Reality Explored: Truth, Nature, and the Diversity of Perspectives #49 #cong23 #reality


The article delves into discerning truth amid distortions, advocating nature for authenticity and acknowledging human skepticism. It introduces faith’s role in shaping perceptions, affirming individual power in constructing diverse realities.

Total Words


Reading Time in Minutes


Key Takeaways:

  1. Struggle to discern truth in a world of falsehoods.
  2. Grounding in nature for an authentic connection.
  3. Introducing faith’s role in shaping perceptions.
  4. Embracing diversity and happiness in varied perspectives

About Cathy McMahon

Coming soon

Contacting Cathy McMahon

Coming soon

By Cathy McMahon

Reality to me is trying to live in the now, to live in the real world rather than the world that is perceived around us. Our world seems to be normal for so many people and others so messed up because of falsities and untruths. Some people see the Reality, and some don’t. The Reality -the difficulties of living in my world is to try to figure out what is true and untrue.

I find myself yearning to be grounded every day and try spending more time in nature and the unspoilt things in life which were given to us, free to enjoy through nature.  The joy of the reality around us is so beautiful and a gift from our creator. You are told things and see photos but you yourself must decide is this really the reality I am living in.

Humans are all doubting Thomas’s! It is human nature.  We must see and feel to really believe. That is where faith comes into the equation, whether it is faith in believing in Jesus Christ or the weather man we see on our tv screens. We all must ask ourselves; do we believe and is it real?

We must make up our own reality and how we do that is up to every individual. Everyone’s reality is different. That is the happiness and diversity of living in this amazing, complicated world.

Changing Reality #48 #cong23 #reality


Our perception of reality is changed and influenced by many things but what’s real stays the same – or does it.

Total Words


Reading Time in Minutes


Key Takeaways:

  1. Our senses help us experience reality
  2. Education changes perception of reality
  3. Reality can be distorted
  4. Dreams can be a gateway to alternate reality

About Ronan McMahon

I am a husband, father of 5 treasures, businessman and councillor. Born and always lived in Dublin. I love work, thinking, people and I love Ireland.

Contacting Ronan McMahon

You can connect with Ronan on LinkedIn or send him an email.

By Ronan McMahon

Well, the theme for this year’s Congregation has perplexed my mind for the last number of weeks…..and still I have a difficulty in putting thoughts on paper (well text on screen). It has raised more questions for me than answers.

My first thought and source of inspiration was the internet. Isn’t it ironic that is where I head for initially – isn’t that the epitome of the opposite to reality!

When I think of reality, I think of something that I can use my senses to understand ie to see, to hear, to touch, to smell or to taste. I can’t use any of my senses to understand the internet. It is just “out-there”

Take it a step further and I ask myself the question, if I can’t see, hear, touch, smell or taste it, does that mean it’s not real? Or is it just not real for me and therefore not my reality.

Many years ago we had not got the equipment or technology to see things as they were, for example the infinite number of stars and galaxies in our skies – however they were real, we could not see them but they were there and therefore part of our reality – but not in our minds or the mind of people who lived 1,000 years ago. Which leads me to the point that, what we believe to be our individual and group reality is forever changing, but the reality is not. This changing perception has been and is being brought about by knowledge, experience, belief, thoughts and education.

We have heard the phrase that “dreams become reality….when thoughts become actions”. Dreams are not real, but they can give us a thought and a belief in something, which if we harness our motivation and others and take action, we can take a step closer to them becoming a reality, and eventually a reality. Again, this brings me back to the internet, which is a modern tool to help bring dreams to reality.

Another point I would like to make is that in a non-physical sense, Our reality is purely only a perception of reality. It may not be true, but if we believe it to be true, then it becomes our reality, but it may not be reality. And as we gain more experience and knowledge, it may change our perceptions and hence our reality – without anything changing except what we had believed.

In this modern world where we are bombarded daily by so much information and misinformation, real and unreal, our perceptions often change and hence our reality. We need to be mindful of this as a weakness in our makeup and be careful that we don’t rely on what we believe as reality, as if its real reality. The world has got so complicated with so much information available and thrown at us, that I wonder are we any better off than our ancestors, be it a century or a millennium ago, where their reality was less complicated and probably as close to real if not closer than ours is today with more perceived knowledge.

When the Covid pandemic hit, the one thing that struck me is the amount of people in Ireland who could continue to work – remotely. It was an eye opener to me to see the transformation, not the fact to see that it could be done, but what were these people producing – by sitting in front of a screen, tapping a keyboard, talking into screens, or clicking a mouse. What does the modern worker now produce? And these are real jobs. Society has developed so much that the number of people really producing something that we need is diminishing to a very small number. Perhaps the world needs a good reality check and who is brave enough to make a start?

And what does the future hold in this space, now with the advent and prolification of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the subject of reality is and will only get more complicated and harder to define. This is one aspect of the future, which I am not looking forward to and have my reservations about whether it is a positive for the world we are living in.

I think the subject matter “Reality” for congregation 2023 has thrown up more questions than answers for me, which I welcome, because there is nothing like a thought provoking subject to open peoples minds to their own and others reality.

My Mental Break Down #47 #cong23 #reality


What a breakdown can teach you about reality and perception.

Total Words


Reading Time in Minutes


Key Takeaways:

  1. Our sense of Reality can rapidly change
  2. We can occupy multiple reality states
  3. We interpret the same thing differently
  4. Reality is perception

About Richard McCurry

Richard – who has apparently made Chinese more fun to learn than skiing through his startup Newby Chinese – enjoys the odd nappy change, while also revelling in the fact that his ginger-gene has triumphed over Spanish blood.

Contacting Richard McCurry

You can reach Richard by email

By Richard McCurry

Those Pesky Rabbit Holes! #39 #cong23 #reality


Reality sometimes isn’t reality because we’ve altered in some way in the language we use. It is a useful exercise to sometimes become aware of the thoughts and images in our head, and in our conversations with others and try to be clearer, to avoid the use of rhetorical devices.

Total Words


Reading Time in Minutes


Key Takeaways:

  1. Language is useful, but treat it wisely.
  2. 50,000 thoughts a day – we don’t need all of them.
  3. Like electronic devices, it is important also to turn off our rhetorical devices.
  4. A disaster might not be a disaster, and if it is, it is nothing to worry about

About Bernard Joyce:

A human first and foremost, living in rural Mayo with a vision for a better place for everyone. Company is called New Paradigms. Doing rural-type things like chairing the local GAA club, playing a few tunes in the local, amateur drama and kayaking

Contacting Bernard Joyce:

You can connect with Bernard on LinkedIn, follow him on X or send him an email.

By Bernard Joyce

Reality! What a great topic for Cong 2023. I mean there are all sorts of ‘rabbit holes’ one could down on this subject. But hold on a second! Rabbit holes are real, but humans can’t really fit down rabbit holes, and besides, there are possibly some animal welfare issues at play here also. Furthermore, if we did manage to fit down, how would we get back out? So, oops, I think I may have opened a can of worms just now. Well, firstly, I’m not sure if worms are kept in cans, and then why would one need to open them if now going fishing? Perhaps it might be safer just opening a “Pandora’s Box” but then we might have to address the ‘elephant in the room’.

Language is wonderful. We used words to share information, to convey meaning, and to elicit an emotional response. Words can inspire, persuade, and convince but they can also destroy and even kill.

