William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

my life and times: solipsism

I remember my early childhood with reasonable fondness - it was especially sweet in light of the torture of school that was to follow.

Once, and I think I was four at the time, I bragged to a houseguest that I knew every word in the world. Bragging a bit, I think. I had recently learned the word 'hospital' and was eager to show it off. Showing off got me affection from people in my next-to-immediate family, so I did it an awful lot. I was and still am reasonably bright, but all this means is that I have the ability to absorb things on a superficial level without doing much work. Usually, that's where it stays.

I spent grade school attempting (and mostly failing, but sometimes spectacularly succeeding) to show off, but when my abilities didn't match my fantasies, I would lie to myself and everyone around me. I'd say things like, "Well, I can't ski fast, but I'm good at long-distances." I wonder if some people believed me. There was probably a split on that and other things. The people-who-believed-me camp suddenly shrunk from a few to zero when I moved to this province. I think that's most of the reason I found it so traumatizing.

Anyway, today I learned another new word (practically speaking there might as well be an infinity of words because if I can't find one I can always make one up - it's nice to be a speaker of a language with no 'official' authority): Solipsism. Not a way of speaking or writing, nor something spoken or written, nor an objective of a speech or a note, but a philosophy.

Finally, I have a word that describes how I perceived the world for far too long. It's probably common for a child to think they are in their own personal universe, but probably not so much for a sixth-grader. And since you have no way of getting into people's heads, why not be a solipsist? (Similarly, since we can't readily perceive the rotation of the Earth (special tools and painstaking observations aside), why not be a geocentrist?)

Upon having it forced upon me that religion was not for me, the hardest thing to deal with was the idea that the universe is going to forget about me. I have a high school chum to thank for those exact words. At any rate, I looked around desperately for other sources of meaning or destiny - various forms of astrology, friends who could read tarot, books about theoretical physics that are dangerous in the hands of the deluded outcast teenager who has no hope to separate the wheat from the chaff...

Years later, I was on the my university's campus computers idly searching through the system tray when I stumbled upon AboutTime. Through it I found Paul Lutus' website. I've since been a great fan of his work. Through his writing I picked up the idea that the universe is morally neutral (it doesn't really care about anything, it just does what it does) and in the long run, combined with a ton of other ideas from all over the place, I've more or less come to terms with my own obsolescence.

But I stress that this was really, really hard. I think I would have been better off had I not had religious belief forced upon me in the first place. I think I still would have been a narcissist for most of childhood, but I would have spent more of my formative years with the freedom to ask every question. I am harnessing that freedom now and perhaps I am making up for lost time. Going back to school after Japan has really helped - I'm still a little slow on many things (this plainly contradicts the notion that I'm bright!), but I have my brain in a little bit of shape. The car that represents my brain may be a modest econobox, but it is now rolling on rubber tires instead of sitting on cinder blocks.
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