(Originally Posted: Oct. 19, 2016)
How you answer this question determines your behavior. The way you live is predicated on what you believe to be true — to be real — about yourself and the world around you. The beauty of this life is that I do not have to subscribe to your reality. I can choose to believe whatever I want. Whether right or wrong — it is my choice. One of humanity’s greatest qualities is our capacity to choose what truth we believe in.
People who impact the world don’t live in the reality that was given to them. Steve Jobs was said to have a reality distortion field. It was like he would mend reality to fit whatever he needed at the time. He understood that in order to make a mark on the world he had to ignore the reality that was taught to him. Sometimes even to his detriment, he would ignore the rules that were placed before him. As if he knew that this world would never be enough for him — he had to create his own.
Whether we know it or not we are creating the world we live in. Our thoughts, our words, our deeds are always building…Something.
So what is reality?
Perception? Is perception truly reality? Is how we experience reality based on how we perceive people and events?
There is a popular verse in the Bible that speaks to this. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Substance; evidence; these are tangible. Things hoped for; things not seen; these are things that only we can see. Through faith, which is our ability to see, our words, and our deeds we manifest our reality for others around us to experience. This process allows for the world to experience our inner reality.
We are always creating our reality.
In September, I participated in a walk to celebrate those who have the disease known as Sickle Cell Anemia. I was there with my close friends, Tyreke and Shakeira Wesley, who have two beautiful children that were born with it. They made my wife and me Godparents of their children, so it was an honor to be a support to them in that way. The walk impacted me in ways that I did not expect.
There was a sense of celebration and it was beautiful to witness people encouraging one another in love and joy. Building relationships and sharing their stories; they were united by a common hardship — a shared pain. And through it all they ate, they danced, they laughed. It was a party. I saw a woman with a shirt that read, “FUCK SICKLE CELL”. For me, it was a powerful statement. There was no denial of Sickle Cell or pretending as if this is not something that people are living with. It was a refusal to become Sickle Cell’s victim.
As a child, my dream was to play in professional basketball. I knew very early on, if that was going to happen I needed to spend hours and hours on the court perfecting my craft. So that’s what I did for the early part of my life — that’s all I did. I have a lot of memories from those times and so many lessons about life that I use to this day. My dad would take me to the gym at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning, day in and day out. Each day, the first part of the workout was ball-handling drills. He would yell out, “You control the ball; don’t let the ball control you.”
What if we viewed reality in that way? “You control reality; don’t let reality control you.” The reason the people at the walk for Sickle Cell were able to celebrate is because somewhere along the way they decided that they were going to control Sickle Cell and not the other way around. On some level they realized that the only power Sickle Cell has the power they give it.
There are so many variables that we have no control over. Storms rage and mountains loom over us. Sometimes it can feel impossible to overcome all that stands in front of us. It can feel hopeless. And it will always feel that way as long as we focus on the obstacles. In some ways we have made faith into a weapon that makes us immune to life. As if we only have enough, our family members won’t get sick or die; the next plane we get on won’t explode in the air; and cancer won’t ever be able to touch us. But faith doesn’t control reality. Having faith has less to do with what is happening to you and more to do with how you are experiencing what is happening. Having faith doesn’t move mountains — it moves you.
When we allow anything outside of ourselves to inform how we experience life, we give our power away. We become victims. It’s only when we accept our circumstances and see them as what they are, do we have the opportunity to control our perception, and therefore our reality.
It’s not what we see, it’s how we see it that determines our experience.