We can paint pictures with our words, in our imaginations, and in the imaginations of others. For millennia, we have told stories and employed rhetorical devices often borrowed from literature to communicate to the world.

But sometimes the images we create can have an adverse effect. We allow ourselves to become crippled by debt, crucified by taxes and might even end up dying from a cold. Many might identify with the feeling of being immobilised or tortured by their circumstances. Both these images, however, convey a sense of powerlessness, of helplessness, of not being able to do anything to extricate oneself from one’s circumstances.

What can be worse is that we often use language when speaking to ourselves. We risk continuing to be immobilised long after the debt is paid and tortured by our circumstances and life events.

Rhetorical devices can be powerful in literature, in business and even in our day-to-day living but like all ‘devices’, we are advised to turn them off occasionally. Sometimes, we need a language detox! Advocates of meditation often speak about becoming the observer of our thoughts, of becoming conscious; of developing our awareness; and of experiencing nothingness.

Awareness is key, and the key to awareness is clarity, of being able to see something clearly. We might say seeing something as ‘black and white’ but even that expression lacks clarity,

If we take debt, for example, it might be as simple as taking a pen and paper, writing down the amount owed and then writing a list of expenses and seeing what actions can be taken to improve the situation. In the process, recognise and acknowledge any thoughts or images that emerge as just thoughts and images, some useful, others not! Great innovations and solutions very often emerge from a much deeper place within us. To access that deeper place, we sometimes need to quieten the noises in our head, to tone down the language, to “call a spade, a spade’ Aagh!! There I go again, but you know what I mean – call a bill, a bill, a cold a cold and that elephant in the room, a topic that needs to be discussed.

The late author Richard Carlson in his book “Stop Thinking, Start Living” (Carlson, 2012) recommends that to avoid confusion, anxiety and overstimulation, we need to develop the ability to dismiss thoughts when they enter our mind. The average person will have 50,000 thoughts in an average day, and not all are useful to us.

Reality is closer than we think and it is important in our week, and in our day to factor in a few ‘reality checks’, just stop for a second, take a few deep breaths and notice how we are feeling, notice what our mood is like after spending time on social media, or watching the news, or coming in from an autumnal walk in the forest.

Nothing is real, only that present moment for us, and our experience of it.

It is really useful also to become aware of the language we use in our head, is it possible to tone down the rhetoric? Perhaps try “I feel hungry” rather than “I’m starved” or, “I feel tired, rather than “I’m exhausted”.

In our dealings with other people, our family, and our work colleagues, it is also useful to be aware of the language we are using. I was on a flight recently which announced that it had to make an emergency landing. After the cabin crew advised passengers to wear warm clothing and gave a quick demonstration on what to do on landing, there was a surreal calm silence as the plane circulated the countryside to burn off fuel for the following 30 minutes. An opportunity in the face of disaster for some perspective, clarity, and no need for hyperbole or superlatives. So, in a work conversation a few days later, when a minor difficulty was described as a ‘disaster’, there was an opportunity to reappraise the situation.

Of course, it is important to occasionally tone down the language that we use, and there are other occasions to ramp up the rhetoric “….when the multitudes they flock in throngs to the true capital of Ireland where the world’s finest minds will congregate….”

AI, Consciousness Expansion, and Subjective Control #38 #cong23 #reality


The impact of artificial intelligence on our perception of reality, considering existential risks and ethical concerns.

William Burroughs’ views on reality, altered through psychedelics.

State media manipulation in various countries and how it impacts on some citizen’s reality.

Call to action is for discourse about the ethics involved in evolving digital realities.

Total Words


Reading Time in Minutes


Key Takeaways:

  1. AI could profoundly reshape our conceptions of reality if it achieves superhuman general intelligence. But we must pursue its development cautiously and ethically to avoid existential risks.
  2. Psychedelics and other techniques like meditation, ayahuasca, and AR/VR can reveal hidden depths of reality not perceivable through ordinary consciousness alone, according to thinkers like William Burroughs.
  3. We construct subjective realities through the structure of our consciousness. By expanding our perceptual modes, we can uncover new truths about the nature of reality.
  4. While we do not have absolute control, we can influence our experienced realities through intention, wisdom, and shaping both our inner and outer worlds.

About Maryrose Lyons:

I am a future focused digital operator.

A marketer and communicator, a UX designer, I have recently been enjoying considerable success helping people augment their skills using AI.

I am on a mission to help people to not get left behind.

I am excited to be back at Cong this year. I haven’t been in person since long before Covid. Can’t wait to see you all – meet new people – and have a holiday for my mind!

Contacting Maryrose Lyons:

Connect with me on LinkedIn:

By Maryrose Lyons

My research for this very interesting topic began with a book, immediately discarded for being too academic for my taste, then followed up with travelling in directions that interested me personally. I brought all of my thoughts together to Claude 2 (AI) and asked it to act like a Professor of Philosophy and ask me questions to help me get my thoughts down into some sort of coherent form.

A theme that will probably feature greatly in conversations about Reality is artificial intelligence. What happens to our perception of reality if AI achieves advanced general capabilities surpassing human intelligence? It could profoundly reshape our collective conception of reality in ways we can’t yet fully anticipate. While I’m all in on the benefits of AI, I’m also all in on the need to actively pursue the mitigation of existential risks. However, on this Saturday morning I feel quite despondent about our ability to do that. There is a genocide taking place in Palestine by the Israelis before our very eyes and we are doing nothing to condemn or stop it. How can we expect governments of the world and people to get together and respond in time to the threat posed to our reality?

A more enjoyable avenue of exploration for me was to dig deep into the writings of William Burroughs. His book “The Doors of Perception” dissolves the very notion of reality and speaks of how expanding modes of human perception can play a role in unveiling hidden dimensions of reality. Techniques like psychedelics and ayahuasca can temporarily dissolve the constructs of our normal consciousness, opening doors to deeper truths about the nature of existence, consciousness, and our place in the cosmos. I have engaged, I have seen for myself, and I believe everyone should have the opportunity to open their minds at least once!

Next I went to the control of reality, and the dark side of state manipulation of media. In places like Russia, North Korea, and China, restricting access to information and shaping narratives through propaganda controls citizens’ perceived reality in ways that support authoritarian aims. In places like USA, UK, Ireland, social media also presents a certain view of reality that supports other aims.

Finally I gave some thought to VR/AR and the role they might have in shaping reality now and in the future. More immersive AR/VR experiences may start displacing some physical/social activities where the virtual version offers clear advantages in convenience, customisation, or enjoyment. But a full replacement seems unlikely. Humans are biologically wired to need in-person interaction, touch, nature, etc. Our recent experiences during lockdowns have reaffirmed the intrinsic human need for in-person interactions and natural environments.

As a forward-thinking digital operator, I am deeply excited by the possibilities at the intersection of technology and consciousness. AI, undeniably, will play a significant role in shaping our reality.

The future remains unwritten, and it is our collective responsibility to approach it with care, precision, and an inclusive perspective.

In conclusion, our understanding of reality is constantly evolving, influenced by technological advancements, global events, and diverse cultural perspectives. As we navigate this ever-changing landscape, it is imperative to engage in thoughtful discourse at events such as this one, to consider diverse viewpoints, and to actively participate in shaping an ethical and balanced digital future.

Looking forward to meeting you all at Cong.

Reality Change(s). #37 #cong23 #reality


All our realities are our own. Recognising others realities may help us change our own. If we can change our reality by seeing others, thus the world changes bit by bit.

