Truth as Emotion - Reality in Relation
Caity is a rising senior at NYU studying Music Education and Music Therapy. In the future she hopes to be able to help victims of human trafficking through the restorative power of music. She loves working with children and cannot wait to have that be a consistent part of her life. In her (rare) spare time, she enjoys impromptu musical jam sessions with her friends and baking various sweet things
Excerpts From the Interview:
Jazmine: Tell me something about your view on the fundamental nature of reality.
Caity: I tend to not- so I’ve had some thoughts…but I find that the more I think about them, the more I tend to get almost anxious and if not anxious then…bummed, depending on my current mood I guess. It just doesn’t seem like a very fruitful way of living life. So I just kind of push them off. I think about them but then I kind of just think “Well even if that’s the case, I don’t think I’m going to be any happier if I figured that out so let’s leave it alone for now.”
Jazmine: Well is there any thought in particular that you find yourself unable to push aside?
Caity: About reality? Hmm.. well I think about different things about religion and how that would or wouldn’t make things more relevant or more real. Because sometimes I get thoughts in my head about how if there isn’t a god or a heaven then you die and there’s literally absolutely nothing and then nothing exists afterwards and how that kind of makes nothing real at all. Because if you’re only here for a set period of time – but, well I also go back and forth on that because sometimes I think that that’s the most real things could be, if there’s nothing else afterwards. That probably wasn’t a straight forward answer but that’s something I think about a lot because most of the time I’ll think: Well I don’t know if there’s something but I tend to think there is just because it’s probably more comforting. But then what if there’s not and how freaky that is. If it’s just over and that’s it. I can’t imagine not being aware and that freaks me out. You wouldn’t know anything. You wouldn’t exist. It’s strange.
Jazmine: Definitely. Well, what do you think it would mean for something to be "real"? Do you believe in a strict objective reality- that there is something we can compare our experiences to or do you think that it’s mostly relative and about perspective? Or somewhere in between?
Caity: I think it means, to me, that if it’s real, there’s a point to it. Because if there’s no point to anything than why would it exist? So I think obviously that means then that it would be a perspective thing. Because there are different things that some people can find a lot of meaning in, like art, a lot of people can find meaning in minimalist art and other people would say “this is a bunch of dots on a piece of paper, this doesn’t mean anything.” Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it in depth, but the thoughts are there. They’re forming here. You’re making me think.
"For something to be real it has to have meaning and only a specific person can subscribe a meaning to anything."
Jazmine: How do you think truth is generated? And what can we actually gain from truth if it’s not measured against some objective thing?
Caity: Well I also think truth is very up for interpretation. So it all depends on what you’re looking for and what you get. There have been plenty of times where I have totally believed something to be true for a very long time and it affected my moods and it affected my actions and everything and then later you find out it wasn’t true, but everything that happened there still happened as if it were. So what was to make that not true at that time? Because it affected everything to me as if it was. If I think someone is mad at me, I’ll be upset for a set period of time, find out that they’re not mad at me, it doesn’t make me less upset during that time. So truth is all up to what you interpret it to be, it doesn’t really matter what the truth is, in the end it’s just what you believe the truth to be at that time.
Jazmine: So your truth, in that sense, is still valid if it’s part of your experience?
Caity: Yeah, whatever happened at that time is what was true for you regardless of if it changes later or you find out it was wrong.
Jazmine: Do you feel anxious about the idea of infinite interpretations or possibilities or ambiguous situations? Or are you open to it?
Caity: You could have stopped at do you feel anxious (laughter) I mean, just because I’m anxious about things doesn’t mean I’m not open to it. I think I’m anxious about it because I’m so open to it. I think I’m really aware that there could be so many different things going on, and that’s kind of what I end up stressing about because I just never know which one- you know, I’m always like “I don’t know what they’re thinking and I don’t know what I’m thinking, and I don’t know if it even matters which is the right one.” So because I’m always trying to view all the different perspectives and the possibilities, that’s why I end up getting a little freaked out sometimes.
Jazmine: Do you think the philosophic idea of ‘subjective experience’ as in everyone having their own interpretation about a situation, being very separate from ‘objective reality’ has affected you or your experiences at all? I think we tend to separate, you know, the ‘outside world’ of physical objects from the ‘internal’ subjective experience. Do you find that to be true?
Caity: So, you mean the idea that there are things that are existing and things going on in my head? How has that shaped my experiences? Well, I think lot of times I need to get out of my head more. So I think it almost becomes a problem because I’ll be so aware of my inner thoughts going on that I don’t actually pay as much attention to the things going on on the outside. I’ve thought about that a lot. I actually feel like I have two voices in my head almost and there’s one that is a lower functioning line. I guess that’s like my emotional reactions to things. That’s what that voice is so whatever’s happening that’s what I think about it – that thought. And then the higher level voice is always- well not always second guessing because sometimes I’m fine- but it’s still always trying to rationalize it all. And sometimes I get very caught up in all that stuff and I don’t actually enjoy the things that are right there. If there’s a party or something, I’ll get very caught up in who is going to be there and do I want to see those people. It’s very easy for me to shut down and think “I didn’t even want to go so it’s not a big deal if I don’t go because I’m not missing out because I didn’t want to go” when really I did I was just nervous about it so I freaked myself out. So I think it ends up messing with me in the long run.
