Not long ago, someone said to me “reality is merely the story we tell ourselves.” I’ve never given much thoughts to it back then, but after visiting the SF MOMA last week, Magritte’s exhibition jolted my memory and I want to talk about reality.
If I have a holiday to spare and the weather is perfect, I wouldn’t hesitate to head to the beach by myself with a book in my hand and enjoy a quiet afternoon under the sun; when I discuss this act with a friend, she finds the idea depressing. This is the story she tells herself. The story I told myself is that I can be spontaneous, come and go as I please; to me, it is freedom. In other words, everything is down to how you interpret what happens in your life. You can choose to tell yourself the story whereby you’re the victim; or you can tell the story as a survivor. It sounds easier said than done you think, but the change of mindset can happen fast too if you only let yourself believe.
For instance, in these paintings by Magritte, has the apple/ rose expanded to the size of the room? Or has the apple/ rose been placed in a miniature room?
Both stories explains exactly what’s in front of our eyes, but which story would you rather tell yourself? The surrealist approach of the painter, that the apple is in fact as big as the room, because of the values it represent (of life, of vitality) or the realist approach so that everything “makes sense”?
Is this captured in broad daylight or in the midst of the night?
Is this sunset, or sunrise? Is this a shattered painting? Or merely lights reflected on broken glass?
Magritte is such a genius the way he triggers so many questions and room for imagination in his work. There is no right or wrong in interpreting reality, but I beg that you always pick the one that makes you the happiest. Because life is unpredictable and short, and I do not want you to waste even just one minute, on things that goes against your values.
This is just like any skill / muscle that can be improved through practice. For instance, I like to do random thought experiments when I am idle, usually on a train, a car or a plane, looking out of the window. How would I interpret a certain act if I were a certain person? Where would I be if I hadn’t make certain moves/ choices in life? What would become of me if I stuck with my childhood aspiration to be a teacher? What would my life be if I ended up with certain people for the rest of my life?
I think this helps train your brain to be malleable and open to opportunities that life presents to you; it also reduces our tendency to be fixated on certain paths/ goals that may be imposed on us by society norms or peer pressure or cultural expectations. The door is both locked yet perpetually open.
I don’t know if it applies to everyone; but there has to be a point in life where everyone seems to be doing one thing, taking science electives, going abroad to study, getting an internship, aspiring to become an ibanker etc. I was too young and immature back then to stop and think about if that’s really for me. I’ve found myself to be like a fish in the dessert at times; but I’m happy to say that I’ve finally found my way back into the water. It is refreshing and so effortlessly good to be with like-minded people and an environment that makes everyday as easy as breathing. So no, I am committed to reminding myself not to fall into that trap again, to be blinded into believing that what everyone want/ think is desirable, is what I want. I will continue on my own path, and stick to my beliefs, no matter how absurd it may look to others.
It’s probably not directly related as my words are as scattered as my thoughts but I’d like to end on a poem that I’ve read recently. It encapsulated the idea of switching gears and looking at things via new, hopeful lens. Yes, I’m sure there are people out there who’d disagree with me, but heck, I’ll always have faith that life is good, and believe that people are inherently nice; I’ll always be a romantic in life. I like this photo of me 6 years ago, I was soaring and in complete and utter bliss 🙂
“What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight
Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor
in the grass of glory in the flower
We will grieve not rather find
Strength in what remains behind” – William Wordsworth