Long, long ago, on an early winter night, the car I was riding in pulled up to a stop sign. As we approached, the words “What is reality?” that someone had painted in large white letters on the dark asphalt conveyed a stark message. That’s the moment I began pondering “What is reality?”, and the naturally accompanying “and why are we here?”
A concrete answer to “Why are we here?” seemed foundational for answering the more elusive “What is reality?” For decades I devoured philosophy after philosophy and religious text after religious text seeking the “real truth”. Some claim we are here to learn, some say our purpose is to prove there is God, others say we exist for the pleasure of God, and some to break our karmic cycles
So why are we here? Ultimately there is no empirically provable reason. We just are. Any other belief is rooted in pure fiction, supported only by imagination and anecdotal evidence that feeds confirmation bias. As Alfred Adler, said, all belief systems are fictitious. The problem is that human beings desperately need their fictitious belief systems, for without them they will fail to thrive, go insane, and perhaps even fail to survive.
In reality, there is very little in life that is concrete. We are here, and if you stub your toe, it will hurt. Our belief systems are what provide the basis of referential understanding that enables us to function in our society. Belief systems define the social constructs and meanings that people need for their world to make sense. Shattered belief systems are devastating because the world no longer makes sense. Those who readily adapt quickly identify new belief systems that return them to the comfort of an orderly world. It is not uncommon for people who have difficulty adapting to passionately cling to their beliefs even in the face of incontrovertible evidence that they are false.
Therein is a paradox of human existence and experience; there is no true reality. The reality you create for yourself is ultimately comprised of the fictions you have been socialized to believe are true or fictions you have cognitively chosen. Without choosing fictions, and adapting chosen fictions to evolving life circumstances, it is impossible to have a fulfilling, rewarding life. In other words, we all have to live a lie.