Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Real Thing

What if there really is some alternate reality that's by definition not in the realm of perception. Freud’s unconscious, of course, is defined precisely by its inaccessibility and there’s something in the concept which suggests territorial integrity. A correlate in everyday existence would be a silent retreat, freed from the pressures of phones and internet, where artists and writers and those seeking a spiritual life would be able to work or meditate. Of course, the notion of a reality poised at the edge of perception goes back to Plato’s cave whose dwellers were only able to perceive the shadows of ideal forms. Kant prosecuted a similar notion later in the history of philosophy. His Ding  an sich, “thing in itself,” is defined by the fact that it eludes discovery. Even later Heidegger would talk about Dasein, or “being there,” another state which constituted a heightened state of awareness, it was virtually impossible to achieve or communicate. Jerzy Kosinski, appropriated Dasein in his novel of the same name which was eventually made into a movie starring Peter Sellers as the hapless yet imperturbable Chance, who became the subject of other people’s projections and desires. Tom Stoppard, a playwright who enjoys toying with philosophy, wrote a play called The Real Thing. The movie, The Matrix, plays on a similar idea by establishing an everyday world that’s really an illusion, underneath which lies a darker reality that runs by its own inscrutable and improbable laws and connections (that could be equated to the often oxymoronic primary process thinking usually associated with the Freudian unconscious). Parallel universes and string theory offer the possibility of regarding the world of visible reality as only part of a vast smorgasbord of experience that lies tantalizingly close yet impossibly far away from everyday happenstance. The question for those who subscribe to such theories is not whether these are right or wrong, but how to get there.

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