Liz Strauss wrote an article this week in the Blogging Herald called Humanity in the Virtual and 3-D World.
We use words to helps us group people efficiently, but sometimes the grouping loses sight of the individual in the groups. The group identity, which isnt more than air and thought, becomes more real than the folks who eat and sleep and breathe.
We use words to think, to communicate, to interact. Words are the tools of thought, the symbols and abstractions. We use them to label things and actions. We use them to generalize, analyze, and predict our experience of the world around us. Language is one of the greatest and most useful tools invented by humankind.
At the same time, words are one of the most dangerous tools we have. When we name something, we limit it. We give it shape and form, namarupa in Sanskrit. Over time we lose touch with what the labels stand for, and instead of interacting with the reality of experience, we interact with the labels within our minds. As Liz says, we focus more on "air and thought", than the reality which the words signify.
This is the main problem I have with solipsism, the belief in a totally subjective reality. In solipsism only I am real. Everything else is a projection of my mind. We aren't participating in a play, a dance of cooperating actors. We have only a virtual world.
Participating in a play is a different thing from participating in a virtual world. Look at video games. We do things in the context of the game that we would never think of doing in the real world, because we don't see the characters in the game as real. The people, animals, and objects in them are "air and thought", with only the temporary, and one dimensional reality we give them in our mind.
Applying the belief in a completely subjective reality denotes a confusion of levels and is a sort of mental masturbation. From the viewpoint of the source of the universe, yes, each entity is a projection purely of the source, but normally we do not live at the level of total enlightenment to which such a viewpoint applies. We function with our egos, through our minds, bodies, and emotions. Each individuality is as real as the next.
To deny the reality of that which surrounds us is demean ourselves and our existence. While our world is a reflection of ourselves, created as a result of who we are and what we believe, at the level at we normally function it is fashioned by the cooperative effort of many individuals. It is real, not virtual.