charley" perfume and gets it wrapped up.
The reality of the building, at any one moment, may be the same for all these people in some theoretical objective sense.
But they are each paying attention to a totally different set of communications. Each of them has different signals coming in from the same building, and sees the same crowd with a totally different point of view because they are in communication with different aspects of the same reality.
Experientially, each of them is going through a different building, as far as what they believe they are experiencing is concerned. For example, they may all experience air that is heated to 87.3 degrees Fahrenheit; but some will feel it as intolerably warm and stuffy, and others as moderately comfortable, and other still experience the same air as somewhat brisk. The difference in their opinions has to do with what they are communicating, what communications they are receiving from their sensory systems and their personal ideas about those sensory systems and their judgments about what those communications mean.
What is making the difference is not objective reality but the focus of their awareness on different aspects of it. In other words, the act of communication between themselves and the environment is bringing about a different reality for each of them.
For some of them, communication with the present moment in the building among the crowd is very bright, easily perceived, and fully in harmony. For others, perception of what the people around them are doing is dulled nearly to oblivion by a focus turned inward on floods of manufactured information about worries, random noise signals, communications from old copies of past events still being examined, and so on.
IS one of these "reality" and the rest not? Are all of them fragments of a wideband spectrum of events called "reality"?
To some, the basic frame of the physical space and time is the edge of the reality of the building, and all the rest are just ideas being held within that space and time. This is a reassuring and sensible view. But there is a lethal flaw in it; it does not address the individual, but his body. If you place the individual within his body, and nowhere else, then you can satisfactorily define the reality of the building as a box of space with a bunch of random motion going on inside it.
From the view of any one person, however, the building is a box of experience with some space contained within it, and some motion going on.
But within that view is a LOT of other space ranging from Cousin Berth's hospital room to Proxima Centauri's forgotten planets. And much of that space is entirely outside of the building and its rooms.
More important, a theoretical view of the purported "physical reality" of the building in turn depends on the framework of beliefs that an individual holding that view brings to bear on his perception.
There is no view of the building not held by some point of view, and there is no exterior framework of space-time that is there for some Objective Viewpoint, who has no point of view. In other words the Newtonian spacetime is badly warped because it is a viewpoint that denies viewing.
Instead it pretends to an unviewed Objective Reality. It says "All viewpoints are held within this box". But who is looking at the box? If it is a point of view, then where is it held from? Outside the material universe? Even if so, who is to say such a viewpoint is not in turn monitored by beliefs? What might they be?
The box-of-space view of material reality is one which we in the West often engage in. in order to build technology and have it work. We call it engineering, pragmatism, hardheaded realism, or something else. But as one who subscribes to this view of material existence, what beliefs have you built in to it?
What convictions of unquestionable truth have you erected in order to have and use this box of spacetime as the ultimate reference? Could they be changed? How? Is there some preferable set? What would you put in it?
These answers -- certainly these questions -- may open the way to another kind of game altogether, in which even the spirit of a human being can end a winner.