What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing. ―Philip K. Dick
If you believe that your thoughts originate inside your brain, do you also believe that television shows are made inside your television set? ―Warren Ellis
I’m watching a dark crime drama—sociopaths, evisceration, cannibalism—when my friend bursts out laughing at a video on his phone. I press pause and shift my attention.
The video is adorable. An enormous chocolate-colored dog is patiently enduring the feisty antics of a tiny black and white kitten, who clings to his broad face with sharp little claws and tumbles over his long legs like a pint-sized acrobat. I can’t help grinning.
But when it’s over, my guts are still churning. Two minutes of sweetness can’t erase 40 minutes of explicit, disturbing violence. In recent human history my twisting gut would have meant danger—run! Survival instincts don’t stop to coo over interspecies playfulness.
But now that we can fine-tune our stimuli to the point of confusion, we’re surrounded by mixed signals. This control disconnects cause and effect, altering our perceptions of reality and destroying meaning. When you can change your experience at will, what is reality?
You are what you consume, so choose your sensory snacks wisely. You can trick your body into believing almost anything, but all that easy consumption becomes real cumulative experience. Experience you might wish were different. Experience you control.
Special thanks to Andrew Van Wart for permission to use his work “Mixed Messages”, seen above.