To understand the Simulation (and our existence as a part of it), one must first learn to understand reality as a text.
One will find that doing so immediately puts one in a better position to endure one’s life quietly.
I conceived of my theory when I once overheard, perhaps on the radio or in the ambient conversations of strangers, the surname of someone I knew, yet used not to refer to someone I knew personally (nor to a relative of theirs, of whom I always know several). And, once I had understood the impossibility of the name overheard having any relation to another person existing within the specific circumstances of my life (which some might say suffers from having too many relationships), I became certain that it was no coincidence but rather the consequence of the circumstances around which my existence, alone amongst the simulacra, was playing out, for what is inevitable can be no coincidence (and one should always endeavor to avoid conflating the two). I then understood that it was not by chance but by natural law that the code executed first to retrieve and second to inject a surname into a moment I was presently “getting through” had sought and brought a surname that had already been used elsewhere. The list it retrieved it from was in fact finite (a constraint imposed upon lists as we presently understand them, which is to say, “such as they are”), so were it not for the fact of my “impeccable memory” (a quality of mine which has been remarked upon)—that is, were I a lesser man—I might not have experienced the sequence of events hitherto explained, let alone concluded after having them, as I have, that much of what exists exists not because it was created but because it was retrieved. One might call such a thing a “glitch,” but that is only if one were inclined to recognize the state of affairs as such. Such situations are numerous and never clever, and yet despite their frequency and un-cleverness they seem effective in executing their function of generating opportunities to dismiss the ordinary as such. It seems that I, alone, acknowledge the glitches for what they are: artefacts of the Simulation which my life and the lives of those around me are “going through.” One might find this fact—that is, the fact of existing within a Simulation—upsetting, and, indeed, some have been upset by it when I have endeavored to explain it to them. I have, of course, learned to restrain myself from explaining it as often, as I quickly found that my explanations more often inspired questions not about the Simulation but rather those about my understanding of it as such, such as when I attempted to explain it to Mother. She, who has long resisted my thoughts on this and many other matters, insisted that I (of all people) explain it (of all things) to her (of all people), especially insofar as it (or, more specifically, my understanding of it as such) may have produced certain financial consequences that she (in her blissful ignorance) considers “unreasonable.” Mother was predictably unreceptive (and unpleasant), and I had to produce quite a scene for her to leave me to my work, which consists of the documentation and explication of such extraordinary phenomena that one might (and she does) otherwise dismiss as being “unremarkable,” such as they appear to be but in fact are not. I had, of course, properly understood everything for some time, but had not had the time to thoroughly articulate my understanding of it as such, as only then could I commit it to writing. Once I became sufficiently pleased that I was ready to articulate my prophetic comprehension of the absurdity of the world, the Simulation foiled my first attempt by scheduling my revelation at precisely twelve minutes past two in the afternoon, which, one must understand, is a very inappropriate time of day to embark upon the thankless task of explaining the world to other people. It is no less burdensome to do so in the form to which people are invariably the least receptive: that is, the written form, which imposes upon the masses the nasty task of reading. I toyed with the idea of writing in the mornings, before the Simulation could reveal the more irritating qualities of the world it had created for me to live in, but the sanctity of my mornings was of such unparalleled significance that any potential intrusion upon any morning’s unique and inalienable apartness from the world and its people (and from Mother in particular) was so demoralizing that I could not take the risk of even so much as conceiving of the task of writing. The very idea of so sacred a process interrupted at so sacred a time was sufficiently terrifying that my own imagination depressed me to the point of abandoning all work for the rest of the day. So instead of writing, I spent these precious yet idle hours conceiving of alternative activities that would not only occupy my mind but be somehow in service of the “greater aim” of reconciling my displeasure with the current Simulation, such as it is. After auditioning several candidates, I settled on a period of concentrated reading, allowing me to experience not the task of writing but rather the representation of the task as it manifested in its culminating objects, those being, namely, the books of other people. The natural risk of reading, of course, is the chance of poisoning one’s own thoughts with the thoughts of other people (and especially the thoughts of lesser men), a danger most pronounced while reading the works of authors with whom one is not already familiar. What I did not anticipate, however, is that the Simulation (which is of course the most adept agent of protecting its nondisclosure) would season the papers with glowing reviews of books of such revolting quality that I was nearly rendered senile. (It is the same fate that befell Mother, whose reading habits are laudable, but whose reading choices are catastrophic.) I, having already begun benefitting from a clearer frame of mind, believed I had outwitted the Simulation’s sly maneuvering by recognizing most modern literature for what it actually was. What I had failed to understand, however, is that the Simulation’s true motivation was not to poison my mind with inferior writing, but rather to expose me to inferior writing that was exhaustively praised. Realizing this, the mental clarity I achieved was immediate and remarkable, and I took it as additional confirmation of my theory. Yet my soul, newly energized, was immediately paralyzed by a crippling anxiety that threatened to undermine my project. I have heard that the challenge for most is the decision to commit to a singular task; however, for me, my conception of the Simulation was sufficiently motivating in and of itself. After all, what greater catalyst is there for one’s productivity than the clarification of one’s frame of mind? The motivation for the task of describing it was included already in the realization of it as such; however, the magnitude of it such as it is it was such that it was too psychically overwhelming to begin explaining it to the so-called “public.” The matters concerned were cyclical and self-referential, making the organization of one’s thoughts on such matters an exceedingly difficult task. Once I understood the sheer consequence of it as such and set about the task of describing it as it is as such, I faced the impediment familiar to those who are not in