Living Comfortably in a Fake Reality

Our perception of reality does not always coincide with the objective reality of the universe.

Our perception of reality does not always coincide with the objective reality of the universe.

I was once told that each semester of college goes by quicker than the last. I found this hard to believe at first, but as my third semester here at Trinity comes to a close, I have come to the realization that this statement is all too true. Although it may sound cliché, I can remember with clarity my first day back in San Antonio before the semester officially began and, yes, it feels just like yesterday.

The end of this semester also marks the end of the road for my common curriculum requirements, and the rest of my semesters will be dedicated to completing a double-major in Economics and Political Science. As of right now, I intend on graduating early so next semester will consist of 18 hours’ worth of economics and political science classes. I don’t intend on studying abroad during my time at Trinity for a few reasons. I want to take as many classes as I can here to fulfill my double major and graduate early, and because of my plans to graduate early, I want to spend as much time as I can here with my friends and enjoying everything that Trinity has to offer. Although studying abroad may not fit into my plans while in college, I would love to travel and experience the world sometime in my post-graduate life. In regard to the more distant future, my career aspirations are not yet fully recognized but I am thinking of either going to graduate school for economics or law school.

I took this class for common curriculum credit, however I can say with complete confidence that this was my favorite class this semester. While I expected this class to only focus on movies, television, and advertisements, I was surprised and gratified by the various connections made to events in history, politics, economics, and even science.

At first, I was skeptical about reading comic books and readings about film and video games for class because they are all topics that I know little about. However, I absorbed a lot of unexpected information from these readings. For example, the idea of the “gutter” as discussed in chapter three of McCloud’s Understanding Comics, taught me to look at the images of comics in a new way. My previous experience with comics was not very extensive. In fact, my only experience with comics was in my elementary school days, reading the comics in the newspapers. After reading McCloud, I now know that a comic strip or book is just a series of unrelated illustrations and that it is our own imaginations that connect these images and construct them into a single idea, and even then comics do not offer just one reality. While people may believe that their interpretation of a comic is universal, people take away different ideas from the same set of images in a comic. The greatest example of this was the illustration of the man raising an axe behind another man paired next to another illustration of the outline of a city with text showing that a man was screaming. Although these pictures were side-by-side and hinted that the man was hit with the axe, the pictures in actuality are unrelated and open to the readers’ interpretations. As discussed in class, some people pictured the axe hitting the man’s head, while others imagined it landing into his back, etc.

The visual aesthetics of video games and their effects on military recruitment is another reading that I found interesting during this course. Growing up with a brother and in a neighborhood of mostly boys, I have spent my fair share of time around video games and I thought that the four I’s (immersion, identification, interactivity, and intense engagement) eloquently summed up the effect of video games on its players. Video games dominate one’s senses, one feels a close connection with the character they are playing as, and can be engaged on a game for hours. I hadn’t before realized that there existed video games, such as America’s Army, whose main purpose was to entice the younger generation to enlist, or at least consider, enlisting in the army. I always assumed that video games were created and sold by private companies and had no interference by the government. Upon further research of this topic, I learned that these war games not only attempt to persuade young people to join the military, but also to prepare potential recruits for the brutality of war. According to researchers, the blood, violence, and other brutal images prepare potential recruits cope with the stress of war before entering into a war-like situation; a method researchers call “stress resilience.”

Klosterman and Morrison were my favorite authors of the theoretical readings. I loved the wittiness of Klosterman’s readings such as This is Emo and The Awe-Inspiring Beauty of Tom Cruise’s Shattered, Troll-Like Face. Behind Klosterman’s blunt and comical diction, lie some profound ideas about the nature of reality. In the latter article, Klosterman makes a bold statement that he would rather live comfortably in a fake world than live in a world of truth that feels like torture (157). At first this idea shocked me. Philosophers, religious figures, and scientists throughout time have quested to find the truths that will explain the world and its existence and the purpose of life. We are taught from a young age that the truth is moral and provides justice, that truth provides knowledge, and that the truth can set us free. By the end of this class, however, I have realized that there is no outwardly single truth, at least not one that humans can attain. Our personal perceptions of reality hinder our ability to attain the “truth.” As Klosterman explains, “objective reality is not situational; it doesn’t evolve along with you” (158). The world seems like a very different place now than it did even five years ago. The objective world itself hasn’t changed, just our perceptions of it. We do not and, probably cannot, learn the truth of the objective world because the human experience completely subjective. Whether or not we are living in a real or fake reality is unknown to us, but the best we can do is achieve success, pleasure, love, and happiness in the reality in which we are presented. Choosing to live in a happy unreality is the same as living as a fully aware human being.

Morrison’s writings about reality were a bit more scientific in nature, but explained reality in relation to comic books. Just like the comic book DC world, our universe is thought to be connected to various other worlds and the comic book universe is a representation of our own reality. This article reminded me of episodes of NOVA that I used to watch on the Science Channel that discussed parallel universes and string theory; all of which claimed that multiple the multiple worlds (as discussed in Morrsion’s articles) could actually exist. There are many theories such as M-theory, black-hole theory, and chaotic inflation theory that support the idea that we live in a multiverse and our perceived reality is not the only reality out there.

Upon receiving the package from Johnny B., I would first look up the return address. When entering this address into Google Maps, I discovered that it is located near the Disneyland theme park. Disneyland, according to Baudrillard, is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that “real life” outside of the theme park is actually real, when in fact, we live in a world of simulation. Johnny B. has taken pictures of us in different realities: our “real life” during reading days at Trinity, as Jim Carey in The Truman Show,etc. The purpose of these photos is to show that our lives and everything that we believe is simply fiction within fiction. As I stated before, human consciousness is entirely subjective; we perceive the world based on our experiences and beliefs. We have no way of distinguishing between the real and the unreal. Everything that we believe is possible to be a fiction that was passed down to us and it is possible that there is another world, or another dimension out there, that holds the truth.

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