Our Narrow Slice of Reality

While preparing for my visit to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - my first time travelling to the United States - I remembered the first image of America that I had in my head when I was around four years old. The image was of a vast hilly landscape with lush greenery and neat concrete roads. These roads would be lined with several vendors selling clothes, toys and chocolates on wooden carts. A bunch of tall and well-built children wearing oversized sweaters and jackets would be the customers at these stalls.

This description sounds weird if not funny, but it was accurate to the best of my knowledge at that time - it was a fusion of the things I had seen around me, the piece of information I had gathered from my mother, and the ways in which unknown lands were portrayed in the stories I had listened to.

I remember my mother telling me tid-bits about the country whenever my relatives visited from there. These relatives would often bring me clothes, toys, and chocolates among other items. The toys would be fun and the chocolates would be delicious, but the clothes, albeit labelled with my correct age, would sometimes be a size too big - and I would have to grow into them. My mother would tell me that people in the United States were bigger and so American kids my age would actually wear bigger clothes. These were often winter clothes, and I had heard from my mother that is snowed in the United States.

In some sense, I had created my own America. This America never existed and (at least in the foreseeable future) never will. But then what really is America? No description is complete or truly accurate - so are they simply different Americas? In all fairness, every person has a different perspective that may or may not be adequately expressible in words. It seems that reality is just an agreement between all of our different perspectives - it is what most of us think it is. This may be easy to imagine for concrete objects like places and people, but for many abstract concepts we call these perspectives opinions.