Reality could be defined as “that which appears to be.” Reality is fundamentally agreement. What we agree to be real is real. Reality, physical-universe reality, is sensed through various channels; we see something with our eyes, we hear something with our ears, we smell something with our nose, we touch something with our hands, and we decide, then, that there is something. But the only way we know it is through our senses and those senses are artificial channels. We are not in direct contact with the physical universe. We are in contact through our sense channels with it.
Those sense channels can be blunted. For instance, a man loses his eyesight, and as far as he is concerned there is no light or shape or color or depth perception to the physical universe. It still has a reality to him, but it is not the same reality as another person’s. In other words, he is unable to conceive a physical universe completely without sight. One can’t conceive these things without senses. So the physical universe is seen through these senses.
Two men can take a look at a table and agree it is a table. It is made out of wood, it is brown. The men agree to that. Of course, one understands that when he says “brown” and the other hears “brown,” brown actually to the first man may be purple but he has agreed that it is brown because all his life people have been pointing to this color vibration and saying “brown.” It might really be red to the second man, but he recognizes it as brown. So both men are in agreement although they might be seeing something different. But they agree this is brown, this is wood, this is a table. Now a third fellow walks in the door, comes up and takes a look at this thing and says, “Huh! An elephant!”
One man says, “It’s a table, see? Elephants are . . . ”
“No, it’s an elephant,” replies the third man.
So the other two men say the third one is crazy. He doesn’t agree with them. Do they attempt further to communicate with him? No. He doesn’t agree with them. He has not agreed upon this reality. Are they in affinity with him? No. They say, “This guy is crazy.” They don’t like him. They don’t want to be around him.
Now let’s say two individuals are arguing, and one says, “That table is made out of wood,” and the other says, “No, it is not. It’s made out of metal which is painted to look like wood.” They start arguing about this; they are trying to reach a point of agreement and they can’t reach this point of agreement. Another fellow comes up and takes a look at the table and says, “As a matter of fact, the legs are painted to look like wood, but the top is wood and it is brown and it is a table.” The first two men then reach an agreement. They feel an affinity. All of a sudden they feel friendly and they feel friendly toward the third man. He solved the problem. The two individuals have reached an agreement and go into communication.
For an individual, reality can only consist of his interpretation of the sensory perceptions he receives. The comparative unreliability of this data is clearly shown by the varying reports always received in the description of, say, an automobile accident. People who have studied this phenomenon report that there is an amazing degree of difference in the description given of the same scene by different observers. In other words, the reality of this situation differed in details for each of the observers. As a matter of fact, there is a wide area of agreement, extremely wide, the common agreement of mankind. This is the earth. We are men. The automobiles are automobiles. They are propelled by the explosion of certain chemicals. The air is the air. The sun is in the sky. There is usually an agreement that a wreck happened. Beyond this basic area of agreement there are differing interpretations of reality.
Eyewitnesses at the scene of an accident or crime often present differing accounts of what occurred. Each person here has a different reality of what happened to a woman who had her purse snatched.
For all practical purposes, reality consists of your perception of it, and your perception of reality consists, to a large extent, of what you can communicate with other people.