Total Words


Reading Time in Minutes


Key Takeaways:

  1. “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails” – adaptation is good
  2. In all encounters – strive to make them better
  3. Be tolerant
  4. Be interested in the small things

About Chris Reina:

Chris Reina has been involved in education since 2002, technology since 1981 and Making since 1971. (You do the maths). He is 1/3 of – who deliver Maker-led, project-based S.T.E.A.M. workshops nationwide to primary, secondary, third-level and other institutions.

He feels passionately that education is the most important thing in the world and that teaching using Maker skills is the most rewarding job there is.

Chris loves cats, kayaking, kite-flying, steampunk, pedantic semantics and knowing the meanings of ligatures, aglets, gallibanders and lexiphanic.

Contacting Chris Reina:

You can see Chris’s work in MakerMeet or send him an email.

By Chris Reina

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Buckminster Fuller

As often happens – when asked to write words and the opportunity to include a quotation arises… I turn to Buckminster Fuller.

A polymath of wonderful quotations and a deep thinker, he never fails to deliver. As I pondered this quote… initially it appealed to me for its rebellious nature. After some thought, I realised it works far better as a quote to inspire research, creativity and deep thought.

We all live extremely different lives. Geography, generations and a lived experience all affect what we think, do, how we act and what shapes our personal reality.

As technology expands and progresses, the world in turn becomes smaller and all of us are swept up in the flotsam and jetsam of living. Reality changes for all of us, sometimes that reality is public, sometimes private, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

In the dawning of the new age of (AI) Artificial Intelligence, the world is set to change dramatically in the next few generations. This will certainly affect us all in many diverse ways. While we can’t predict what those changes will be – one thing is for certain – there will be people who use this for the benefit of others and there will be those who use it for the detriment of others.

We will need to learn how to use this new technology to shape our new realities.

While AI is the newest, greatest shiny thing… I find myself ruminating even further on how much we affect and change our own realities. How much do we shape the world we live in? Family, work, community? Those of us that are more privileged have the ability to shape our environment to a higher degree than those that are less privileged. Choice plays a large part in how we interact with the world, how we feel emotionally about it and how our mental health is impacted. The less choice we have, the more anxiety and downward spirals our brains inflict on us. Of course, the opposite can be true.

Being aware of people around us and how we can impact others reality has become a challenge for me. I actively try to be less grumpy and more aware of others who may be feeling anxious, down or just shit-sick of the way life is treating them. 2 cases in point…

1) Having come from a meeting which didn’t go very well, I stopped for a sandwich. The chap behind the counter was clearly just going through the motions and appeared to have been mentally kicked by this employer, customers and perhaps everyone else.

I simply commented on his tattoos and that I liked them. His demeanour immediately changed, he became more animated, interested and forthcoming. We chatted for a few minutes while he made my sandwich, we bid each other farewell and I walked away.

I don’t know how I impacted his life – quite possibly he thought “what a strange person that was” – but I know I left the experience feeling better.

2) I was in a supermarket purchasing my goods – got chatting to the young man at the counter who was scanning things nearly quicker than I could load them. Rather than feeling under pressure – I let myself consider what that skill could be used for… I thought he would be great at knitting. I commented that with hands that fast, he could knit a scarf in just a few hours.

He nearly exploded with joy – and asked how I could know he was a knitter? I (surprised) didn’t of course, but just thought he would be good at it. He explained his grandmother had taught him from a very young age and it was one of his favourite activities to do. At this point, the rest of the queue were listening to his story and he apologised to them starting to speed up. The lady behind me began asking questions of him we all stood there for almost 5 minutes just chatting.

After I paid and began to walk away, he gave me a fist bump. I swear to you… I’m still living on that encounter. The lady behind me waved and thanked me… I don’t really know why… but again, I know I left that encounter feeling on top of the world.

Perhaps we do shape reality more than we know and just maybe we do reap what we sow.

Reality is….#33 #cong23 #reality


Reality is what we experience, what we feel, what we see, what we hear, and read, and touch, and smell. It’s things we invent, manufacture and it’s under threat.

Total Words


Reading Time in Minutes


Key Takeaways:

  1. Believe in reality.
  2. Accept that reality will be tough and not always pleasant.
  3. Make your reality a better one.
  4. Make other people’s reality a better one.

About Alan Tyrrell:

I’m like many people. I’m unlike lots of other people. Finding a pathway where I can. I multifail when I multitask [sometimes vice versa!]. I wear glasses. And try to keep them rose tinted. I really like music. But can’t hold a note. I’m curious. I really like #Cong. And I’ll be there this year again. It;s been a while. I’ll say hello. Say hello back.

Contacting Alan Tyrrell:

You can connect with Alan via email.

By Alan Tyrrell

Reality is…
Free speech.
Hate speech.
Donal Trump.
Donald Trump?
19 wars today.
Grab it.
Care for it.
Protect it.
Better it.
For them.
For Love.
For Peace.
For you.
For yours.
For mine.
For Humanity.
Because you can.

Reshaping Reality #32 #cong23 #reality


This piece is an extended discussion on the nature of reality, perception, and the philosophical and biological underpinnings of how we experience and interpret the world. It also delves into the social constructs around gender and the ethical considerations surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, specifically relating to trans individuals. I look at reality as a dynamic interplay between our physical existence and our cognitive processes. And suggests that our brains, shaped by evolution and co-evolving with language, actively construct reality through sensory experiences and interactions with the environment. This construction is influenced by our biological setup. Analogising current transphobic behaviour to past attitudes to homosexuality I use biology, cognitive science, linguistics and metaphysics to underpin trans rights and conclude that an inclusive approach, recognizing the validity of trans identities and the ethical imperative to embrace the diversity of human experiences is the only moral way forward.

Total Words


Reading Time in Minutes


Key Takeaways:

  1. Reality is not a fixed entity but is actively constructed (enacted) by individuals based on their sensory inputs and cognitive processing.
  2. Social constructs and language play significant roles in shaping our perception of reality and our interactions with others.
  3. The concept of ‘Quality’ as described by Pirsig in his philosophical works, suggests that our understanding of reality is deeply influenced by our value judgments and the dynamic interplay between novel experiences and established norms.
  4. Historical and current attitudes towards LGBTQ+ individuals reflect broader societal norms and biases, which change evolve over time, with language key to change.
  5. Ethical and inclusive approaches to understanding gender and sexuality are crucial for the well-being and acceptance of all individuals, especially those from the LGBTQ+ community.

About Dermot Casey:

Dermot is a husband of one and father of three.  He helps people and companies create shape and adapt to the future. He is CEO of the Industry Research and Development Group and on the board of NSAI National Standards Authority of Ireland and the Festival of Curiosity.  At work he’s an Advisor, Innovator, Investor, Teacher, Mentor. In life a Catalyst, Synthesist and ever Curious.  He likes tea, books, running but not too fast and dips in the sea.

