Monday, January 09, 2006

Disorientation & Flashbacks

I've been thinking a lot recently about perception, reality, also that dreaded philosophical word & discipline, existentialism. Reading a Granta special on psychology, psychiatry & other related subjects, I was struck by the meaningless of words such as "reality", "fact" & "commonsense". Whose reality? How do you establish & recognise a fact?
For someone who has spent the first two decades of his adult life basing his beliefs, principles & actions on "uncontested" & "clear" facts, it's a step into unchartered territory.
This preoccupation with such phenomena was intensified this evening while watching two widely different T.V programmes.
"The Root Of All Evil?", presented by Richard Dawkins, presented a characteristically cogent & direct critique of religious belief systems which deny the ability of science to help provide us with answers & solutions to age-old questions. I've been an atheist since my teenage years, so it continues to astonish me that ostensibly reasonable & sensible individuals should lurch into sudden sectarian tirades almost as some sort of default mode.
The second programme was very much fiction. "Life On Mars" is a drama about a police detective who regresses in time from the present time to 1973 when he is struck by a car. What's happened to him? Is he in a coma? Is it a vivid dream induced by the coma? Is it reality, a clear fact that, somehow, he really has gone back in time?
It gives a novel twist to the enlightened, secular view of history, which holds that it's something to learn lessons from, yet accepting that it has only partial relevance to the modern age.

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