If we decide that reality is out there in the “objective” world, then everything we know about reality comes to us through our senses. Can we trust them to tell us about the ultimate nature of that reality? What’s happening at that interchange, where something “out there” in the world registers “in here” in our experience of it?
Take the smell of coffee. What does that subjective experience—that delicious, indescribable aroma—correspond to in the objective world? Scientists inform us it corresponds to molecules of a particular shape. That’s it: molecules. It is we humans who transform those boring molecules into the incredible fragrance of coffee. The molecules land on receptors in our nose which causes a nerve signal to be sent to our brain, where somehow that electrical signal is experienced as something wondrous.
Similarly, scientists tell us that what we experience as different colors is, out there in the objective world, just different wavelengths of electromagnetic energy. What we see as blue is really light with a wavelength near 470 nanometers. What we experience as red is light with a wavelength of about 700 nanometers. Somehow that quantitative difference in the wavelengths is transformed into a qualitative difference between the experience of blue and red. The difference between the two wavelengths out there in the objective world is boring—they’re just two different lengths. But the difference between blue and red is exciting, graphic, indescribable, subjective.
Molecules transmuted into smells; wavelengths transubstantiated into colors. What performs these miraculous acts?
Our subjective experience is of a profoundly different nature than the objective input that triggered it. There’s no rational connection between the two. “Interpreting” a molecule into the delicious smell of coffee is like “interpreting” a word into a burrito. We don’t interpret objective stimuli. We create something entirely new from them. This “something new” exists in a completely different dimension. It’s as if the objective stimuli just served as a tiny prick of inspiration for our subjective experience of it. We are inherently, effortlessly, biologically creative. There’s no escaping your status as a master artist in every moment of your experience.