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About a month ago, I was walking out of the plasma center when inspiration smacked me square in the face. Two character voices, both of which I’d never heard before, started having the most fascinating argument.
Knowing that I would immediately forget everything if I didn’t stop and record it RIGHT THAT MOMENT, I pulled out my story notebook, sat down next to my bike, and started writing. This is more or less what I jotted down:
1st voice: All of us live in the world of our own choosing.
2nd voice: What are you talking about?
1st: I mean that all of us choose the world we live in. All of us live in a world of our own construction.
2nd: That’s crazy.
1st: Yes, but it’s true.
2nd: It can’t be. How can it be?
1st: Because that’s who we are. It’s what we do. We create worlds–if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be human.
2nd: Now you’re just being crazy.
1st: In the world you choose to live in, yes, I’m crazy.
2nd: Look, that can’t be true. We all live in the same world. We see the same things, not different things. I can’t just choose to look out the window and see a red sky, can I?
1st: No, but you can choose whether or not the day is beautiful to you.
2nd: Yeah, okay, but the sky is the same color for all of us, isn’t it? It’s still the same sky. I can’t live in a world without a sky, can I?
1st: Actually, most people never look up to see it. They live in a world where the sky over their heads is irrelevant–as if it didn’t exist.
2nd: Yeah, but look, if we were to take the same exact thing–say, a rock–and look at it under a microscope, we’d see the same elements, wouldn’t we? The molecules and atoms are all the same, right?
1st: Of course.
2nd: Right! So that means we live in the same world, not different worlds. Everything is the same.
1st: My friend, you don’t understand. A world is so much more than the sum of its atoms. Those are just the building blocks–the true essence lies in how they’re put together. It lies in the story we tell ourselves to explain it all. You see a rock and think, “huh, just another rock.” It doesn’t fit into your story–into your world–except as another set piece. A boy, however, would see the perfect, skipping stone; a geologist would see a remnant from the age of the dinosaur. A pilgrim to Mecca would see the rock with which he will smite Shaitan. Different worlds, my friend–their worlds are all very different from yours.
2nd: Okay, maybe that’s true. We attach different meaning to things–I can accept that–but that doesn’t mean that we live in separate worlds.
1st: On the contrary, my friend. You’re presuming that cold, objective reality is more important to us than subjective truth, and that’s obviously false, because none of us–absolutely none of us–can absorb objective reality without fitting it into some kind of story. We cannot observe anything objectively, for in the very act of observation, we attach meaning to what we see, just to make sense of it.
2nd: Yes, but–
1st: This is what it means to be human. We take pieces of the reality we observe and make up stories to explain it. We all tell ourselves thousands of stories every day, simply through the act of living. It comes so natural that most of the time, we barely notice it.
1st: The tragedy, my friend, is that most of us don’t realize that we choose the world we live in. We make critical choices every day and aren’t even aware of most of them. We each have the capability to change our world by changing the way we see it, yet most of us never realize it. We go on living in a world that makes us miserable, looking for some outside force to change it, when really, change is no further than our mind.
2nd: That makes no sense.
1st: Only because you refuse to open your eyes and see it.
2nd: Yeah–because what you’re saying is impossible.
1st: Exactly! That’s exactly what I’m talking about!
1st: I’m talking about the impossible–the things that, in your world, could never happen. But what if they’re only impossible because you refuse to believe in them? Because they have no place in the carefully ordered reality you’ve constructed for yourself?
1st: My friend, if only you can let go of the comfortable delusion of certainty and take one step into the darkness, you’ll soon find entire worlds of possibilities opening up to your view. All you need to do is open your mind and take that terrifying first step.
There you have it. A little rough, certainly, but that’s not important–what matters are the ideas behind it all. And to me at least, the ideas are quite fascinating.
I tried to use some of these ideas in Worlds Away from Home, but I don’t think any of them came across very clearly. I probably have to let the story stew a bit in my mind in order to figure out what it’s really about. Maybe I’ll insert a slightly edited version of this dialog in there somewhere, but I won’t force it.
In the meantime, what do you think? Did any of this resonate with you, or does it sound like so much philosophical hogwash? Tell me–I want to know!