How Can People Not Exist?
For quite a while now, I have been obsessed with an idea that made no sense. I have put it a number of ways, but they all boil down to the fact, as I see it, that people have ceased to exist. How can any idea be any crazier than that – since I am a person, more or less, myself?
Nevertheless, the idea persists – and for me it explains a lot. It explains why Americans are acting so crazy, for example – something that has caused me no end of thought. If I simply notice they aren’t really there, the mystery goes away. But my mind objects and says my analysis is not logical. Which makes me want to trash my mind, and simply trust my instincts – which I am convinced are sound.
I am not the first to grapple with this problem, far from it. Nietzsche, for example, tore into it with a fury – and with the result that it seemed to get the better of him. In all due respect for him, I hope I can make the problem easier.
I want to tackle this problem from two directions. This first is to take the artistic approach, and trust our emotions to guide us in the production of art – for example, poetry. This is what the Romantics did, in their reaction to excessive intellectualization. Poetry – however, I hardly need tell you – is no longer important, because people no longer want to know, or to feel.
Most people in the world are going with whatever appeals to them at the moment, without thinking about it at all. Completely by-passing the problem of being, by not being at all. An elegant solution, to be sure, but a destructive one.
Man is the only animal capable of doing this. Before now, any living being was busy doing just that – being, and being active. Human beings also. Now, as artists have been telling us for over a century, people no longer are. Humans are no longer beings, but something else we have no language yet to express.
I am not saying anything new here – this is probably the most trite observation in circulation (McLuhan, for example, made a living doing this). And yet no one takes it seriously – because, I believe, mankind has deteriorated too much. This also applies to our intellectuals, who seem to be as helpless as anyone else. Once the basic of life are gone, there isn’t much left to work with.
This bring up the question – what are the basics? Which brings up my next approach to the problem – which I am getting lock, stock, and barrel from Iain McGilchrist – who provides a neurological explanation for the problem in his book The Master and his Emmissary. He explains, very neatly, how people can not be – by abandoning their right hemispheres.
His explanation, however, is not being taken very seriously. Evidently people want a more dramatic explanation, something that will hit them over the head and make believers of them. Unfortunately, ideas do not act this way – they only act through people, by influencing them. If there are no people to influence, they have no force at all.
I haven’t finished reading McGilchrist yet, but I don’t think he realizes this double-bind problem – probably because we are not exactly encouraged to see it. If you tell someone they do not really exist, you are not exactly loved for doing that.
As a queer old duck living in isolation in rural Costa Rica, I can more-or-less see it, and write about it – and imagine myself to be a voice crying in the wilderness – but in reality I am only impressing myself – and I am not even doing a very good job of that.