NATO! A few of my friends called out to me, as I strode towards the group of grey retirees for a lunch appointment in Penang. This was the first morning back to my hometown. I was there to attend RU8, this being the eighth reunion of school mates born in 1958. Time is not on our side, RU’s will be an annual event from now on. I was relieved the welcoming party introduced themselves, for I wouldn’t have rated the chances of recognising any of them high. After all, 44 years is a long time, and many a scar will not heal in one lifetime
NATO? Why, I asked. Apparently, a friend based in Hong Kong had conspired with them and framed me as one who talks big and talks a lot but without any action to back up his words. No Action Talk Only. Does the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation which includes the United States deserve such a slur on their reputation? I suppose the alliance has been a benign, impotent body during the bulk of its existence after the last Great War. Its abject failure in the Balkans after it bombed Yugoslavia, its disastrous foray into Libya to oust Gaddafi, Libya went from the wealthiest African nation to now a failed state, and its weak effort in Afghanistan to contain the Taliban militancy deserve acute criticism, especially when the war on terror was declared over, five years ago, in 2014 by President Obama. But, I’m not impotent, I declared. Was I misheard? Did I say I was important? Unfairly, I am now famed as an irrelevant clown whose feverish gobbledygook rants serve no purpose other than make a fool of himself.
When I shared my stories of me as an irresistible, incorruptible and indestructible hunk like Keanu Reeves, it was made very clear that those heroic, galant stories were born in my dream world. There, I was more powerful and faster than Superman, a better equipped fighter than Batman, and more iron-willed than Ironman. In my dream world I can reach apotheosis. Which is why I cannot understand why some of my grey haired friends shamed me by publicly calling me NATO. They confuse my dream world with my physical world, although both are real to me, when I am there. For them, it’s only real when the physical attributes can be detected by our sensory organs. Their reality requires them to touch, smell, taste, see or/and hear. How do I convince them that is far from the truth? Our brain has never been outside our body, yet it can experience our physical surroundings. The reality of our physical world is very different to that of the bat, its world revolves around its sonar capabilities. So, how real is real when two animals’ reality in the same physical world is so vastly different? The human brain uses electrochemical signals to interpret the data it receives, creating a reality that we perceive. A reality that in fact is quite subjective. For instance, some will see green when others see red, and others can’t decide at all what they see. Let me repeat that: what is real is actually a subjective interpretation by our brain. Quantum physicists still cannot answer the fundamental nature of reality with their photon experiments. The outcome of the “double slit” experiment can change depending on whether or not we choose to measure some property of the light particles involved. If the way the world behaves depends on how we look at it, or if we look at it, what then is “reality”?
It is true that our brain can also let us feel and experience events in our dream world. After all, who hasn’t had a wet dream? And since we can feel, hear and see in our dreams, why is our reality there not considered real? Have we not experienced fear, screaming out during a nightmare? When our brain is experiencing it, both worlds are as real as each other.
I need to confess I also live in a third world. No, I don’t mean a third world country. My virtual world is a happy, busy place, its inhabitants are mostly retirees sharing food pictures and rowdy beer sessions. There, in the digital universe, my friends gather 24/7 from all parts of the globe. A quiet introvert in the physical world, in the virtual world, I am unchained and totally free to express myself. My friends have not yet told me to shut up there. A word I coined is extrovirt, one who is an extrovert in the virtual world.