Sharing is one of the first and hardest things we learn in life. The problem we have with sharing is the same problem we have with existence. We each experience life as an individual self. That self that is us has wants and needs, some rational, some irrational. If we have a favorite security blanket, we feel comfortable when holding that blanket. If somebody else has our blanket we get all out of sorts. Even if the person with our blanket is our mother, our brother, or our twin, if we aren’t the ones with the blanket, there is no security for us. That sense of security that the special blanket brings is our individual reality.
As we grow older, our sense of self becomes more developed. We learn the nuances of sharing. We learn to share differently within our various social groups. We share freely with some people and not so much with others. We share our blankets, food, money, germs, emotions, ideas, history, cultures and a planet with each other. How two or more of us experience the world together is our shared reality.
Sharing reality is not like sharing a blanket. It’s more like sharing the planet. We have to share the planet with everybody on it. We have no choice. In many cases we do our best not to share our planet. We draw borders, we build walls, we fight wars to kill the people we don’t want to sharing our planet. That is all part of our shared reality, where we each have a self, a self-interest, and sharing is really hard.
On a personal level, we have widespread agreement on our shared reality. We all know we shouldn’t kill each other and to stop at red lights. Even within our cultural conventions our individual realities are vastly different from our shared reality. A shared reality between only two people contains all of each of their experiences and their rational and irrational beliefs, hopes, and fears. It contains a sense of cooperation and a sense of competition. When a third person enters the picture the shared reality adds another unfathomable dimension. Together, we each observe our shared reality through the veil of our individual realities.
That veil is made up of all of our rational and irrational ideas interwoven with each other. Some of our rational ideas are wrong and some of our irrational ideas are right. This tapestry of fact and fiction that forms our veils, our sense of self, is effectively a blindfold. With each of us blindfolded, we need each other to help us navigate this shared reality. As we guide each other, knowing that we don’t know and behaving with compassion anyway, we can learn to stop red lights and not kill each other. We can even lean to share our blankets, our planet and our reality. As we share, how we share, we shape our individual and shared realities.