The Light at the End of Reality

Understanding the significance of change, changes the nature of our awareness of reality

Johnny R. O'Neill


Kenworth in a Tunnel, 2010, by author

It’s tough to let go of our materialist, ‘object-first’ view of our universe. From such a view the qualities of a thing may change, but the ‘thing itself’ doesn’t.

It can’t now and never will float again, for example, but grandpa’s old fishing boat, out in the backyard with a tree growing out of the hull, is still a boat.

That’s our mindset. Things are the things they are, more or less regardless, and that idea clouds our understanding of existence because we think most objects exist ‘on their own,’ independent of any awareness of them. But do they?

Imagine a music CD found in otherwise perfect condition by some future culture with no means of playing it. Even if there is knowledge that music is encoded on the CD, there is no actual ‘music’ to be aware of. For this culture, the ‘music’ isn’t there. It doesn’t exist.

Holding that thought, now imagine a neutrino (subatomic particle) passing through an electron field. If it doesn’t interact with the electron — as evidenced by an utter lack of effect on either the electron or the neutrino (neutrinos are notorious for not interacting with stuff) — then it’s like the electron didn’t exist for the neutrino, and vice versa, the neutrino didn’t exist for the electron.

The point is, when we understand our universe in terms of objects staying (relatively) the same, we entirely miss the simple truth that anything we perceive always involves an interaction, a transfer of energy, a change in ‘what is.’ Sight is interaction in the eyes, hearing is interaction in the ears, touch, taste, smell, all involve interactions. Thoughts involve interactions in the brain.

For the actual music on the CD to ‘exist,’ it must be heard. There must be interaction with the listener. For the electron to reflect an interaction with the neutrino, there must be an effect on the electron, a change in direction, for example, or speed (similarly for the neutrino).

‘Existing’ things don’t, can’t, never have, and never will, stay the same. They can’t stay the same if they are to exist at all because if they are to exist there must be awareness of them, and if there is to be awareness of them there must be interaction, i.e. change. (For further explanation see ‘Awareism,’ Consciousness, & the Matter of Things)

Even such a seemingly unchanging thing as a diamond (old slogan: ‘diamonds are forever’) exists for us via interactions, via a transfer of energy from light waves interacting with both the diamond and our eyes, or friction/pressure from the diamond upon our skin.

(If you think the diamond ‘itself’ remains unchanged, consider that even tiny temperature changes in the diamond’s environment affect — change — that diamond, even from moment to moment. That a change is miniscule, as in a transfer of energy to a light wave, or cyclical, as in temperature fluctuations, doesn’t mean it’s not there.)

Existence always involves interaction. If there is no interaction, there is no ‘existence.’

Once that is understood, that that of which there is no interaction does not exist, and vice versa, that that of which there is interaction does exist… (And taking due care with the form of the existence, because words can deceive. Is it a boat we’re interacting with, or the memory of a boat, the plans for a boat, the knowledge of a boat, the imagination that it could be a boat…)

Once these various ideas — interaction, change, perception, awareness, existence — are linked to each other, they begin to blend into each other. They all come to seem wrapped up in the same package, so…

Maybe they are all the same thing?

Maybe perception is an interaction; maybe interaction is change; maybe change is awareness, and awareness is existence?

Maybe the awareness of an existence is the existence of an awareness? Maybe the ‘two’ are not. Maybe the ‘two’ are ONE?

And if that’s the case, maybe what really ‘exists,’ what our ‘reality’ is composed of, at root — the basic building block?

Maybe it’s simply awareness of change in what we call ‘reality.’

That’s what ‘exists.’

For want of a better name I have begun calling this idea ‘awareism.’ Awareism is the notion that the ultimate building block of our universe is the continual awareness of change — the awareness of creation of our ever-new ‘reality.’