Contacting Dermot Casey:

You can connect  with Dermot on MastodonTwitter and  LinkedIn or contact him on by email

By Dermot Casey

I run. Dashing across the road. Running is easier now. Easier. Doable. Not easy. I’m jogging 5K three times a week. There’s a rhythm to it now. One foot in front to the other. Calm tones of a podcast or playlist in my ears as jog along the seafront and west pier. I’m not out for a run right now, not in my runners. The ground is wet, slippy, the surface broken, uneven. I trip. The reality of Newtons second law of motion takes over. Force is mass by acceleration. My acceleration was building. Down I go. It happens in a second. The brain is aware I’m falling. The body reacts, arms out in front of me. My right knee clatters on the ground. The only thing damaged is my trousers, a hole in the knee. A gash on the knee underneath which will hurt later. I pick myself up and catch a breath. Ruefully musing that the impact is less that it would have been six months ago. If force is mass by acceleration, then as my acceleration was building my mass has been declining. My physical reality has changed over the last six months.

Physical reality. Reality. What exists and what is real as opposed to what underlies phenomena. The truth. One truth is we are physical beings. Embodied and existing in the world. Our physicality is important.  As biological organisms evolution has shaped our reality. Light exists along a spectrum from infrared to ultraviolet. The small piece that we can see we refer to as ‘the visible spectrum’. The rest we perceive only through mechanical means. But is it real if we can’t experience it. To paraphrase Nietzche – ‘A man has no ears (or eyes) for that which experience has given him no access’.  It’s not that this light doesn’t exist it is that we have no access to it.

What we have access to, and what we have experience of is important. Our brains and our bodies evolved to enable us to sense and orient ourselves in the world. We are sense making beings. We make sense to survive and to thrive. Our brain acts as a constant prediction engine (wonderfully described by Lisa Feldman Barrett in her book  ‘How Emotions are Made’).  This mechanism is a function of how our brains continually construct reality from our sensory experience and our experience of the world.

One example is how your brain and mine are continually constructing our visual reality. Our eyes only enable us to see a very small portion of the world. The center of our eye has a very narrow angle of physical color visual receptors. Outside this is a wider angle of black and white visual receptors. And we have holes in our eyes where the optic nerve meets the eye. Literal black holes that we can occasionally trick our eyes into seeing but for the most part never notice. Yet we see the world in dynamic full colour not in black and white with holes.  We have 100 million visual receptors in the eye but only 10 million channels of transmission into the brain.  The eye itself filters out 90% of the signals we take in and the rest of the picture it’s constructed from memory. This works wonderfully most of the time to discard information that’s not important. And to enable us to see the world as a continual colourful flow.

Our mind strives to highlight important changes. If I’m sitting in a hotel lobby discussing Congregation with Eoin Kennedy and I hold a mandarin orange in my hand under fluorescent lights that orange is a very specific colour under the wavelength of the lights. If I take that orange and walk outside to daylight there’s a very different wavelength of light. And the orange doesn’t change colour. Essentially the mind as a synthesis of eye and the brain is saying – this is same object so keep the image the same.

We are continually modelling reality and models are approximations, none are perfect, but they need to be consistent and believable and useful.  And we all model reality slightly differently. My reality is different from your reality, grounded not just in variations of genetic identity (whether coriander tastes nice or like soap) and the expressions of those genes in the environment I’ve lived and in the experiences of my own life. When I started my first job out of college I was sent for a medical.  I discovered that I had a slight red-green colour blindness. I was never aware of this before. And I’m generally not aware of it on a day-to-day basis outside of the funny coloured shapes used to test for colour blindness.

There is a branch of metaphysics – ontology (the study of the nature of reality) that looks at considers reality. Plato in his metaphysics “developed a distinction between true reality and illusion, arguing that what is real are eternal and unchanging forms or ideas of which things experienced in sensation are at best merely copies” (Wikipedia).  Views and perspectives or the nature of reality range from a pure social constructivist view (we create the world) to a purely platonic view. What is clear is that there are different types of reality that we access in different ways. Things that are not produced by us (gravity, light propagation), things that are produced by us (cars, books chairs) and things that we come to know through our interactions, our interactions with each other, our interactions with the world and our unique self-reflective interactions with ourselves. And interaction is important even with things that are independent of us.

The work of a number of other thinkers adds depth and context and a better conceptual understanding of reality. Terrance Deacon is an American neuroanthropologist, professor, and author. In his book ‘The Symbolic Species’ he explores the evolution of human language and its profound implications on human cognition and perception of reality.  Deacon argues that human language and the human brain have co-evolved. This co-evolutionary process has not only shaped our brains to accommodate complex linguistic abilities but also influenced the development of language itself. A key point in Deacon’s argument is the concept of symbolic reference, which is the ability of language to refer to things and ideas not immediately present. This symbolic reference distinguishes human language from animal communication systems.

Deacon’s ideas imply that our perception and understanding of reality are deeply intertwined with our linguistic capabilities. Language allows humans to conceptualize and communicate about things that are not immediately present, effectively constructing realities beyond the immediate physical environment. The symbolic nature of language enables the creation of shared realities or cultures – systems of meaning and understanding shared by a group. At the same time, it allows for subjective experiences of reality, as each individual’s language use and understanding is slightly different. The way we use language not only reflects but also shapes our thoughts and behaviors. The structure and vocabulary of a language can influence how its speakers perceive and interact with the world.

The biological basis for this can be seen in the work of Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela two Chilean biologists whose work significantly impacted the fields of biology, cognitive science, and philosophy, through their joint development of the concept of autopoiesis and their contributions to the theory of cognition. The broad basis of their ideas are contained in their book ‘The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding’.

Maturana and Varela’s view of reality is heavily influenced by the systemic and self-organising nature of life. They developed the “enactive” approach to cognition, which proposes that cognition is not just about representing an external world within the brain. Instead, cognition is a process of enacting or bringing forth reality through the organism’s interactions with its environment. This means that knowledge and perception are not pre-given but are actively constructed by the organism as it interacts with its world. In this view, reality is not simply an objective, observer-independent entity. Instead, reality is seen as something that arises from the interactions and relationships between organisms and their environments. Each organism, through its sensory and operational capacities, brings forth a world that is viable for its existence. This leads to the idea of multiple realities, each dependent on the organism experiencing it. Maturana and Varela extended these ideas to human understanding and social phenomena, suggesting that our realities are also constructed through our linguistic and social interactions.

Their work has profound implications for biology, cognitive science, philosophy, and even sociology and psychology. The notion that reality is not a fixed entity but is instead something that organisms actively construct challenges traditional views of perception and knowledge and the subject-object view of the world. Maturana and Varela  are very careful not to deny the “objectivity of a knowable world” so as to avoid “the chaos of arbitrariness because everything is possible”.

Maturana and Varela’s view of reality is deeply intertwined with biology and cognition. This is further echoed in the work of neuroscientist Antanio Domasio. Damasio’s ideas about reality and perception complement Maturana and Varela’s theories by providing a neurobiological perspective that underscores the importance of the body and emotion in shaping the cognitive processes that give rise to the human experience of reality. Both views challenge a purely objective understanding of the world, instead of highlighting the active role that living systems play in creating their own realities. Culture and other mental frames mediate, complicate and compromise our access to that reality, in effect bounding our reationality particularly in the social sphere.

The final element of this is Robert Pirsig and his Metaphysics of Quality. In his seminal book ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ Pirsig describes  “What we think of as reality is a continuous synthesis of elements from a fixed hierarchy of a priori concepts and the ever changing data of the senses” Human knowledge is the capability to make meaning from information (sensory data).

