Monday 16 March 2015

Guest Post - John Forelli

John Forelli is 24 years old and lives in Philadelphia. He worked a stuffy corporate job out of college before quitting to write this novel. He enjoys drinking with friends at Fado and Tavern on Broad in Philly and boring them with existential ramblings. John's ideal day would be spent eating pizza and watching Game of Thrones down the Jersey Shore. Find out more at his website and find him on Twitter @JOHNFORELLI

John has dropped in to talk about simulations

We've all asked ourselves the question before: “is this really happening?” We ask it after something bad happens—a death in the family, a car accident, a 'D' on the midterm you studied super hard for. We ask it after something good happens too—graduating high school, your favorite team winning the championship, running into an old friend you haven't seen in years. “Is this really happening?”

It's a common question—THE question—running through the history of human thought. Plato asked it with his allegory of The Cave. Descartes asked it when he wrote “cogito ergo sum.” Neo asked it in The Matrix when he chose the red pill. Leo DiCaprio asked it in Inception each time he spun that top. I'm asking it right now as I type this sentence. “Is this really happening?” I ask it in my novel, The Simulations where a shy man uses computer simulations to figure out how to win over the cute receptionist he likes.

The answer is that there is no answer.

We humans are blessed with the five senses of touch, taste, smell, hearing, and seeing. They are the conduits to everything around us. They are the building blocks with which we construct reality.

We're also blessed with the miracle of consciousness—the ability to form memories and conceive of ourselves as abstract beings within that reality.

All of this—all taste, touch, smell, hearing, seeing, and thinking happens inside our minds. We are imprisoned by this, because “reality” is constructed inside our minds, and those same minds are what we use question it. We can never be certain that reality is what it seems because the same tool that constructs reality for us is the one that asks THE question. We can't ask or answer a question we can't be sure exists in the first place.

Our perception of reality is like watching a live film of the projector that's projecting the film. It's a tautology we can't escape because we're trapped in the movie theater of our own minds.

Descartes thought that by questioning his own existence, he proved his own existence. I think that he was questioning the existence of his own question.

Did Descartes really exist? Did his question? Does mine?

Is this really happening? Did I really publish this novel?

There's no way to know for certain. But if you're going to be caught in an endless loop of questioning your own existence, might as well read a book about it. 

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