You Can't Know What Reality Is

You Can't Know What Reality Is

How do you know that you know things?

How do we know what we know? Personally, this question has become important as we in social work look at what theory or model best explains human behavior, and what theory to use as we do therapy, or other interventions, etcetera. But it applies in other fields as well, and just in life as well. From politics to relationship with friends and family, knowing what policies we should support, and being able to understand each other's lived experiences. How do we know what we know, how do we respond when our lived experiences, and perspective is in violent contradiction with another person's perspective?

Famously, Descartes said “I think, therefore I am” meaning that since he thinks, he knows that at least he exists, and I think that this is a conclusion that we all have reached. We all start off knowing that I think, I know my thoughts. We live life from our own subjective point of view, and to ignore that, to ignore the fact that we are individuals navigating life would mean to make the rest of our conclusions on false premises

From here we begin to venture out, and realize “hey, other people are here too”. Usually, it starts with our parents, in our early stages we rely on them a lot, and so we acknowledge their existence for rather selfish reasons.

From there our lives and our thoughts can be boiled down to a mix of biological and chemical processings, which interact with our experiences, which further affect our chemical balances, and so on. Looking at us this way it makes you wonder, do we have any agency? Why do we do what we do?

Freud thought it could all relate back to your relationship with your parents, while if you look at Cognitive Behavioral Therapy then your feelings don’t have to do with your past experiences, but what you think about those experiences. Then again if you ask a social constructionist and they’ll tell you reality doesn’t even exist!

With so many different viewpoints, it leaves me wondering who’s right, or if it’s even possible to come to any objective answer. For the most part I’ve felt the best answer lied in empirical data, or research. If it wasn’t proven in a lab, then it doesn’t exist. For me though, this leaves out something.

Namely what is left out is one’s own personal experience. What if my lived experiences lead me to a different conclusion than what a study says? Bias is a real thing, am I to assume I am wrong? What if it’s the study that is wrong? Also, what about things you can’t test for, like the existence of the human spirit?

Some people might be ready to throw away their belief in the human spirit, but other people have lived their whole life with the idea. If you were to talk to a devout, deeply spiritual person, now at the age of 90, who lived their whole life knowing, knowing, that they lived their life so that their soul could got to heaven, would you tell them that you believed they didn’t have a soul?

I’m not sure I have any answers. Ultimately I feel both are important. One’s own life experiences are important, and so is having empirical data. We are likely to meet people who have different stories than we do. Maybe somewhere between all of our stories there is some kind of answer. At the end I guess all I have is a kind of cliche quote, “It takes two to speak the truth - one to speak and another to hear.” - Henry David Thoreau.

Cover Image Credit: Ryoji Iwata

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.

What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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News Flash: 'Building The Wall' Is Still A Dumb Idea And Always Will Be

The government is still partially shutdown because of funding for the wall. Really?


A man who is a strong supporter of building the wall told me this metaphor: If you don't want the wrong people walking into your backyard, you put a fence up. We don't want the wrong people coming to America, so we put a wall up. I respect people's political beliefs, and because of this, I want to share mine.

I believe that President Trump demanding money to build a border wall is dumb.

It's hard to believe so many people really think that this "build a wall" has everything to do about border security. It's just inhumane and wrong.

Literally, the most notorious drug lord of Mexico has shed light about how he smuggles the drug into the U.S. They have brought it through fishing boats, trucks going through the legal point of entry, underground tunnel, but not through unwalled parts. The half of million pounds of narcotics that were secured at the border? They were all al legal points of entry.

I'm saying this because I am a proud daughter of immigrants who crossed the border. The media has portrayed immigrants as these horrible people infiltrating our country. They just want somewhere safe to live to raise their kid.

The conditions of Latin American countries are inexplicable. Communist have risen from the ashes dominating these countries letting people rot on the street starving. There are little to no job opportunities. I haven't seen my family in three years because it is dangerous to go.

The media doesn't tell you this. They don't tell you how many people have gone to the border and returned to Mexico because ICE agents tear gas them.

They tell you that they throw babies over fences to distract border patrol agents. They tell you children are dying because of malnutrition of trekking thousands of miles to get the border. They don't tell you that those same children have been eating unmonitored food with thousands of microorganism some mal some good.

Not all immigrants are not bad people. The notions that all immigrants are criminals is "fake news." It has been a hook, line, and sinker for the Republican Party. There are studies such as one from the journal Criminology showing that places with high undocumented immigrant population does not equal high crime.

Should undocumented citizens attempt to become legal residents of the United States? Absolutely, and that is a problem if they are evading taxes and other legal notions with more consequences.

However, we should not lie to ourselves and act as a wall is to help border security against drugs and crime. It's just a physical quota like 1920s immigration laws. There is a better solution then sacrificing 5.7 billion dollars. Let me translate that: 5,700,000,000 dollars. That is our taxes. As a college student, I rather have those 5.7 billion dollars be translated to scholarship, grants, financial aid, and helping us, the future of this country become the best people we can be. Why build a wall when the future of America, who I personally think is more important can be helped.

I don't come from a rich family, and I don't have the means to afford a college education without loans, so when I hear that the Government can afford to give 5.7 billion dollars for a wall, I have the right to be upset. Tell me I'm wrong, and call me dumb, but this is my unpopular opinion.


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