Because that idea is starting to creep in. It started with The Matrix but only for the people who watched The Matrix. For philosophers, literary hipsters, and especially for people interested in simulacrum theory, it started with Jean Baudrillard’s seminal title, Simulacra vs Simulation and to be honest, shit hasn’t been right since reading it.
Because the idea that none of this is real is pretty fucking real
It’s not an if. It’s a when, as in when you get it, you suddenly realize just how much of your life, how much of your psyche is spent on shit that’s not real. Video games are part of it. But so is Billie Eilish. So are half the people on your Facebook feed. So is Coca-Cola and all the people in Only Murders in the Building. Our reality is enmeshed with a false reality which we make realer and realer by paying attention to it.
Not that you have a choice.
We’re doing it now. In this very sentence, I am a detached voice speaking in your head (I should sound like Jon Goodman imitating George Clooney imitating Shaggy from Scooby Doo) about detached voices speaking in your head, and here’s the thing: it’s about to get worse.
Science is fucking with us
The research into multiverse reality is getting more refined and some scientists are turning in papers and theories seriously indicating that the reality we’re in right now is either (a) one of many, (b) an illusion, (c) both, or (d) a more complicated version of (c) which makes me question everything. Let’s look at the prevailing theories as we slowly, timorously, draw a heft tumbler full of whiskey to our lips.
Theory 1—Your reality isn’t real
We’ve all had the middle school science epiphany after we discover that a red rose is not, in reality, red but it is just our brain reporting the light bouncing off that rose. Suddenly, we realize nothing we see is exactly as it seems. We are, by our perceptions, ever so slightly divorced from reality. Or that’s what we think. The truth is weirder. Reality is so utterly alien to us we can’t handle it, so evolution has been working on us for eons to build a sensory system that filters reality into a nice chill mix we can handle without stabbing ourselves in the eyes with a pencil. We don’t see the actual real because it’s a kind of data structure far too resolute, far too multifaceted, far too complex for us to deal with. So we’ve evolved to handle just the best parts. The perfume of a rose. The glint of sunlight off the pale face of a cliff.
Theory 2—Your reality is one of many
And they’re all weird.
- Infinite Reality Theory suggests there are infinite realities, and the science behind that comes from the finite nature of matter, the structure of which, the building blocks of which, can only be arranged so many ways before they repeat. So while there are an infinite number of universes stretched out to the not-end-of-it-all, at some point matter will have gone through all its finite permutations and will rearrange itself into a new reality indistinguishable (at first glance) from this one. In this theory, you not only exist elsewhere in the universe, there are infinite versions of you. It’s the Jenga theory of reality.
- Bubble Universe Theory suggests that within the context of infinite universes, each of them started from a big bang and has expanded continuously like a sphere, or bubble. Except some of them stopped expanding. So our reality is an ever-expanding bubble of real contained within a larger bubble of real and adjacent to and surrounded by an infinite foam of reality bubbles, each of which contains a version of you somewhere in it reading this article and wondering when I’m going to get to the whiskey because by now you need some.
- Parallel Universes Theory is not so much about adjoined simultaneous timelines as it is about brane space. Not brain, but brane as in three-dimensional reality wherein things do stuff. Which we’re all used to now because we understand the three domains of space and the single domain of time, which make up the Brane Space we’re working in right now. But there may be dimensions we’re not aware of, dimensions of existence beyond time, beyond the x/y axis world we’ve worn a groove in—and they would exist here with us, hovering just outside the perimeters of our perception and I don’t know about you, but I really need that drink right about now.
- Daughter Universes are my personal favorite in the sense that they are the ones I understand best and am, therefore, terrified by most. Simple explanation, you are in the finance department and Steve says you look different today and you said I got a haircut and Steve says not all of them? and you punch him in the teeth. There are two ways this could have gone and though you chose the correct path by teeth punching Steve, there is a version of you that did not punch Steve in his bicuspids and that you, that reality, continues. In fact, there are 50 bazillion ways that encounter could have gone and every one of those ways keeps on waying. You’re now sitting in H.R. waiting for Marsha to give you the violence resolution form but another you is chuckling at Steve’s joke and not getting fired and damn, a nice stiff drink would be great right about now.
Theory 3—It’s worse
That reality is as fragile as a soap bubble and anything can bump the you that is you from the reality you know into one you don’t recognize. Which is terrifying enough by itself, without the caveat that the you that is you, when popped over one reality like you’re just checking out Glenbrook Hills to see if their elementary schools are any better, that this you would not know the reality was a new one. All the houses look the same and the streets have the same name. But when you pull into your driveway and your wife waves her third hand at you and yells “Hey babe, dinner is flarg already” and you stand there on your wine-colored manicured lawn jingling your keys and thinking to yourself, something feels weird about all this — that is when you very briefly almost recognize your new reality.
Don’t think it’s real? Can’t really happen? Remember the Berenstein Bears books? No, you don’t.
And worse, that even all these realities can exist simultaneously
Yet also all be total and absolute illusions of realities. That this reality and all versions of it and all iterations of it and all adjacent and even distant versions are just your consciousness fucking around to amuse itself and even you, even the you thinking all this, the you reading these words, is merely an instance of cosmological reality farming and isn’t real at all.
So what whiskey should you drink when contemplating simulacra theory?
Who am I, Umberto Eco? Ferdinand de Saussure? The Merovingian? Figure it out yourself. It’s your reality anyway. I’m not real. This isn’t even happening.