The Stage is set.

Do you ever feel like the center of the universe? As if everything revolved around you? When something goes right, does it feel scripted? When something goes wrong, does it feel like someone’s having a laugh? You’re not the only one. I feel the same, and so did Truman.

The 1998 Hollywood movie “The Truman Show[1]” by director Peter Weir tells us the story of Truman (the protagonist, played by the great Jim Carey) and his search for “reality.”

Allow me to tell you a little about the movie without spoiling the entire plot. Truman is the star of a reality TV show. He was born on screen and is expected to die on screen. Although everyone in his life is an actor with specific scripts to follow, Truman is genuine and has no clue about the TV show that is his life. However, he starts to examine every subtle detail of his life and doubts it’s authenticity.

The movie reminds me of Robert Nozick and his idea of “the experience machine.[2]” Nozick’s question goes something like this: There is a machine. You can program it to run YOUR perfect life, and step inside. While inside, as you live the perfect life, you will not be able to tell that it was all fabricated. For instance, for me, I’d program the machine to make me a millionaire, give me the ability to talk in every known language, and have more readers than I have hair. And as I sit in my mansion, writing for the millions, in the language they prefer, I would think that I am doing it out of my own ability-and it certainly would seem so-but in fact it would be because I predetermined it to be so. Would you enter a machine like that to live the perfect life, being certain that it would never feel unreal, knowing before you enter it, that it in fact was?

In all honesty, I don’t know what I would do in a situation like that. At this moment, reality does seem priceless. Then again, how real is the real world? We are constantly feed information that is not what we should know, but that which is what ‘they’ feel we ought to know. And in a world where the right to the freedom of thought is not claimed or contested for, what’s the point of being authentic? For this matter, there is no other reading I can recommend higher than The Allegory of the Cave by Plato.

Furthermore, what’s to say that we’re not already in such a machine? “All the misery” you say? What if they were programmed as well? The arcane nature of life is as insidious as it is magnificent.

What is the difference between being incrementally real and fake overall (as in the case of the experience machine), and incrementally being a sham and real overall (as in life)? Is there a difference? It may ultimately be indistinguishable.

When was the last time you wondered why and how something worked? When was the last time you cried reading a book? When was the last time you gazed up to the stars? Have you discovered yourself? Are you real? Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Well, Truman’s life was certainly worth living. He didn’t have to verify that what was above his head was the sun and the sky, but he did. He didn’t have to doubt the reification of his environment, but he did. He didn’t have to ask himself who he was, but he did. And what did he find? Well you’re going to have to watch the movie for that.

-Jigme Choerab

[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120382/

[2] http://www.uky.edu/~mwa229/RobertNozickTheExperienceMachine.pdf

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2 thoughts on “The Stage is set.

  1. I read this essay fully expecting to read a film review. But what I actually was a thought provoking examination of our reality. Mr. Choerab uses masterful language in the explanation of his thesis and has wowed me with his use of poetic language. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and I cannot wait to read more from him

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