Watching the 2006 World Series of Poker re-runs on ESPN is a solipsistic venture: one minute, Allen Cunningham exists, his inscrutable, narrow mien ripe with confidence and seven-card-stud savvy; the next, there is a commercial hawking deoderant, and Cunningham—poker face and all—is gone. True to the philosophy, one can only be sure of one's self, and anything or anyone beyond that, no matter how entertaining or adept at card games, is several levels removed from real. Then, just as quickly as they are delegitamated, Cunningham and his opponents are back, shunting their cards into the muck as if they have no idea that they were not extant a minute ago.
It would unfair to limit this all-or-nothing sociological experience to no-limit. Looking through a yearbook, old pictures, or even emails from a previous year could trigger the same phenomenon described above, a brand of universal Q-and-A that leaves one groping to enforce someone else’s life. And the questions go something like this—“If Allen Cunningham isn’t real right now, am I?” Or—“If Allen Cunningham ceased to be, then couldn’t I just as easily cease to be?” Suddenly, people with whom you’ve lost touch become vital indicators of whether or not you’re really there, for the simple fact that if you could look through a yearbook and swear—SWEAR—that someone “dropped off the face of the earth,” then what’s stopping that person from looking through their yearbook and assuming the same of you?
If we’re all human beings sharing in the same being-ness, then what’s to make you any less susceptible to sudden non-being than anyone else? What was once a solipsistic conviction (I know I exist, but I’m not sure about them) graduates to include you, as well—are any of us really here?
Well…yeah, dumbass. Of course you’re here. So am I. So are all of us. Just take a look around. Philosophizing your bleak aloneness might work in a diary or at a poetry club, but every last one of us is absolutely alive. We’re merely too feeble to grasp this constant reality, so we occasionally question it. That’s fine—it’s no worse than questioning global warming or objective morality or cigarette toxicity or—on the flip side—“that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We might “hold these truths to be self-evident,” but they’re not for us to hold or to let go. They simply are, whether we will them to be or not.
Stay Substantive, Allen Cunningham