The World Does Not Exist

“And why do we smell only stale incense and rarely have the odours of paradise about us? Because we have fallen into language. Words. What if words were not after all a great blessing but an obstacle? An interference with direct experience? If we had not developed language, would we have developed instead a finely tuned apprehension of each other’s moods and feelings, quite close to telepathy? Might we also see, hear, smell and feel everything around us more intently, more intensely? Could we have become closer to the immediate, the immanent world, ‘things as they are’? Instead of living in the moment, it’s as if we have to convert that moment into a scrambled code of itself, its signifier in words. Like looking at the shapes ‘s e a’ instead of at the sea itself.”1

As I was reading this it reminded me of all the lessons of Kant. The notion that we never truly see things as they are, that we are always already seeing the past even as we open our eyes seeing the smile of our lover. Everything we assume is right there in front of us, everything we assume is directly accessible to our senses is always already pre-processed by our brain and given back to us as if this is the real world. It’s not. We have never had direct access to the world. The world in fact does not truly exist except as a packaged filter handed to our consciousness by those deep processes of the brain that we are absolutely blind to. This is old hat to philosophers, but for us who suddenly become aware of the simplicity of this it’s both strange and eerie. That our whole conscious lives are lived in the past, even if only by milliseconds, is both astounding and frightening. Isn’t this the stage magician’s power over us, this ability to manipulate those filters of the brain, to trick us into believing we see what we do not see? Aren’t we always behind the eight ball, both victims and dupes of our brain’s evolutionary muck; all of us stuck in some niche of ancient survivalist praxis that our brain through millennia of habit like some old LP record has followed the grooves so many times that the moment the groove is cut, or a gap is formed it gets stuck in a loop unable to move forward or backwards. Maybe our lives are just broken vinyl records, repeating the time vectors of some ancient evolutionary song we’ve all forgotten…

  1. Justin Isis. Marked to Die: A Tribute to Mark Samuels Snuggly Books.