(My first blog post.)
I wanted to go to this Italian opera. I don’t know Italian, but I have a friend, Dr. Bellini, who is an internist and an opera fan. I persuaded him to go to the opera with me. So we are watching as men and women are tearing around the stage, shouting and waving their hands; the husky soprano is shrieking, and I ask Bellini, “what’s going on?” He replies, “The soprano is digesting her dinner.”
He is probably right. The dialogue in the opera is also going on. They are both going on. They are both true and real. But they are totally different in language, context, meaning.
This is the nature of the world around us. It is layer upon layer of different — not realities, there is one reality — but different descriptions or aspects of reality.
It would be silly to assume that everything should have only one valid language of desciption. That is reductionism, an attempt to flatten all the levels, or claim that somehow they are illegitimate or composite or subordinate to one special level.
There is no end to the levels. There may be “things going on” that are completely unknown to us. For instance, recently physicists realized that there are billions of neutrinos passing through our bodies every second. We know that there is dark matter, but we don’t know anything about it, except that there is 5 times more of it than the matter we can see, and it has mass. Period.
Some people believe, based on the Bible, that there are angels around us, or that God is everywhere around us. We cannot see or detect this presence with any physical instrument, just as we cannot detect the plot of an opera by a physical instrument. That doesn’t mean the plot isn’t in some sense a part of the real world. There may be many other levels of reality here, but we don’t know what we don’t know. They are a mystery to us.