Be mindful of the script in your mind. Who was the author? Who is updating your script right under your nose? That’s the life of taking a blue pill. You don’t need to worry about such questions. You dine on that juicy steak cooked just like you want it. Veiling allows for such a soft, cushy way to drift through life. Until someone shows you how a green screen works in the movies and you start to understand how movies are made, including the one projected in your mind. Now.
The Red Pill Metaphor
In the Hollywood movie the Matrix the unveiling was symbolized by a red pill. Neo is asked to choose between the red pill which will reveal what lies behind the appearance of reality, or the blue pill which blinds him to the hidden reality and allows him to accept appearance at face-value. In the movie, Morpheus instructs Neo to make a choice: “You take the blue pill…the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill…you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Neo is left with the existential questions: How far behind the appearance of reality is he prepared to go? Is he prepared psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually to be the agent of his own unveiling? He takes the red pill and the unveiling of reality leaves Neo and the audience in a bewildering, plighted, alien landscape divorced from the outward appearance of reality.
The Green Screen Metaphor
I was on the set of the Hollywood film Bangkok Dangerous during the production. The set designers had built a clock tower to match one in Prague. Nicholas Cage (actually his stunt double) ran up a flight of stairs and Nicholas Cage (the actor) looked out of the top at the green background. In other words, he wasn’t looking at Prague. He was looking at a wall covered in green fabric. The action took place inside a room big enough to house a Boeing 787. The walls covered were with green background. A second production team later went to Prague, hired a helicopter, and filmed sweeping, dramatic scenes of the city from the clock tower. When you watch the movie, you experience an image that was constructed by the editor at her computer.
This is a still from the set of the Matrix. You can see the green screen and the actors hanging by wires next to the scene that appeared in the movie. In our daily life most of the world is green screened and our brains fill into the details like a second unit. Rather than a helicopter, our second unit draws on experience, memories, models, and constructions that give us the illusion that what we are seeing is an objective representation that our brain processes like a video camera.
First a quick, basic down and dirty definition of a green screen in the film industry. The set where the crew, director, cast, and actors are working is covered with a green (or blue) flat, monochromatic background. The actors are filmed against this background. Later, during editing, the green or blue background is swapped for other footage that supports the action or dialogue in the scene. This quick rundown of how movies are made acts as an unveiling. When we watch a movie, we don’t think about the mechanics of how the scene was shot often in multiple locations and later stitched together with computerized images and special effects. A movie is dependent on the quality of the script. Life imitates movies meaning it also runs on a script.
Our brains go through something similar to green screening. Our perceptions, experience and memories fill in the content. We are no more conscious of how our brain green screens reality than we are aware of all the green screen scenes in a movie.
The unveiling of reality, what lies behind it, and how you find passage into this green screen space, is more than a technique used to make a Hollywood movie. Can we rely on reasoning as the torch that lights the way? As a metaphor, the green screening of reality, like a Hollywood film, needs pre-production, production and post-production talent. We’ve seen enough bad films to know how delicate and fragile the logistics chain is in making a great film. The metaphor is a visualization of the daily films produced by our internal crew of director, producer, editor and actors as they collaborate in our neuro network in producing a show we take not as a show but as reality.
Your Brain’s shooting script
Let’s talk about our shooting script for life. The question, though not framed in this way precisely, has divided philosophers since early times. Our brain processes many different types of stories and in many genres. How do we go about going through this mental library of stories? Our orientation to a scene unfolding in real time means we need a ready supply of material to fill the green screen of reality. What script does our brain produce on the fly as we interact with the world?
Our brain offers our conscious mind a wide number of choices, themes, and plot points. For example, we can adopt either Realism or idealism, Apollo or Dionysus, finite, and infinite games, or dissect the brain in terms of left and right hemispheres, each with their own movie making bias. The stakes are high. Some of what occurs is unconscious. The script comes from regions we aren’t aware of. If you are a realist then the alternative status as an idealist is a one-way ticket to pursuing a bizarre, deviant irrationality. Meaning is derived from the emotional reaction that arises from the experience; it doesn’t and can’t derive from an abstracted idea of experience.
The world of experience: touch, smell, hearing, sight, taste provide content for the subjective script that runs on the movie reel of your daily life. Your sensation in witnessing a sunset on a tropical beach may be different than mine. Just as your smell of fresh brewed coffee elicits a different reaction and memory.
This line of inquiry leads to questions about the role of creativity, imagination, openness, and originality.
What artists, writers, poets, and painters have in common is the capacity, talent, determination and skill to assist them in writing original, innovative scripts. We routinely borrow images, metaphors or perspectives from the creative class in order to see something ordinary in a new, novel way, or a way to see something we’d missed all along. The source of creativity and imagination is often discovered in the bizarre, intuitive, and open-ended exploration of possibilities beyond the borders of reason. The creative classes explore these deviant corners, ignoring the taboos and restrictions that wall off possibilities. Out of this creative process a new generation of scripts is birthed.
For thousands of years, our script writing creative classes have struggled between the extremes of Apollo and Dionysus selves. For Apollo, the world is a place with objective, observable set of appearance. While for Dionysus, outward appearance are deceptive; and the most interesting material of reality is found in the hidden, invisible world that lies behind the appearance.
