You’re reading this because you know it will give you a way to get smarter. Each time we read something new, an opinion, some fresh research or someone else’s thoughts, we synthesize the information inside our own mental world, taking something that is immaterial and invisible and incorporating it into the electrochemical reality that is our brain.
Let’s start with a disclaimer so we can get the obvious out of the way. In order to change your reality you don’t need to pop acid, dive headfirst into a pool of alcohol or arrange for that quick trip to Amsterdam’s “coffee shops” you’ve got on your bucket list. Reality can be changed by changing our perception of it. As Neo finds out in the seminal 1999 sci-fi hit The Matrix, the reality we perceive does not exist outside the construct of the self:
No one dares say it but the fear that our brain is slowing down, that we miss things we never used to, that age and time are finally catching up is something we all worry about. We can stand, perhaps not being as fresh-faced or as fast to catch a ball or as energetic in the morning as we used to be. These are things that are inevitable, we know. But to think that we may be no longer as razor-sharp in our thoughts as we were in the past and not know it, is terrifying.
There is a direct, mental link between what we think, what we say and what we do. Language plays a dual role. Part of it is representational. When we say the word “tree” we associate it, in our mind, with an entire list of attributes that constitute a tree and its potential. At the same time we categorize it into different types of tree, some of which have different attributes to all the other types of tree and some of which are better suited at creating a forest, than others.
Nothing can exist if we cannot imagine it. More people know the full life history of Harry Potter, the “boy who lived” than that of Alexander Graham Bell. Yet one is fictional while the other is the inventor of the telephone. What makes the former as ‘real’ as the latter is the fact that we can all agree on the knowledge we have of him, the attributes that make him into a person and the things he accomplished.