CreativityReality, Canossa, and the muon

Reality, Canossa, and the muon

Reading time: 3:15 min | I’m a great fan of Karl Popper, who said that it’s not about the possession of knowledge; it’s about the quest for truth. However, reality doesn’t picture the truth, it’s a conglomeration of historic hearsay, media illusions, learned knowledge, and the facts from our experiences in life, which are often distorted realities that would never sustain at court. But, nonetheless, we don’t want people to mess with reality.

Only recently there was an accident in the German film industry when a documentary filmmaker realised with horror and shame, after the film had been shown on television, that her film did not reflect realness but staged an assumed realness of prostitution in Germany. She went to Canossa and with her the whole German documentary film sector. This incident was not a slip but a consequence of the task — for who can imagine that prostitution would like to be shown in total realness? An almost unsolvable task for a documentary filmmaker.

Particle physics has a similar problem. Here, the task is to establish total realness, and documentation is required too. And here, too, some players dislike being shown. Through an experiment at the US research centre Fermilab near Chicago, it was recently discovered that possibly muons (little buggers that love hiding) do not behave quite like the so-called Standard Model in physics would predict. Basically, you would think, ah cool — so what.

But, unlike art, science is a precise matter. And, therefore, the number seven in physics is always odd until the opposite is proven. You have to get to the bottom of things until you know where you stand. And if there is a discrepancy between assumed reality and reality through experiment (repeatable actuality, that is), there is at least one problem. Either reality is different from what was thought, or reality was mismeasured, or both. In this case, if the experiment is confirmed and undoubtedly represents reality, then the validity of the Standard Model must be adjusted, at least in the case of the muon. In plain language: the world may be different from what we think.

This can be very unwanted. The discoveries of Jewish-dominated modern quantum physics were sufficiently dangerous for the Nazis to introduce so-called German Physics as a counter-project and assign it to fascist reality by defaming the work of Max Planck, Erwin Schrödinger, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli and many others as lies.

By her critics, the documentary filmmaker is also considered a liar because she failed to state that her filmings are primarily inner ideas that depict reality as she had come to know it in her research but are not the reality in the sense of realness or actuality of factual happenings. As viewers, we are infuriated that we are being shown a fact that is not part of reality because it did not happen. We feel betrayed, even though we do nothing else all day, adapting our factual reality to our desires of existence.

This opens a can of worms, especially if you are a documentarist. The moment the filmmaker enters the scene, the reality is bending. Like in a play of the theatre of the absurd, she functions as a catalytic stranger and thus has an enormous influence on the story without being much involved personally. The core issue, e.g. prostitution, remains, but everything else changes. The reality in the sense of realness and truth distorts, which is part of the creative process and can be powerful. There is no such thing as a truth-showing documentary, and thus lying is inevitable. The Documentarist tries to solve this conundrum ethically by assigning their work to a good cause, which, undoubtedly, the filmmaker with her piece on prostitution did.

This brings us to art, which does truth-telling in a transcendent way. Art explores our reality by forcing us to confront issues from the present or the past. This confrontation often changes our sense of reality much more than actual reality, which, as we know, is mostly banal.

So, what to make with all this? I haven’t seen the film on prostitution (not exactly my topic), but I was told it is an impressive piece on this particularly dreadful and sad hidden sector of society. I suggest that the filmmaker leaves the Orcus of self-shaming and makes her next film that, I’m certain, won’t mess with reality, actuality, realness, and whatnot but will perhaps alter her audience’s reality for the better — as every great art does.