I have just finished listening to His Dark Materials on Audible (an excellent version, read by the author with dramatised characters). I was keen to finish it before seeing any of the current BBC adaptation so that the images I had of the characters weren’t replaced by the TV ones. I wanted to retain some influence over how I saw the fictional world that the book was creating for me.
I read so much “non-fiction” about how we see the world, different philosophies, different religions, different approaches etc. that I found myself listening to the book as if the cosmology created by Philip Pullman was real.
In that previous sentence I put non fiction in quotation marks because so much of what we are presented with as the truth, in terms of philosophy or religion, are simply “just” other ways of looking at the world. In fact having just got around to reading Thomas Nagel’s What is it like to be a bat I was reminded of just how wobbly so much of what we take for granted as true is – including our own perceptions of the physical world around us.
No one but me knows how I experience the world, and even that changes on a day to day basis. We all have our own “dark materials”, personal and societal conditioning, flows of perception and energy that change throughout our lifetimes, and indeed moment to moment, that bend and shape our reactions to the world around us. We would do well to remember this as we encounter others whose grasp of reality is as tenuous as our own.