Arts and Science
A painter and a physicist work off different scripts. Or do they? When I need an answer for the link between science and the metaphysics, I turn to Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Popper acknowledged that science recognizes the connection between the logical and analytical mind and the irrational element or creative intention. Einstein’s red pill exploration was a “search for those highly universal laws from which a picture of the world can be obtained by pure deduction. There is no logical path leading to these laws. They can only be reached by intuition, based on something like intellectual love of the objects of experience.”
The latest to explore the pathways of the brain in scripting reality is Iain McGilchrist author of The Master and His Emissary. McGilchrist weaves biology, philosophy, culture, science, and history into a tapestry to illustrate how our divided brain is the mechanism the produces the duality of our understanding reality. His premise is that the secret is to understand how our brain by being divided into two distinct hemispheres creates its own version on what is edited into the green screened perception of the world. Each hemisphere is equipped with a different mission of making the world intelligible. Unlike the scene of choice Neo must make in Matrix, McGilchrist suggests based on neuroscience that our brains are wired in a way that allows us to choose both the red and blue pill. In making this choice, we set in motion the basis of the story about our experience. Our internal scriptwriter and editor is built into the architecture and the complexity of the communication networks in the brain
While divided the two brain hemispheres are also interdependent ways of seeing, processing, and understanding the world. Roughly the division is the left hemisphere task is based on several complimentary features including, fixed, precise, closed, certain, final abstract rational conclusions from a binary framework: yes/no, wrong/right, permitted/disallowed, good and bad. The right hemisphere is fluid, open, exploratory, tentative with the ability to hold contradictory views as sharing the same space without need of resolving the contradiction. This is where Einstein’s intuition is located. The brain is a version of Charles Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities.
The right hemisphere requires access to the left Hemisphere where deductions about reality can be ordered. The problem is the left hemisphere has a bias — it loathes contradiction and inconsistencies and seeks ways to eliminate the tension between the contending possibilities. What the right brain delivers is messy, disordered, implicit, random, metaphorical, and irrational. The unveiling of right brain script writing is repulsive to the left hemisphere. Control of meaning results in censorship of the communication received from the right hemisphere. The left brain throws out the right hemisphere script and inserts its own. Right Hemisphere unveiling is resisted. It is edited out. Without the Left brain’s role, the Right brain lacks the capacity to sort, select, and organize from the implicit, suggested, inchoate possibilities and to voice in language those choices.
Brain Script Writing models
In ancient Greece and Rome, and much later in the Renaissance, society, art and culture flourished as right hemisphere thinking was not suppressed by the full weight of the logical, analytical and rational mind. The worry is the right hemisphere turns into a tyrant, using abstract theories in a reign of terror against the less well-defined, implicit and unsettled intuitions produced by the right hemisphere.
The Greek myths of Apollo and Dionysus have been handed down to each generation. Apollo the god of the rational thinker, the god of order, logic, and purity. While Dionysus, the god of wine and dance, lives in the realm of disorder, chaos, and irrationality. Apollo, the god of the intellect — -the left hemisphere, while Dionysus emerges from the right hemisphere, our emotional, intuitive side.
Since the time of the industrial revolution that arrived by mid-19th century, the mechanistic, stable, and explicit bias has instilled itself as a source of prosperity, science, and technology. Having shown strength and delivered advancements in medicine, telecommunications, sanitation, energy and transportation, the left hemisphere has been carrying out a victory dance over the house arrest of right hemisphere. Sometimes a defeat is celebrated as a victory. McGilchrist, for example, warns that the true challenge of our time is to rebalancing the two hemispheres into a new and viable partnership.
The works and lives of Oscar Wilde and Fredrich Nietzsche demonstrate the costs of skipping the brain’s script writing meetings which are needed to resolve the tension between the Apollo and Dionysus, the right and left hemispheres. Dionysus is left out of those story development meetings. Our scripts are authored by lawyers, politicians, oligarchs and bureaucrats. These are some of the terrible truths about the way our modern movie is made. The one that is playing in your head as you go about your day. The Matrix imagined one set of possible terrible truths. Each hemisphere has its own structure for grounding truths. In exploring those truths the pathways of the right and left hemispheres constructed very different experiences. They write not only different scripts; they are playing different games.
Finite and Infinite Games
James Carse in Finite and Infinite Games calls the green screening process of how our mind processes our day-to-day reality a self-veiling. Part of the process of providing content is hidden from our view. Our green screen reflects material from the unconscious mind to which we have no direct access. Our unveiling is only a partial disclosure of the full scope of the production going on inside our skulls. We no longer see ourselves as performers giving a scripted performance separated from an audience. We are both performers and audience. If there is the possibility for an unveiling, it is through art that is generated from the right hemisphere, the location of Dionysus accessible to the human realm.
This material success has masked the cost of isolating right hemisphere thinking as a primitive, irrational, magical enterprise. Common sense and intuition are right hemisphere attributes. These features of our experience, modeling and perception are difficult to express in equations. That is may be way artificial intelligence is a left hemisphere venture. Without a right hemisphere, human beings exhibit many of the same issues as some suffering schizophrenia.