Reality in Pirsig framing is  “not static. It’s not a set of ideas that you either fight or else resign yourself to. It’s made up in part of ideas that are expected to grow as you grow”. In his followup to ‘Zen and the Art..’ called ‘Lila: An Enquiry into Morals’ he elaborates this philosophy, proposing that “Quality” or “value” is the fundamental fabric of reality, surpassing both subject (mind) and object (matter) in importance. He divides Quality into two types: Dynamic and Static. Dynamic Quality is the force of change, innovation, and spontaneity; it represents the unpredictable and constantly evolving aspect of reality. Static Quality, in contrast, embodies order, stability, and structure. We define reality as a noun when in essence it standing for a process as well. This multifacted view is challenging and difficult particularly for those who prefer a fixed and unchanging world.

Pirsig describes Quality as the response of an organism to its environment. “An amoeba, placed on a plate of water with a drip of dilute sulfuric acid placed nearby, will pull away from the acid (I think). If it could speak the amoeba, without knowing anything about sulfuric acid, could say, `This environment has poor quality.’ If it had a nervous system it would act in a much more complex way to overcome the poor quality of the environment. It would seek analogues, that is, images and symbols from its previous experience, to define the unpleasant nature of its new environment and thus `understand’ it.” It might also describe slipping while running as low quality.

He goes on to describe “In our highly complex organic state we advanced organisms respond to our environment with an invention of many marvelous analogues. We invent earth and heavens, trees, stones and oceans, gods, music, arts, language, philosophy, engineering, civilization and science. We call these analogues reality. And they are reality. We mesmerize our children in the name of truth into knowing that they are reality. We throw anyone who does not accept these analogues into an insane asylum. But that which causes us to invent the analogues is Quality. Quality is the continuing stimulus which our environment puts upon us to create the world in which we live.”

With the mention of an insane asylum it’s worth noting that Pirsig spent time in a mental institution. Its also worth mentioning that Ireland once had one of the highest rates of institutionalisation in asylums in the world (our incarceration rate at 1% of the population higher than the US Prison incarceration rate today). We know many of these people were not mentally ill. They were more often dynamically troublesome to the stability of a static society.

Going further philosopher Justin Garson has recently raised serious questions on how we conceptualise the idea of mental illness. Garson presents an alternative view on mental illness that challenges traditional perspectives. He suggests that what we typically categorise as mental illness can sometimes be understood as a correct or natural response to one’s environment rather than a pathological disease. This perspective is grounded in the notion that certain psychological states or behaviours deemed ‘abnormal’ in contemporary society may, in fact, be adaptive responses to particular environmental conditions or stressors. By considering the context in which these mental states arise, Garson suggests that some mental illnesses may represent a rational response to adverse or challenging circumstances. This view echoes the concept of “situated normativity,” which holds that what is considered normal or healthy behaviour can only be determined in relation to the specific environmental and social context of an individual. Garson’s stance invites a re-evaluation of how we define, diagnose, and treat mental health conditions, advocating for a more nuanced approach that takes into account the complex interplay between an individual’s biology, psychology, and their environment.

Garson’s ideas echo Pirsig’s. In Pirsig’s view, the traditional dichotomy between subject and object (mind and matter) is an oversimplification. Reality is a complex interplay of both, unified through Quality. This understanding requires us to reconceive our role in the world not as separate observers or manipulators of an external world but as integral participants in a dynamic, value-laden reality. The concept of Dynamic and Static Quality also provides an explanation for the evolution of consciousness and societal development. Human consciousness and societies evolve as they negotiate the tension between the need for stability (Static Quality) and the need for change and novelty (Dynamic Quality).

Both Maturana & Varela and Pirsig move away from static views of reality. For Maturana & Varela, reality is enacted through the organism-environment interaction. For Pirsig, it’s the continuous play between Dynamic and Static Quality. Both perspectives challenge the conventional subject-object dichotomy. Maturana & Varela’s enactive approach and Pirsig’s Quality both suggest a more integrated, relational view of reality where mind and matter are intertwined. Living systems in Maturana & Varela’s framework continuously maintain and redefine themselves, much like Pirsig’s view of reality evolving through the interaction of Dynamic and Static Quality. One implication that comes from this is that human knowledge is driven by language and conversation – new knowledge (new reality) is created when ways of talking and patterns of relationships change dynamically.

Though they come at it from completely different fields Maturana & Varela (Biology) and Pirsig (Philosophy & Metaphysics) they essentially arrive at  the same conclusions. Maturana and Varelas structural coupling and enactive world is in part a biological basis for Pirsigs Metaphysics of Quality. Maturana and Varlea, Feldman Barrett, Damasio, and Pirsig among many others highlight a tremendously rich body of knowledge across biology, philosophy, and information systems that converge on the dynamic nature of reality.

Pirsig’s philosophy also offers a framework for understanding and guiding both individual and collective behaviour. Decisions and actions are seen as ethical when they contribute to an enhancement of quality, leading to a more harmonious and dynamic balance between stability and change. By redefining morality in terms of Quality, Pirsig suggests a more holistic and integrated approach to ethics, transcending rigid moral codes and acknowledging the complex, evolving nature of human societies and personal experiences.

This has both some profound implications for society and is a powerful explanation of much of what happens in society. In 1973 to be gay was to be mentally ill according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association. Homosexuality’s history with the DSM is a stark example of how cultural and social biases can influence scientific understanding and classification of human behaviour and create a distorted reality for a minority. Originally listed as a sociopathic personality disturbance in the first edition of the DSM in 1952, homosexuality was reclassified as a “sexual orientation disturbance” in the DSM-II in 1968. This pathologising of homosexuality reflected prevailing societal prejudices of the time rather than an evidence (reality)-based understanding of sexual orientation.  In 1973 after intense debate and activism from both inside and outside the medical community, the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from the DSM-III. This decision marked the beginning of a shift toward a scientific understanding of sexual orientation. Since then, homosexuality has been recognised as a normal variant of human sexuality, and the subsequent editions of the DSM have not included it as a mental disorder, reflecting a broader societal move towards acceptance and equality. For 20 years after this decision in the US  homosexuality continued to be illegal in Ireland, changing in 1993 only after forced by court action at European level.  This in Ireland was grounded in a static view of human nature promulgated by the Catholic church which even today describes being gay as “intrinsically disordered”.

In terms of morality and quality dynamic quality has helped reshape society.  This underlines the point that new knowledge (new reality) is created when ways of talking, and patterns of relationships change. Homosexuality and same sex marriage are legal and normal. Dynamic reality reshaped and enhanced the world. Our language and our conversations around homosexuality changed. And the reality of for gay people changed with it.  Though we still have a long way to go. Almost a third of the population voted against same sex marriage.  Sex education at school level is still badly deficient, a strong legacy of church control though the new emerging SPHE curriculum will significantly address that.

And we still have people who resist these changes. The cold grasping dead hand of a conservative ideology. The Family Research Council (FRC) is a US conservative group identified by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) as an extremist hate group due to its actions against LGBTQ+ people. The FRC is known for making false claims about the LGBTQ community, using discredited research and junk science to dehumanize LGBTQ individuals and fight against their rights. Historically, they have opposed same-sex marriage, hate-crime laws, and anti-bullying programs.  At the Family Research Council’s 2017 Values Voter Summit, an explicit strategy was laid out for attacking LGBTQ+ rights by targeting transgender people, particularly focusing on health care for children​​.  This movement of attacking the rights of transgender people to undermine LGBTQ+ rights more broadly has been embraced by conservative and reactionary groups across many countries.

