Discovery of Solipsism

February 11, 1997

I think I'm putting together more of the puzzle of which parts of my reality-web are incomplete and blind to this fact. It's rather like the warship in Mostly Harmless that gets a chunk knocked out of it, along with the sensors that would indicate that it just got a chunk knocked out of it, so it couldn't tell what the problem was. My evidence that there is a significant gap has been very indirect.

But I realized on Thursday that there is a growing solipsism that has been warping my view for the past few years. Not that I hold the belief that I am the only real person in the universe; I speak, rather, of the color of the glasses with which I look out at the world.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig mentions that, when riding a motorcycle, you are interacting with your environment to a great degree, and are forced to acknowledge your surroundings. In a car, it is easy to not appreciate the scenery, to think of everything outside the car as paintings on the windows.

After decades of weaving my reality-web, I begin to feel that I've sucked all the conceptual information I can out of the everyday aspects of life. So, because there is no reward, I stop paying attention to them. Everything in the world that I do not expect to be interesting now becomes paintings on my windows, no longer real to me. I tried, from a car, regarding my surroundings as more real, and they were. But only while I paid attention. And while the normals and what they do fail to teach me anything, I find it difficult to maintain attention. Yet there is more to be learned. There are many things that I am not looking at in the right way, because I seek all answers within myself, and thus have no practice in looking to the outside world for them. I even needed someone else to clue me in to this fact, because it is such a basic aspect of my existence.

Regarding most data as not being worth processing is not always a good thing. I need it, even if indirectly, so that I am able to predict the futures. (Rather like extrapolating the whole of creation from a piece of fairy cake, but the more I know, the easier it is.) In fact, it was the slippage of this ability that was my first indication that the web might be incomplete in a significant way.

The questions then are: Is this incompleteness the result of my solipsism, or am I on the wrong track? If it is, how do I motivate myself to pay attention to what I regard as low-quality data? That's something we are specifically built to not do, and it's a good thing, too. Otherwise we would never be able to focus on what is necessary. So it seems that some re-sorting of priorities with regard to the perception of data is necessary, to bring to light that which is really worth regarding. But I don't know what, among the things I disregard, that might be. And I cannot watch everything to try to accomplish this; that destroys the whole purpose of the sorting.

So let me compare reality-webs with others who lack this problem, and find out what they find worth their attention that I would not. But does anyone lack holes in their understanding? Shall I create a God, and ask her? Is my own quest a desire for godhood? Of course.

So close, and so far...

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