When we limit our Gestalt to the left hemisphere bandwidth in which to model reality, you run a script that fills in the green screen of your movie with a predictable, comforting storyline. The price is your reality is narrowed as the Apollo lens is good for portrait mode but doesn’t have a landscape mode. What, how, and where we source the images for our stories is the problem. Our receiver and processing biological equipment, even with technological augmentation, imprisons the whole set of human beings as over-intellectualizing our world. Apollo, left hemisphere scripting is less guided by experience of being in the world and inclined to processing reality based on a series of abstract concepts and thoughts.
James Carse in Finite and Infinite Games created a framework that is consistent with the view developed by McGilchrist. Finite games fit the mental terrain of the left hemisphere while infinite games are generated by right hemisphere borderless, open-horizon, creative and imaginative realm of being. This division between Apollo and Dionysus modes of seeing and being in the world is an old one that has raged on among philosophers and scientists for centuries, with two divided camps: the empiricist and rationalist.
Your position in relation to reality depends on the basic default state of your unconscious and conscious mind, and the forces that influence the mind. The society and culture is also defined by the overall placement of the collective consensus on which side of the Apollo and Dionysus divide it falls. Once a preference is set, there is a resistance to passage from one side of the brain to the other.
Choosing Your Game
We all play a variety of finite games each day. Because we’ve internalized them as marriage, school, workplace, club, sports, chess, church, or community service, we would likely be offended to think of them as games. But games they are. You can also play an infinite game. One type of game doesn’t prevent you for playing another.
There is a major difference between finite and infinite games. With an infinite game, as you move toward the horizon, it also moves. You can never catch the horizon. By its very nature it can’t be grabbed. Finite games move us to attend to grabbing apples before someone else plucks it. You can’t grab a rainbow, nor can you stop the horizon from moving ahead, no matter how fast you chase after it. Left Hemisphere fine-tunes us to become players in competitive finite games with a beginning and an end, with one side that wins and another side that loses. In Infinite games there are no sides, no competition, no beginning or ending, players come and go, there are no teams and there is only one rule: player do what is necessary to continue the play.
George Box famously wrote about the left-brain domain of statistics, observing: All of our models are wrong, but some are useful. While Box focused on statistics, his implications is much wider than one narrow field. Left hemisphere thinking has an inherent limitation which we ignore at our peril. This is a warning to investing an absolute or fixed, universal application of a model. This approach suggests the need for left and right hemisphere to work together, filling in the blind spots, limitations, and overreach of the other. Our daily social, political and cultural theatre provides the drama and tragedy arising out of bad models of reality.
Infinite players have self-created a script that expands the range of what can be seen, felt and experienced. It is a life-long project with no discernable finish line. Apollo sees models of games and celebrates game winners. Winning is a primate’s way of passing along his genes to the next generation. All the games are subliminal preparation or substitutions for that win. The rest is propaganda to glorify those who gathered the most bananas and largest harem. It’s a marvel to witness.
The Green Screen Paradox
Neither scriptwriter in our brain functions well alone. The record of co-operation is scant. That leaves us with a paradox. How can we reconcile Apollo and Dionysus, left and right hemispheres, rational and irrational? We all want to write meaningful scripts. Most of us are blue pill people. We clutch to the rationality promised by the left hemisphere. Unveiling the alternative inner script writer from the right hemisphere is easier for some than for others.
My heart goes out to those who believe they’ve transcended into another realm where they break bread and drink wine with geniuses just like them. I’ve been transported to that table. Dined in that room. Ate the bread. Drank that wine. I believed we had a collective wisdom conferred upon us that set us apart from others. That our thoughts, formulas, concepts, ideas, metaphors, stories and philosophies liberated us from the ignorance of the world. We need a new script. A new performance template where no one bothers setting out on a quest to catch the horizon, take it home, and curl up with it at night.
I’ve had a long history of fooling myself. Unveiling is difficult. It is like trying to stop your eyes from blinking. Self-deception is the worst penalty inflicted. Fooling yourself is the kind of performance scripted by the left hemisphere from pre-recorded and authorized finite game programming. It’s Exhibit A in the trial everyone sooner or later must face.
The evidence is overwhelming. Check any social media timeline — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram — it serves as a game score board 24/7 scrolling and scrolling like an assembly line, carrying bit and pieces of images and thoughts as having significance and meaning. We are finite players being mocked without an awareness of the mockery. Smiley facing us. Catfishing us with fake scripts. Oxytocin rushes through our brain uplifting us into zone of communal rage, sorrow, anger, arousal — all the emotional states that consume products designed to alleviate the suffering and misery. The latest gadget or idea is the latest deception.
The Greeks with their gods who endured suffering, discovered a way to love life, to celebrate life in poetry, ritual, song and dance. Rather than turning away from existence as a cruel hoax, the Greeks use their mythology and art to explore what lay beyond the visible appearance. With the legacy, they gave us hope that by re-uniting with our right hemisphere and re-connecting with Dionysus finding joy and beauty for all who choose to play the infinite game.
Cut. That’s a take.