Reality Is Overrated; Choose an Illusion That Works

“[Y]ou shouldn’t hesitate to modify your perceptions to whatever makes you happy, because you’re probably wrong about the underlying nature of reality anyway. If I had to bet my life, I’d say humans are more like my dog trying to use psychic powers on me to play fetch than we are like enlightened creatures that understand their environment at a deep level. Every generation before us believed, like [my dog], that it had things figured out. We now know that every generation before us was wrong about a lot of it. Is it likely that you were born at the tipping point of history, in which humans know enough about reality to say we understand it? This is another case where humility is your friend. When you can release on your ego long enough to view your perceptions as incomplete or misleading, it gives you the freedom to imagine new and potentially more useful ways of looking at the world.

In practical terms, the reason my dog happily plays fetch three times a day is that she chose an illusion that works. I believe she imagines she can make me play fetch just by visualizing it. You too can sometimes get what you want by adopting a practical illusion. Reality is overrated and impossible to understand with any degree of certainty. What you do know for sure is that some ways of looking at the world work better than others. Pick the way that works, even if you don’t know why.”

—Scott Adams, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life (2013)

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