In Ireland the Iona Institute, a conservative Catholic organisation, has connections to the wider anti-gender rights movement, primarily through its links to the Novae Terrae Foundation. Novae Terrae received funds from a Russian money laundering scheme and redistributed them among several anti-LGBTQ+ rights and conservative religious groups in Europe, including the Iona Institute. Additionally, representatives from the Iona Institute have appeared at Agenda Europe summits alongside various anti- LGBTQ + and anti-abortion rights campaigners and groups, including the Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF International), which is a designated hate group in the U.S. and has spent significant funds in Europe over several years​ (via The Beacon)

The attacks against trans people and LGBTQ+ people can be divided into what what I call, the the acts of the bad, the acts of mad and the doubts of the uncertain. The bad are following the playbook of the anti-gay hysteria of the 1980s which resulted in section 28 in the UK where schools were not allowed talk about homosexuality. A situation similar to that in many schools in Ireland where under school ethos legislation religion teachers frequently teach Relationships and Sexuality Education. The bad were responsible for the description of gay people as groomers, and the idea of social contagion of homosexuality. These baseless, hysterical claims are the same as those being made against trans people today. The current manufactured state is similar to previous moral panics over homosexuality.

This artificial ‘debate’ As Shon Faye points out in her book ‘The Transgender Issue’ where  “the ‘topic’ of trans has now been limited to a handful of repetitive talking points: whether non-binary people exist and whether gender neutral pronouns are reasonable; whether trans children with dysphoria should be allowed to start their transition; whether trans women will dominate women’s events in the Olympics; and the endless debate over toilets and changing rooms.”

A key point here, and a thread that runs through conservative religious groups in this and other areas is the suppression of dynamic individual human agency. The suppression of dynamic quality. An old religious saying that Pirsig quotes in Lila is that “nothing disturbs a Bishop so much as the presence of a saint in the parish.”   There is a reactionary strain in some parts of the human soul that seeks to suppress individual agency and creativity. That which leads to growth and social change and progress. In Pirsigs terms elements of static quality seeks to suppress Dynamic Quality and suffocate human agency. There has been a general fear of individuality, personal choice and questioning the status quo. It’s been reflected across Irish society over decades in attitudes to gay people, to neurodiverse people, to unmarried mothers, to those who step outside the strictures of society. There are now attempts to apply this approach to trans people. Less successfully in Ireland so far but quite successfully in the UK.

Shon Faye has noted “Greater acknowledgement of gender variance in the twenty first century has led to the wider recognition of that fact that the spectrum of human sexuality is much more complex and much less rigid than previously thought, which can and does unsettle some people.” This is exploited by hate groups to attack trans people.  The damage being done to trans people is immense. 45% of trans people will attempt suicide. 64% of trans pupils are bullied at school. 46% say they hear transphobic language frequently at school. 84% of British trans young people have self-harmed. Trans people have higher percentages of homelessness, are more victims of violence than other groups.

These are not inherent properties of being trans. These are cruelties imposed on trans people. The mental damage done to trans people is to note Garsons point a sane reaction to an insane environment. And it’s reflective of similar damage that was done to gay people over many decades. As the environment has improved for gay people so has bullying and violence decreased, and their mental health improved.  And there is still a long way to go.

As noted by Maturana & Varela’s living systems continuously maintain and redefine themselves. We need to recognise that trans people like all living people know themselves. In an experiment done with food 100 years by Clara Davis, a Chicago paediatrician, infants, aged six to 11 months, were offered a variety of foods and allowed to eat whatever they wanted. These infants had no prior experience with ordinary foods. During meal times, the infants were presented with a selection of 34 different foods, with no direct offering or suggestion from the caregivers. The children created 15 distinct eating patterns, each different from the others, and often chose unusual combinations, like orange juice and liver for breakfast. Despite these unorthodox choices, they all managed to form a nutritious diet.

One notable case involved an infant with severe rickets (vitamin D deficiency), who was offered cod liver oil. The child took the oil irregularly and in varying amounts until his condition improved, and then never consumed it again. Humans when given agency have a remarkable ability to determine what is best for them.

In the past, societal norms and cultural values made it difficult for gay people to express their identity. Gay people frequently faced pressure to conform to heterosexual norms, leading to concealment of their true identities and significant personal distress. This pressure also gave rise to attempts at conversion therapy, a practice based on the erroneous belief that sexual orientation can be changed through psychological or spiritual interventions. Conversion therapy stemmed from historical misconceptions that viewed homosexuality as a mental disorder or moral failing, which led to the development of various harmful and ineffective methods aimed at “curing” individuals. These practices have been widely discredited and condemned by major medical and psychological organizations due to their lack of scientific basis and potential to cause severe psychological harm.  They’ve thankfully been banned in many countries.

Despite this, conversion therapy persisted for decades, reflecting the broader challenges gay individuals faced in being accepted for who they are. The same challenges are being faced by trans people today. The medical evidence in support of affirmative care for transgender people, particularly transgender youth, is so substantial as to be overwhelming. Its voluminous that I’ll reference some of these as an appendix. And medical organisations are consistent on the need for gender affirming care. Despite this people continue to resist and deny the reality of trans children. Much as in the past there was a societal attempt to deny and marginalise gay people. The problems for LGBTQ+ kids (gay or trans) isn’t their reality it’s as Shon Faye comments the social construction of “a toxic kind of shame that is directed at children for being who they fundamentally are.”

There’s something profoundly disturbing around the damage caused by toxic shame. Irish people will be familiar with the notion of Catholic guilt, the idea of having committed an offense or wrong, whether real or imagined. Catholic guilt is often toxic shame and the inadequacy that stems from how people perceive their actions or identity. People often internalise feelings of shame, especially in a setting where certain aspects of their identity (such as sexual orientation) are stigmatised with it leading to profound psychological distress.

And trans people are stigmatised. By the bad, by the mad and too often by the uncertain.  The bad we’ve noted. They’re frequently people who are ideologically opposed to trans people and see an advantage in attacking them. They’re also the ones attacking libraries and causing chaos outside the Dáil. Alt-right as well as all wrong. The mad are people who appear to have been driven over the edge in a bizarre way by the issue. Just as Don Quixote mistook windmills for giants, battling them in a misguided attempt to uphold his chivalric ideals, the mad can be seen as fighting against a misunderstood or misperceived “threat.” Trans individuals and transgender rights are about as harmful and adversarial as the windmills Don Quixote tilted at.  The harm the mad do (whether based on illusions and false beliefs, misconceptions and misinformation) is all too real and all too damaging to trans people. From writing billionaires to a formerly celebrated comedy writer to a former tennis champion it’s difficult to fathom these people.

The most important group to impact reality are the uncertain. Their doubts are understandable. To most people gender seems obvious and binary. Only 0.4% of the population suffer from gender dysphoria. That gender is neither simple nor binary can be confusing and sometimes disturbing to people. For some it disturbs the order of their world. For others it’s just strange or weird. We spend the early part of our life adapting to the world and developing our views and large parts of adulthood defending our views and trying to make the world conform to our notion of reality. We start open and dynamic, and we become static. As we transition into adulthood, our views become more ingrained, and we often spend a significant portion of our adult life defending these established beliefs and attempting to shape the world to fit them.

I know that change is possible and that the doubts of people that are uncertain can be changed. Without the dynamic nature and ability to change we’d be permanently locked into cultural norms of the past. This change won’t happen through debate. It will happen through conversation. Human knowledge is driven by language and conversation – new knowledge (new reality) is created when ways of talking and patterns of relationships change dynamically.  We’ve seen this in relation to our recent referenda on equal marriage and abortion.

