We all agree that we exist, right? I think it’s important to occasionally touch upon this subject, because our perception of reality is obviously very crucial to our well-being. My aim here is not to make you paranoid, or fill you with anxiety. My aim is to make you think about who and what you are.
What do we truly know about ourselves and the world around us? How many things can we say that we are absolutely 100% certain of? Sure, we like to think that we have a lot of concepts figured out, but really we don’t know much at all. Before you thumb your nose at this article, please take a minute to read it entirely.
There is only one thing that we truly know for certain, and that is, “I think, therefore I am.” This is not a new concept, by any means. Descartes pondered this notion long before I was around to write novels. However, 350 years later, it still inspires just as much thought. So what does it mean, and why is it important?
The concept is not a simple one, no matter how uncomplicated it sounds. Let’s see it in Descartes’ on words:
“But I have convinced myself that there is absolutely nothing in the world, no sky, no earth, no minds, no bodies. Does it now follow that I, too, do not exist? No. If I convinced myself of something [or thought anything at all], then I certainly existed. But there is a deceiver of supreme power and cunning who deliberately and constantly deceives me. In that case, I, too, undoubtedly exist, if he deceives me; and let him deceive me as much as he can, he will never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I think that I am something. So, after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that the proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind.”
Descartes points out that we can never be sure of anything around us, other than the fact of our own existence in some fashion. Sure, we could be floating in a tank somewhere, having all of our “experiences” simulated for us (see Brain in a vat), but then we would still exist in some way. For the purpose of this article, however, we’re going to remain on the surface of philosophy. Keeping Descartes’ thoughts in mind, take a moment to think about the things you experience in life. Would another person perceive them the same way? Are your opinions about them the “correct” ones? I think we could all benefit from practicing a little humility, and that’s really what this article is about. Instead of immediately defaulting to a preconceived notion, take at least a brief moment to consider the contrary. After all, doing so is what makes a progressive society.
Remember, all we really know is that we exist. Everything else is open to interpretation. For the purposes of psychological growth, try to keep this in mind. Perception is everything. Time and size are relative. The way my mind processes a certain experience is not necessarily going to be the same way that yours does. In the end, we are all lost together.