There was an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in which the main characters had to prove that the android character Data was indeed alive and as such had rights as a living individual. If they failed he would be sent off to be studied somewhere, which would include dismantling him. The episode included with the woman presiding over the hearing (I think she was a Starfleet admiral, but I’m not going to bother checking) ruling in Data’s favor. She reasoned that she couldn’t prove that she herself had a soul, in fact she didn’t even know herself if she did or not. Therefore from everybody’s perspective in the room, everyone else was as suspect of being alive.
Putting the concept of “soul” aside, this does bring up an interesting concept. It’s something I’ve thought about off and on for years. How do I know that people around me perceive me the same way that I see them? How do I know that they are really alive or just animated bodies responding automatically? Judging by a lot of people around me the latter option makes sense, but let’s be fair. This can’t all be commentary about how people are all becoming zombies. When I’m talking to somebody, I can’t tell if they’re really thinking, let alone what.
For that matter, how do I know that anything I perceive is real? It could all be an illusion. Anybody I interact with could be a product of my imagination, or something more sinister like scenarios in the Matrix movies. For all you know, I could be an illusion of yours. We could all be an illusion of each other, which would be really weird and hard to explain.
Riding on my way over to the park where I’m writing this, I started thinking about this topic. Oddly enough, it fed into another thought process that I’m not sure I shared on this blog before or not. It’s not exactly related, but I feel it’s worth mentioning for a reason. Once I started thinking about the second topic, and the possibility that it’s related to the first, I got this weird feeling all over. The closest example I can think of is that it felt like I was in love, but not with anybody in particular. It was that weird sort of almost-choked-up feeling.
The second topic goes like this: for years I have had the feeling that I have some sort of repressed memory. It feels like something happened in the past that I had to forget, or maybe something important that I want to remember but something happened that caused me to forget. Over time I’ve had little hints of things that might allude to what it was. Once I had a dream that I went away, underwent a physical transformation (a cyborg, I think) and came back to high school. My friends (fictitious, nobody from real life) were glad to see me, and said they were sorry to hear about some girl they named–although I can’t remember what that name was as I write this. I had no memory of this girl, and it turns out that she had died while I was away. When I woke up that morning I found myself crying.
There have been smaller instances over the years that haven’t been quite so dramatic, but significant nonetheless. Running into a specific person on a specific night, seeing a building at a new angle, all these things can trigger a connection to this feeling. Now I have the feeling that my perception of others and whether they are real or not may tie into this feeling as well. It may not lead to a realization about the truth of the matter, but it has in some way a connection.
Lest you think I’m crazy, I understand that the feeling of a repressed memory may be just that: a feeling. I may not have such an incident in my past. But the feeling is there, and I keep getting bits and pieces throughout my life of the answer behind that feeling. I could use the corny cliche of this being some sort of journey. The only problem is that while I only have the vague idea of the destination, I have no idea at all of what the path is.