The Unmitigated Loneliness of Existence Is Its Own Kind of Delicious
I've been thinking about how all experience is mediated experience lately.
I read that there is a fraction of a second delay between the moment your eyes take in information and the time your brain takes to process that information, so everything you witness is already in the past once you experience it. Filtered and narrated by your brain's machinery, the world we apprehend becomes one of our mind’s construction. Our bodies are literally storytelling machines, every single one, absorbing the world and stitching it and ourselves together so we can mark our movements sensibly through it in time.
I wonder what the world looks like with the filters off and if it would be a dangerously wild madness to even touch its true edges. I wonder if these bodies are akin to training wheels. I wonder if these bodies are what give us the gift of being able to touch it at all. I wonder if the pain and defeat that comes with these bodies are the necessary measures of the joy and brilliance they allow us to access. We look and we touch and we make our marks, mediating the mediated — my body tells the story of its experience, and I relay that narrative within the context of my relationship to you within our particular environment, for example — we retell the stories of our bodies in the world, layering story upon story, riding our layers of narrative until the wheels come off.
I used to worry what this meant about reality, if it threatened the very idea of truth. I’ve settled on the idea of the Platonic ideal of truth, that our idea of truth is only a crude approximation of the ideal, that we’ll never be in possession of the absolute Yes, the Correct Way, the perfect Knowing. It’s partly why we’re all such absolutely internally conflicted messes. It’s why we have to accept our being such absolutely internally conflicted messes. We can’t know all, we can only know some, and the some that we do know is an indirect translation of what our brains decide we need to know so we can keep putting food in our mouths and making babies.
When I was about nine years old, maybe even younger, my mother told me when the sun was dipping below the horizon on the far side of the lake that I wasn’t seeing the actual sunset but the reflection of it after the sun was already gone. The idea gave me this terrible feeling that I could never touch anything, not really, that nothing was as it seemed. Everything is already in the past. I am already in the past. That sun, these words, our stories, you, and me: all experienced things are already gone and since changed, forever and mysteriously removed from us and already moving on. Each apparently present moment is a tiny sliver of history in translation.
I’ve so badly wanted direct contact with the world my whole life, but I’ve always walked through as if it were a dream, remembering and remembering and forgetting and forgetting. When my mother explained the sunset to me and I saw the water swallow its yellow orb like an egg, I knew, even without the words to say so, that truth would outrun all of us, that we would all remain lost as a matter of our condition.
She left me there, and I sat on that beach weeping alone while the sky grew dark. I could feel that this was our condition. The stars began to pop out along the trees, and I knew this was their condition, too. We and they and all things were finite, myriad, infinitesimal, and destined to dip below our respective horizons. The unmitigated loneliness of existence felt deliciously acute, obscene, grotesque, magnificent. It was a cold stone in my mouth I rolled from side to side.