Tuesday, November 25, 2008

There Is No Spoon

There’s an article in the paper today about a new form of mental illness where the sufferer imagines he is the subject of a reality show; more specifically, something akin to The Truman Show, the 1998 Jim Carrey movie whose protagonist’s entire life had been broadcast on television since birth, the ultimate invasion of privacy.

Now, if I could pick something to be delusional about, I think would choose The Matrix. To me, that is far more plausible and practical than The Truman Show, because there no gigantic sound stage with extensive production crew and cast would be needed. It’s all done very neatly in the mind. In fact, realizing you’re in the Matrix with the hope of learning to take advantage of it, as perhaps the dreamer who recognizes he is in a dream might try to fly, could really make life quite interesting and fun. Well, within limits, of course.

I would like to suggest that imagining one’s self in a movie or story, a fantasy that has structure and vitality and where one’s actions and thoughts inevitably lead to something, is healthy. Are we not all the main characters of our lives anyway? It is so easy to think two things: that we are drifting and our outcomes are hazy and ill-defined; or, conversely, that we are locked into existences that are hopelessly numbing and routine, like ants in a colony. Why not see ourselves from the perspective of a cinematographer and become everymen made special, like Marty, complete with soundtrack and supporting cast? There are worse delusions than that, I’m sure. Even the most humdrum life could seem interesting and meaningful, and that’s not really a bad thing, is it?

Would you like voice-over narration? Black and white or Technicolor? And how about director? Probably be wiser to go with Spielberg over Tarrantino there. John Williams would be a popular choice for composer certainly. All in all, not a bad way to function.


People make fun of those online, virtual reality relationships we’ve been hearing about in the news, where one can cyberdate, engage in cybersex, join in cybermarriage, get a quicky cyberdivorce, and even commit a cybermurder. Proponents of this brand of virtual reality suggest there is, when you come right down to it, no substantial difference between that and real reality, the latter being something philosophers since Aristotle and Plato have been very hard-pressed to define. This humble blogger would like to point out that there is nothing more virtual reality than this vast, global economic meltdown we’re experiencing, which, to my naive eye, amounts to a monumental maelstrom of abstract numbers and formulae and algorithms and “financial instruments” that have been thrown willy nilly from one computer to the next with no thought to where it all might lead. How can capital asset pricing models, free riding, convertible securities, Macaulay durations, anticipatory hedging, mortgage backed securities, accumulated depreciation, ratio spreads, and toxic waste swaps be real? Someone had to make all that stuff up! Things didn’t get this way because a sheep was traded for a millstone, it was because one imaginary thing was traded for another. All it took was for two parties to agree that such a thing as a “derivative” truly exists. Is this the way for intelligent, well-educated people to behave?

Okay, okay, that might have been a bit simplistic, but you see what I mean.


Over and out.