Thinking About – Consensus Reality

Thinking About – Consensus Reality

Walk-to-the-beat-of-a-different-drum-Larger-Family-LifeI may be late to the game here but I only heard this term a couple of weeks ago. A quick visit to Wikipedia suggests that:

Consensus reality is that which is generally agreed to be reality, based on a consensus view.

It very soon goes on to say:

Throughout history this has also raised a social question: “What shall we make of those who do not agree with consensus realities of others, or of the society they live in?”

This is a huge topic to add to this Thinking About series of blog posts. There is the consensus reality of small groups, of cultures, of trends, of religions, of a wider society, of countries, and of continents, and they are changing all of the time. As I watch the news or read the morning paper I sometimes walk straight into what appears to be a consensus reality, but one with which I don’t agree. Then I will find that the consensus reality of my alternate view is the consensus reality of a different group.

With the rise of Web 2.0 there has been no lack of opinions, mine included. With Facebook, Twitter, and blogs we have more opportunity now to voice our opinions than ever before. We can comment on posts and disagree, we can tweet our opinions, or post them up as Facebook status updates (I’m quite often overwhelmed by the noise it creates and need regular breaks where I leave them all alone for a while). Look through your Facebook News Feed and you will see the consensus reality of your chosen friends. There will, of course, be some things that you don’t agree with, but if your Feed is full of things you disagree with that is quite unusual. One thing is for sure, that Feed, and the opinions expressed, is not reality in its entirely. I have a lot of Pagan friends (funnily enough) and thus my Feed contains posts expressing a Pagan view of life. If I was of another spiritual path my feed would look quite different.

There is a pressure to conform to consensus realities, whether they are wider society-held views, or smaller group ones. I had a poster when I was a kid about walking to the beat of a different drum. A way of being I still hold dear. I’m quite happy to disagree with a consensus reality, but don’t always feel the need to express that disagreement out loud. I’m happy to hold my views to myself. Sometimes. I am human.

I think the point of this rather rambling article is that consensus realities are not fact. They are views held by groups of people of varying size, and we hold onto them as fact at our peril. Trends we see from politics to Paganism are simply the shifting of consensus realities. I say hold onto your own consensus reality if it is valuable to you. If hard facts come along to challenge you then by all means explore how that might change things, but never simply surrender to an emerging consensus reality. To me they feel like the mob-rule of opinions.

Always walk to the beat of your own drum.

6 responses to “Thinking About – Consensus Reality”

  1. But, Dave, you have the luck of your talent. Somehow many people walk to you drum, listening to your music, taking in your poetry. You could almost say that there exists a Damh the Bard Reality, which creates a lot of consensus amongst your fans. And following form that, I assume, that to you it is a lot easier to walk to your own drum, for so many people agree with you. Still, even for us, lesser gods, it is sound advise not to give in to some consensus reality all to easily.

    • Nice one Great God Hennie! I never ask nor expect people to agree with me, and I’m 100% sure there are millions of people out there who would disagree with me too. I guess we draw to us people who are similar in their outlook on life.

  2. Good article, Damh. I remember the first time I heard that term about walking to the beat of a different drum. I was quite young, 7 or 8, and it was one of my uncles talking about me. He also regularly called me the ‘black sheep’ of the family. Now in my 60’s my particular drum beat has become, over the years, very distinct and radically different than the status quo. I have always enjoyed being “weird”. Even among some of my pagan friends I am considered outside of the box. Who wants to be in a box! The strange thing about getting to an older age is that now when my weird comes out it is considered quirky and just part of being an old lady. But those who know me well know I’ve always been this way. And as far as expecting people to agree with us distinct drummers…if they did, that would make us just another one of them. And obviously we are not.

  3. Interesting article. Consensus reality sounds like a good correlate to the idea of confirmation bias – that we look for things that confirm what we already believe to be true (based on the reality we consent to).

    But further than that, I think that the reality we believe to be true also affects the kinds of questions we ask, and the kinds of answers we seek, thus creating a kind of consensus reality-confirmation bias circle…

    I am currently doing some research into faerie experiences and cultures – which is not part of most people’s consensus reality, and is certainly an area in which confirmation bias has led to a disbelief in, or disregard of, or total overlooking of any evidence that is found.

    Anyway, just some thoughts. 🙂

  4. Hee hee, i came across that saying first in my Yr 12 English Exam and had to write a story based on it. Guess who didn’t get that it was metaphor and wrote a lovely story about a kid with a drum? 😀

    I do mostly only have people who share my consensus in my online circles or at least ones who aren’t too vocal if their opinions difffer widely to mine. Interestingly, I did have two conservative friends on FB and could handle that until our current Oz Pm got in and then their posts in support of him, well i just couldn’t stand to see them so I unfriended them. They are both people i knew IRL but hadn’t seen for a long time. IRL, we probably wouldn’t have talked about politics at all and I never knew their politics until FB. Now i can’t be friends IRL either because to me anyone who is so strongly for that guy cannot be a nice person, even if they seem so. I did toss up over unfriending them and wondered if I should let their posts go by as a way of not blinkering myself to what that sort of person thinks, but it genuinely made me too angry so i had to. If that’s the consensus circle of the dominant paradigm, I want no part of it.

  5. For myself I have always followed my own path, and often it has led me in circles, but I would have it no other way. Still I seek but have not yet really found. A scientific training can be both a boon and a curse.

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