It’s possible in part because the range and reality and multitudinous wonder of human variety is already present across language across culture and society. We can enact and bring this forth. A recent piece in Nature by Andrew Perfors, Steven Piantadosi and Celeste Kidd illustrates that trans-inclusive gender categories are cognitively natural and already widespread.  Their comment is brief. They note some of the challenges of objective categorisation stating “few, if any, human categories correspond cleanly to ‘objective’ or ‘unambiguous’ partitions of the world. As one example of many, colour and pitch are determined by unidimensional physical quantities — frequencies of light and sound — but our conceptual system does not code them that way.”  This ties to Maturana and Varelas work on cognition.

They further note that “Gender concepts, too, reflect social organization, resulting in languages and cultures that recognize more than just ‘woman’ and ‘man.’ Examples of these include kathoey in Thai, māhū in Hawai- ian, fa’afafine in Samoan, femminielli in Neapolitan, all of which refer to a gender category that does not fit into a binary classification and has a long history of use in each language,”

“Across languages and cultures, all lexical concepts are conventions that are heavily shaped by communicative need, and people clearly need to communicate social roles and identities. Second, if lexical concepts are primarily conventions, this means that we should choose conventions that are useful. The usefulness of sex-based categories in domains such as medicine or issues such as participation in sports is often raised as an argument for their value. However, although biological factors certainly matter for some situations, use of these sex-based categories in broad public policy frequently runs into trouble.”

“Arguments that sex-based categories are more correct rely on the deeply unscientific presumption that our categories are precise and objectively aligned to the world, even though decades of empirical work shows that this is false. Human lexical concepts are conventions that we choose, and they change as society changes. Changes towards trans-inclusive categories yield linguistic systems that are both natural and useful.”

Trans-inclusivity and trans positive language is metaphysically, ontologically, biologically, cognitively and linguistically natural, as well as useful inherently coherent (in an enactive sense) and morally just and right. Its the only ethical and moral choice. Pirsigs idea that decisions and actions are seen as ethical when they contribute to an enhancement of quality shines through when we consider trans people as people.

Trans people are not new. They have existed across societies for thousands of years.  I remember being asked why I was so passionate during the equal rights amendment. And saying that it was a small apology in an attempt to make up for lost time. Two of my best  friends in secondary school were gay. I had no idea at the time, no education around it, no understanding of it. They, like many other gay Irish people, headed to London pretty much immediately after we finished secondary school. The irony was that Thatcher was just introducing Section 28, despite which the London was still a more welcoming place for gay people.

It is clear that the arguments and harm being done to trans people as people echoes the damage being done to gay people. Damage that even now is far from fully repaired.  It is a social and linguistic drip of concentrated sulfuric acid.  Trans people, gay people, non-binary people and gender non-conforming people are real and exist.  As people we all attempt to brings forth a world that is viable for our existence. For a trans person that is different and much more difficult than for a cisgender person.

For a cisgender person the world is conforming and reinforces their identity. For trans and gender non-conforming people the world is restricting, challenging and frequently at odds with who they are.   Their reality is denied.  It’s difficult if not impossible for cisgender people to understand trans-reality. I would say it’s probably as difficult as trying to understand what it’s like to see ultraviolet light something for which we have no experience. No three year old identified male at birth identifies as female though mistake and misunderstanding.  They are clearly trying to enact the world that is viable for their existence.  That’s their reality whether they understand it at three or a 90. In the case of a former Second World War veteran. She knew she was a girl in 1930 age three but took until 2017 to begin transition at age 90 with many years suppressing who she was.

The world has too much unnecessary pain and suffering. Some of it minor accidental trips and falls. Too much of it deliberate and cruelly inflicted with devastating consequences. We’ve proven in the past that we can build better and more inclusive societies and we need to continue to do. One part of this is to include trans people fully into society. By embracing the dynamics of reality we’ll create a richer more diverse more tolerant and healthier society. And that’s a reality worth striving for.

Books Referenced

Lisa Feldman Barrett ‘How Emotions are Made’

Robert Pirsig ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth”

Robert Pirsig ‘Lila an Inquiry into Morals’

Humberto Maturana & Francisco Varela ‘The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding’

Shon Faye ‘The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice’

Terrance Deacon ‘The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain’

Antonio Damasio ‘Feeling and Knowing: Making Minds Conscious’

Articles Referenced

Justin Garson “The Helpful Delusion’ Aeon

Justin Garson “Is a Person’s Sex a Social Construct?” Psychology Today

Garson, J. forthcoming. Madness and idiocy: Rethinking a basic problem of philosophy of psychiatry. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology

Preprint at

Andrew Perfors, Steven T. Piantadosi & Celeste Kidd “Trans-inclusive gender categories are cognitively natural” cited as  Perfors, A., Piantadosi, S.T. & Kidd, C. Trans-inclusive gender categories are cognitively natural. Nat Hum Behav 7, 1609–1611 (2023).

The Beacon “The accounts of the Iona Institute are opaque but its links to the wider anti-gender rights movement are as clear as day”

As Far As I Can See #31 #cong23 #reality


Reality and the puzzle of it discussed through the lens of a manual therapist.

Total Words


Reading Time in Minutes


Key Takeaways:

  1. Perception is reality
  2. Complications are the norm
  3. Variations are the norm
  4. Finding a common theme and strategy to work towards is the key

About Dr. Greg Tollefson:

Dr. Greg Tollefson grew up in north west Canada. The pursuit of an optimization of wellness and performance was a central curiosity and passion of his from a very young age. He has been blessed professionally with the opportunities of sharing this passion with his community through treatment, education and advocacy.
Greg obtained a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours from the University of Saskatchewan in Human Physiology. He attended graduate school at Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto where he attained his Doctor of Chiropractic. While studying Chiropractic, Greg further specialized with a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist designation.
While practicing in Toronto, Greg networked and grew a strong reputation within the athletic community. Here, Greg had the honour of working with Olympians, professional hockey players, collegiate athletes, and was the in-house manual therapist at Toronto’s Oldest Indoor Tennis Club.

Since moving to Ireland, Greg has shifted gears a bit – working more with anyone and everyone. His practice is driven by people who are wanting more from their bodies. From 2 weeks to 90+ – there is no restrictions at either end. Greg still enjoys the steady flux of All levels of GAA athletes, road runners, athletic clubs, power lifters, rugby players, swimmers, rowers, golfers and mixed martial artists.

He loves the challenge of jumping between the two polarities, strategizing and planning with whoever is in front of him, about their body!

In the past three years, Greg has been serving as the President of Sports Chiropractic Ireland which is a member of International Federation of Sports Chiropractic (FICS). The Olympics are starting to recognize FICS members on an official level, which is great for growing our profession.

Move well, feel well. Be strong. Be mobile

Greg takes pride in assisting every patient who walks through the door to progress their quality of life based on their own specific life demands and personal goals. Greg is an avid educator of patients. He believes the importance of what he teaches patients and what they can take forward in their everyday life is by far more important than any of the hands on therapies provides.

Knowledge. Team work. Accountability. Consistency.

Contacting Dr. Greg Tollefson:

You can connect with Greg by email or see his work in Emerald Wellness.

By Dr. Greg Tollefson

As far as I can see…

Reality is a completely subjective construct.

