Yesterday I wrote about Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis over on my Salem Political Snark blog in "Reality is the big winner in Trump's COVID-19 infection." Here's the most philosophical part of the post.
Being as deeply philosophical as I am deeply political, I now want to broaden my take on the meaning of Trump coming down with COVID-19. It's a big win for reality!
Not that reality needs any help. Reality always comes out on top in the end, because, well, reality is the only thing that is truly real.
A short blog post isn't the place to discuss what I mean by "truly" and "real." So here's my brief take on those words. Everything that exists is real, or it wouldn't exist. Thus dreams are real, as are hallucinations. Fantasies are real, as are lies. Those things exist, but not truly.
To exist truly, something has to posses a certain substance and objective nature. As I said in "The best one-sentence metaphysics ever written," I love Phillip K. Dick's definition of reality.
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
Donald Trump didn't believe in the seriousness of the coronavirus. He thought it would go away when the United States had just 15 cases. He thought it would go away in warmer weather. He thought this country had turned the corner on the pandemic. Those beliefs, and many more, were spectacularly wrong.
No matter. Whatever Trump or anyone else believes about COVID-19 has no bearing on the coronavirus. It just keeps on doing what viruses are so good at: spreading. We humans have learned a lot about how to slow or stop that spread. Those measures work whether or not anyone believes in them.
Trump and others in his administration have a strong bias against reality. They believe that if a lie is repeated often enough and strongly enough, many people will believe it. Sadly, this is true. But I'm optimistic that most people won't.
Presidential election polling bears this out.
More Americans favor Biden than Trump. Biden has a vastly stronger truthfulness rating on PolitiFact than Trump does. Biden accepts the science of global warming; Trump doesn't. And Biden has been following public health guidelines in his campaigning, including wearing a mask, while Trump hasn't.
Now Trump has COVID-19. He's been admitted to the Walter Reed Medical Center. He faces a potentially lengthy recovery period, though there is a chance that even at the age of 74 and with underlying conditions such as obesity, Trump will get well fairly quickly. Time will tell.
What won't change with time is the primacy of reality. It always wins out in the end. Always.
So it's fitting that in the month before the election where, hopefully, Trump is tossed out of office by voters, the Liar-in-Chief is suffering from the disease that he has been downplaying for many months. To adapt a familiar phrase, the wheels of reality turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine.
Religions also have a shaky relationship with reality.
They love to talk about things for which there is no demonstrable proof of their existence. God. Heaven. Soul. Spirit. Devil. Afterlife. Angels. Etc. Etc. And they are reluctant to talk about things that clearly exist, such as evolution and the Big Bang.
In my morning reading today I came across some mentions of reality. I'll share those also. Here's passages from Steve Hagen's, "Buddhism Plain and Simple," one of my favorite books.
The buddha-dharma is grounded in Reality. It is not pie in the sky, or wishful thinking, or a denial of what human life is. There's no attempt to cover up, to gloss over, to reinterpret the facts.
...You are already in reality, whether you see it or not. Reality is what's here, now. Thus you're here now, too. You know all this already, from direct experience. You're not separated from Reality. It's not "out there" somewhere, but right here.
And here's a passage from Sam Harris' fascinating book, "Making Sense: Conversations on Consciousness, Morality, and the Future of Humanity." Harris says:
One difference between religious dogmatism and scientific curiosity is the boundedness of the worldview that results and one's consequent tolerance of ambiguity and complexity.
For a dogmatist, the final answers are already given. Reality can't be more complex than what's spelled out in his favorite book.
But for a scientist, or for any truly curious person, the investigation of reality is open-ended. Who knows what we will learn in the future, and who knows how it may supersede our current understanding?