Joe was the king of his world. He knew that the universe was just a figment of his imagination. He’d read a Wikipedia article on solipsism. He’d seen the Matrix. He was woke.
Because the universe was just a figment of Joe’s imagination, anything that could be imagined, could become a reality. If Joe wanted a milkshake, he just had to imagine a milkshake and it would appear. If he wanted a new car he just followed the same process. Much more sinister though, was the realisation that Joe could will people into and out of existence. He hadn’t tested it yet, but if anyone ever crossed him, he would just think them into oblivion.
Joe had got into the habit of patronising people. He was upsetting everyone around him with his growing arrogance, and his wealth was blossoming. One day, his arrogance got the better of him.
Joe and his posse of brown-nosing suck-ups were wandering through town when they came by a middle-aged homeless man. This homeless guy was a regular in town, always playing the guitar, feeding the pigeons and talking to other homeless folk. Joe decided to impress his friends by playing a trick on the homeless guy.
Joe willed a wad of cash into existence and offered it to the homeless man. The homeless man suspiciously accepted the gift, putting it into his guitar bag. Before anyone had even looked in another direction, the cash was gone. Joe had willed it back out of existence. The homeless man seemed unconcerned. “Easy come, easy go” he said to Joe.
The troublemakers weren’t amused by the man’s nonchalance. Joe had to up his game. “You like cupcakes, bum?” inquired Joe. The poor victim could do nothing but respond respectfully and hope that there were no consequences. “Yes, I like cupcakes.” Suddenly cupcakes began spewing from the homeless man’s mouth. They were cascading to the ground. The man was in distress. The cupcakes kept coming. Joe showed no mercy. There were three hundred or more cupcakes on the ground. It defied the laws of physics. Joe was the king!
The cupcakes stopped flowing and the homeless man composed himself. “Joe,” he said “you’ve crossed the line.” Joe was taken aback. How does he know my name? “Joe, you’ve been messing with my universe for too long now.” “What? This is MY universe” Joe rebuked in shock. “You are just a figment of my imagination,” said the homeless man, “and you’ve been running amok.”
Suddenly, Joe ceased to exist. In fact, Joe never existed. In the homeless man’s universe, Joe was erased from the present, the future and the past. Downtown continued to be a lively place, with well-fed pigeons and guitar music provided by a happy homeless man. But this universe is only a figment of my imagination. Whose imagination are you a figment of?
Solipsism is a school of thought where the individual self is all that can be known to exist. How do you know for sure that the water you’re drinking, or the person you’re talking to actually exists? All you can be sure of is the fact that your consciousness is experiencing something. Whether it’s because it’s really there, or because you’re plugged into a simulation, is debatable.
The name comes from the Latin ‘solus’, meaning alone, and ‘ipse’, meaning self. For all you know – like the happy homeless man – you could be the only living inhabitant in the universe. Pretty lonely huh?