Even the word that it’s based around — “real” — by definition – “occurring in fact” – who decides what is fact?  Is there something or someone with a final say?

A phrase that was taught to me at a very young age that sticks to me to date is “perception is reality.”

The scope of a thought becomes the framing of your mind and thereby becomes your own reality.

As an analytically trained manual therapist who has been studying the human body and nervous system for 25 years my “reality” is constantly shifting, evolving, growing, changing.

The more I know — the more questions I have.  Eureka moments followed by the valleys of despair.

The next piece of the puzzle is where it gets really complicated.  Trying to mesh my evolving reality with the reality of my patient.  Seeking some semblance of congruency with a common  theme — solution to the problem within their own reality that landed them into my office.

The reality that this complicated assimilation brings is one of a rocking boat, in an unfamiliar body of water, with unfamiliar currents, movements and weather.
Some cases and presentations very calm, peaceful and smooth — simply navigated.  Other times the polar opposite – extreme volatility, unstable, chaotic with navigation paths seeming impossible.
Not to mention the trillion variations and possibilities lying between these two poles.

I’m never bored — but often times perplexed.

This is my reality.

A Cat in the Cupboard #30 #cong23 #reality


For something as real as reality who knew that writing about it could open so many avenues of exploration. If everyone perceives the world through their own unique perspective/lens, then there are arguably as many realities as there are people in the world! I thought that at least science was absolute in its reality but then I considered that it too is on its own voyage continuous discovery so is only ‘reality for right now’. I want more from reality than potentially shifting sands. So here it is, by starting with Quantum Superpositions (IYKYK) and winding up dead, I’ve shared in this post the four dosage levels for Delusion, my drug of choice for coping with, escaping and changing reality. Don’t take them all at once or you’ll get nothing done for the rest of the day.

Total Words


Reading Time in Minutes


Key Takeaways:

  1. Schrondinger’s cat was used as a thought experiment originally designed to reflect Schrodinger’s challenging of the principles of quantum superpositions – something I know nothing about. But the layman’s interpretation is that if you seal a cat in a cupboard with something that can eventually kill it, the cat is both simultaneously alive AND dead until you open the cupboard and reveal which of those two possibilties is real. Is our time on earth just one giant cupboard where any reality is a possibility and any possibility a reality until we are definitively dead?
  2. The reality of life is not all halcyon days of sunshine and flowers. Most of us consider the realities of life something that needs to be escaped or changed at least from time to time. For some that escapism can be medically or chemically induced. I prefer Delusion – flights of fancy, daydreaming, wistful thinking and even hardcore manifesting. What harm can it do.
  3. Having completed this I wonder if I have missed the third path, the path of acceptance. Maybe instead of escaping reality or trying to change it, accepting it is the other option. In a world where we’re constantly encouraged to strive towards something else/other, we might find a greater peace by seeking shelter in place.
  4. Nothing is more real, more incontrovertible and less open to interpretation or perception that being confronted with the reality of death. I can imagine away anything but that.

About Joan Mulvihill:

Joan Mulvihill, career flaneuse, artist and technology evangelist who thinks and talks at the intersection of human creativity and the digitalisation of everything else. Her artistic practice actively informs her thinking on technology and the future of organisations as she fine tunes the balance between being data driven but human led. “We don’t shape the future by having all the right answers but by asking the right questions”.

Joan is the Digitalisation and Sustainability Lead for Siemens, a professional artist, a board member of the Contemporary Irish Art Society (CIAS), the Public Relations Institute of Ireland (PRII) and the Industrial Research and Development Group (IRDG). An experienced public speaker having addressed Cultural Festivals in France, Music festivals in Ireland and Business Conferences all over.

Contacting Joan Mulvihill:

You can connect with Joan by email, Instagram, X or LinkedIn

By Joan Mulvihill

There is a cat trapped, simultaneously alive and dead, in a cupboard and a tree has fallen outside in an empty forest without making a noise. Who knows. Reality.

I had intended writing something lighthearted this year. It was going to be called, “Delusion, my drug of choice”. Alcohol, cigarettes, trippy tabs or herbally induced hiatus – they will all work for a while, the side effects are high risk and can be brutal. They can even un-real you altogether.

Disappointment is as bad as it gets with Delusion and I can handle that. The trick is managing the dosage. I’ve categorised four dosage levels as follows:

Level 1: Flights of Fancy. This is a small dose, inspired by a passing idea and nothing grounded to too much, dare I say it, reality. Effects lasts 2-3 minutes. Example: Having a ‘running away from home’ moment. Limited impulse control required. Unlikely I’ll quit my job, walk out the door never to return. Low level escapism.

Level 2: Day Dreaming. Higher dosage, may last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few lost hours. Possible but improbable escapism. Effective by staring into space or with eyes closed but may also incorporate artificial external stimulus. Example: Escaping to the country/city. Google searching homes in desirable places that are just out of reach. Low level investments can be made to support the day dream such buying lottery tickets and not checking the numbers. The longer you don’t know you haven’t won, the longer you have won. You’re the cat in the cupboard, all at once a millionaire and not.

Level 3: Wistful Thinking. This can often be confused with the day dream but involves more specific concerns and tends to be more grounded in nature. This is higher level delusion in that you may risk believing the impossible could actually happen. You wist at your peril. Like the Day Dream, external stimulus can support the delusion, e.g. Fortune Tellers, Online Dating Apps, Add to Cart (WARNING – do not proceed to payment, it’s a delusion, you cannot afford it!!!!! ).

Level 4: Manifesting. This is a high dose delusion. Less accidental mind scrolling and more intentional focus. Typically it centres on a very specific outcome, person, object, role. It involves BELIEVING in your delusion. This believing makes it high risk with side-effects including profound disappointment and hopelessness. Best suited to very patient, long-gaming, bouncing back optimists. Not suited to those with rejection intolerances or pessimistic tendencies. Also, just as there is Big Pharma, there is also an emerging Big Mani. Big Mani will have you believe that if your manifestation has not been realised it is because you did not believe enough but if you just buy this other book or subscribe to these coaching sessions, you too can have a better reality. Your delusions can happen. I am a long game optimist who is hardened to rejection. I’ll cope. Just don’t end up in a cult. Stranger things have happened.

Delusion is of course predicated on some desire to ‘change’ reality or at very least escape it for short periods. The thing is that everything is already changing all of the time anyway. Eventually science fiction becomes science fact and even existing science has the potential to be disproven with new theories and hypotheses.

In words of Einstein, “imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world and all there ever will be to know and understand”. See. Einstein was all for a bit of delusion too it seems. It takes imagination to day dream, to have flights of fancy. We’re in good company.

They say as long as there is life there is hope. Maybe it can be just as true to say that as long as there is hope there is life. Schrodinger’s cat is both alive and dead as long as I don’t open the cupboard door. I can keep the cat alive by keeping hope alive and the cupboard door closed. But once I open that door and I see that cat is dead, then there is no hope, and no life. I cannot delude myself to believing the cat to be alive in the face of its very real death. I cannot perceive the cat to be anything but dead once I can see that it is dead. Nothing is more real to me than death. In my experience of life the only thing I can truly categorise as REAL, as immutable, incontrovertible, and irreversible is death. The only reality of life is in fact death. Everything before death is open to interpretation, a function of perspective, discovery, time.

And if I am a cat? Keep that door shut. I am high on delusion and this is surreal.