Identity and reality

At this point in time, I would say my philosophy aligns with a sort of objective materialist or rational skeptic or IDK what the words are. However, I also think that there's a really weird thing that happens when humans come around with their language and society. Through sheer belief, humans seem to have the ability to get other humans to act as though something is real, even if it has no bearing on the physical substrate of reality.

Humans have this weird ability to “play pretend” about things. But they do it so much that they don't even realize they're doing it half the time.

I'm being reductive of course. It's a lot more complicated than that. The shared reality that humans build is a result of social contracts, agreements, beliefs, and more. In my experience, most of we interact with as humans is part of this shared “pretend” reality that exists only because we collectively will it to be so.

Take money for example. Currency. Numbers in a database or pieces of paper or coins. They have value merely because we will them to have such. Without those beliefs, they have no value. Yet we spend so much of our lives chasing money, struggling to get enough to survive, and so on. Much of our lives centers around it.

Some people confuse our “make believe” world of shared ideas, beliefs, and agreements with the solid substrate of reality. Some people think that how much wealth someone has is a real thing, just as real as a cloud or a tree or a rock.

It's not. If you went to a deserted island or a far away planet, disconnected from the rest of society, your money and wealth would cease to have any meaning.

But within this society that believes in it, it has real power to affect things.

In truth, the things we pretend are real... The things we make believe about... They have so much power, they can literally move mountains, reshape continents, move the planet. They can kill us or bring us joy. These mere ideas and beliefs shape us just as we shape them.

Here's where things get really exciting. The relationship between our identities and the shared fantasy of reality are complex, intricate and oh so interesting.

It's one thing to do psychological analysis or sociology on identity. It's another to realize that you have the power to reshape your identity at will. That the very things that define who we are as people are also stories we tell, fictions we create.

For example, to realize you don't need to participate in static binary gender the way you were told you had to as a child. You can change your gender, abstain from gender, or go deeper in it. You don't have to be heterosexual. You don't have to follow the narrative of finding a single spouse and getting married. You don't have to follow the narratives that exist in this culture.

The rules that you have to be these things and do these things are just like money... shared ideas that exist only because people say they do. They're not real like a cloud or tree is...

Going deeper, the ideas of who and what we are are also fantasies. The idea that you're an individual being with your own single separate and independent thoughts and ideas is a story you tell yourself.

What are you really? You're a collection of cells, some of which have neurons that fire in a complex pattern we have labelled a “neural network.” No part of that is you. You are a story that thing tells.

That's not to say that it's not a useful story. It can be useful to treat yourself as a single independent entity. But you could just as easily model yourself as a collection of independent entities or as part of a network of minds connected via sounds transmitted over the air and electronic signals transmitted over the internet.

You could do all of these at once, or none of them.

When you're free to write the story yourself... To create the model by which you interpret your own experiences... the power there is incredible. Singlet, plural, interconnected multi-body being...

We can even step away from trying to tell a story about what our brains are doing and just envelop ourselves in fictions and stories of our own making, instead of the overall collective story. We can tell a story about being a cat, or a bird, or a robot, or a dragon...

There's a reason that the Matrix was written by two trans women. Their story reflects a lot of these ideas. That when you see that so much of the world we exist in is a shared belief or fiction, you gain the ability to rewrite it and to work with it in a new way.

Sometimes, you need something, perhaps a preference for a different gender narrative, so strongly that it causes you to break the Matrix we live in and realize that we can do and be so much more than the stories that usually get forced on us.

I'm still a materialist. I don't believe that gods or angels or magic really exist in some of the ways people say they do. I don't think spells or prayers work.

But I think that shared human beliefs are incredibly powerful. I've seen the way that ideas can reshape people and landscapes. I've been a part of that.

It is there, in the space of what humans believe, and the powerful affects of those beliefs, that I do recognize the reality of magic.