Jazmine: In general, how do you express your truth? It sounds like a lot of your truth comes out through emotions. How else is it expressed?
Caity: Yeah, a lot of it is emotional. It also depends on the type of truth we’re talking about. Because any kind of negative truth, any kind of guilty, upset, or nervous, I get very closed around most people except very select people. It’s almost bad because I’ll keep it in though the duration of the day, and almost feel better, honestly, because I’m not expressing so it feels like it’s not there. And it’s probably not the best thing but it doesn’t feel bad at the time it just feels like a coping thing. Kind of like “I’m fine, lets think about this later” and then when I get home I’ll just freak out and let it all out and I’ll be talking super fast and I’ll just run all of my thoughts out. And sometimes I don’t even feel like that’s a good thing. It almost feels like I had more control over it before I just started vomiting it all out and I feel like it’s just giving the anxiety more control over me by acknowledging it so much. I feel like it’s personifying it because I say “look, here’s this anxiety that I have and it’s freaking out instead of just taking responsibility for my emotions", sometimes I put it all on that. With positive emotions I’m a lot different. I’m like open, I get super excited about things. When I’m happy I always want to do nice things for people. Whenever I’m in a good mood that’s always what I want to do. Like leave stupid notes for people or do stupid things and then it makes me feel so good and it’s like this upwards spiral. Which is kind of selfish because that means I only do good things for people because it makes me feel good (laugher) So yeah, I think that’s very different because when I’m happy it’s literally like all outpouring – well I guess there’s outpouring in both. But one is much more confined and secretive, like it’s waiting. And the other is just everywhere all the time.
Jazmine: How, in general do you experience the world? What does your world look, sound, taste like?
Caity: What a big question, Jazmine. Can I just talk about anything?
Jazmine: Yes, please do. Anything that comes to mind.
Caity: Well, my opinion is still forming obviously. It’s ever changing. Normally when I get- I have peaks and valleys in the way I think about it because if I start really good, I’ll feel fine. And then the more and more little things that pile on, I’ll hit a dip and then mostly the reoccurring view of the world that I have that isn’t always there but keeps coming back is that you need to keep putting out positive energy regardless of how you’re feeling at the time. A lot of times I’ll think that shitty things happen and that makes it okay, not to be a shitty person because I never get the urge to purposefully be mean to everyone, but I think it’ll give me the right to maybe be a hermit or not talk to anyone, I’ll think I deserve to ignore these people because I had a shitty day and I don’t want to talk to anybody but I find that never makes me or anybody else any happier. The best thing that I could possibly do is if someone unintentionally hurts my feelings, I just try to purposefully do a good thing so I can help someone else’s feelings. Obviously this is not a perfect system and I don’t do it all the time, but that is a philosophy that I can try to live up to.
I also recently re-realized that it's okay to apologize to people. My friend Noele does this thing where she'll mess up – she'll snap at someone, accidentally offend some, or something like that – and she'll immediately turn around and apologize. When I first saw her do it I thought it was amazing. I had always subconsciously believed that if I mess up, I need to hope no one noticed, or I need to hope that person will get over it. It's not that I didn't feel bad but I thought that the damage was done. They were going to be mad. But when I saw Noele do this – specifically when she apologized directly to me, for something silly, - I realized what a difference it made. We all make mistakes and we say things we don't mean or we unintentionally hurt someone's feelings. But we can fix it easily if we just say that we're sorry. If you acknowledge that you hurt someone but didn't mean to, it can be easily undone. Or at least, that's the most you can do to undo it.
Jazmine: How do you think your culture, values and interpretations shape your experience of reality?
Caity: This one is really difficult for me to put this one into words. I value happiness, and my pursuit of happiness is what colors and shapes everything I have. I think that I get happier easier than some people. Or rather, smaller things have an ability to lift my mood more than I observe it does for other people. Sometimes I feel sad, but it's often for no reason at all. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning I don't want to get out of bed. I'm so sad and I don't know why. I'm overwhelmed by the thought of experiencing a whole day again. But sometimes, I wake up and I don't feel like that. I wake up and I feel one hundred pounds lighter. On days like this I am so excited to not have this black blanket surrounding my brain that anything can make me smile. All I want to do on these days is lay under the sun and let it touch every inch of my body. I want to do good things, eat good foods, pet small dogs. On days like this nothing upsets me. The every day events that get my classmates into their normal grumpy, complaining state only annoy me because of the negative feelings they create. On days like these I just want to tell all my friends that they should be happy, because nothing is wrong. Look at the sun, it's shining! It's warm out. We're alive and we're capable of feeling happiness. But I realize this is unfair to my friends. They have their own struggles, and my good days may be their bad days. But I'll say that on my good days I am grateful for my bad days. They make me so grateful for my good days. The contrast is so strong that it shapes my outlook on everything.