the habit of creating for themselves a metric by which to measure their own progress. It so happened that I, having never been one to give much thought to planning, had finally understood the immense need for doing so, for I had realized the impossibility of realizing my theory without having first produced an outline sufficiently structured, inflexibly rigorous, and exhaustively detailed as the one I had not yet created but now knew that I required, I thought. I set about a months-long process of preparation that reduced me to a state of what my psychiatrist later called “nervous exhaustion” and agreed to treat, at my own directive, with copious amounts of stimulant pharmaceutical drugs. My frame of mind having been much clarified, these months of planning laid the crucial groundwork for what was to come between December and July, during which period I wrote in longhand several hundreds of pages of memoranda specifying my phenomenological apparatus, which I planned to publish as my first volume of a work titled Digressions; however, in the weeks that followed my completion of the Digressions, the same zealous state of pharmaceutical stimulation that manifested them through me (I being but vehicle for them) caused no small level of concern for Mother, who worries so. Upon her unannounced arrival at my flat in Vienna and her observation of it and its state such as they were, she insisted in no uncertain terms that the monthly stipend I had arranged between her and me on behalf of her to supplement my intellectual awakening (which she calls a “bohemian lifestyle”) was in jeopardy on account of the physical evidence related to my life and its activities. Faced with the decision to either leave Vienna and maintain my stipend under her watchful eye at the family estate in Connecticut or allow her the spare bedroom in my flat and endure her cooking, I chose, regrettably, the latter. Since then, I have had to “get through” moments like these of her interrogating me, the Simulation, and my thoughts relating to it as such, such as she was. And yet, it was upon the moment of her departure from my room, the very moment (no less) that she acted upon her stated intention to leave, that I overheard, as I often do (though not as often on the television, whereupon I heard it now), the last name of someone I know, “Fluoresconi,” though not used to refer to someone I know personally (or the relatives relating to said person), and immediately I regretted my insisting upon her leaving quite so immediately, for certainly she would have been convinced by so clear an indictment as this of the Simulation against itself. Yet Mother, hapless as ever, had herself just now haplessly submitted yet further evidence of my theory (which is not to say a “hypothesis” but rather “a cohesive framework for relating the empirical enterprise of reality”). Alas, despite it being so (and also it having been articulated to her as such), one cannot begrudge one’s Mother her skepticism concerning the simulated nature of existence, and one must be content to have asked one’s Mother to leave oneself be to ponder the consequences of the present circumstances being such as they are. As such, I do not let moments like these frustrate me, that is, I have chosen not to let them, for when one lives in the Simulation, one is reminded that much of what one experiences is out of one’s control, and, lacking a reliable method of discriminating between the holographic and physical qualities of one’s surroundings, one can never be sure of who or what is malleable to arguments that will invariably improve one’s thinking, I think. It is not a tragedy, I can now tell myself, it is only another day in the Simulation. This, I think, is a kind of “coping mechanism” (of sorts), such as might be useful to one who would welcome better methods of approaching the world than those being used by most of the people one encounters while going about one’s day. For what is one to make of the world and its future when one sees the quality of the people entrusted with its care? It was this very question, I heard, that Hank Fluoresconi, they said, had been asking himself, or so I was told (by his sister), in the days leading up to his “undoing.” Unfortunately, I did not learn of this until after the fact of his undoing, rendering my advice on such matters irrelevant (as far as Hank and his undoing were concerned), his sister said. Hank would have benefited greatly before becoming undone, I think, had he encountered my own thinking about all rhetorical questions he himself had been asking his sister (his sister said), specifically those relating to the hope one might reasonably expect to have of one’s life working out when one accounts for the average quality of thinking among members of the so-called “public”—whose opinions on thinking, I think, he put too great a focus of his own thinking upon. Thinking about unthinking people’s thoughts, Hank could never have been anything other than undone, I think, for he had the habit of calling the lazily-conceived thoughts of others (the so-called “public”) into perpetual questioning—which, though I believe he believed it would benefit their thinking, he thought, and provide them a “clearer frame of mind,” I think, it was this habit, in fact, that led to his own undoing, for it took more out of him than it did other people. Hank was, in fact, used up in this reaction of his own making, I think, which he began, he thought, to improve the thinking of others, I think, which is all the more ironic, of course, because Hank was a talented chemist! It’s quite funny, I think, that Hank was always too happy to explain to you the essential difference between stoichiometric and catalytic reactions, and yet he ultimately mistook his own for the latter. He, believing himself to be a catalyst in his own reactions, did not believe that he would diminish through his participation in the world. Of course, Hank the reactant was not catalytic but in fact stoichiometric, unwittingly using himself up, leaving him undone. “Here Lies Professor Hank Fluoresconi, Chemist, Used-Up & Undone in Known Proportions,” his epitaph could read. “He was a great man reduced to a parable only he had the technical knowledge to appreciate!” This concatenation of minor ironies is in fact a manifestation of what in my recent work I have termed “the ironic cascade,” a phenomenon of the Simulation that is as sublime as it is fitting. It occurs when the “ordinary” reaches a state of ironic criticality such that it is, at last, “fundamentally appropriate.” People like Hank cannot survive their brush with the ironic cascade, which they experience as the chain of misfortunes surrounding the unacknowledged stupidity of everyday people, whose opinions we have agreed to endure, the implications of which we have decided to allow—with mixed results, I might add. It is as though people like Hank are incapable of not taking unserious people seriously—more seriously, it seems, than these people take themselves, which, as one can imagine, was exhausting for poor old Hank. Hank, a talented but hopelessly stoichiometric chemist, was inflicted with this curse more than most other people, for he had committed himself to ever broadening his own understanding of the world, and, in refusing to limit his understanding of the world to the narrow scope of his professional responsibilities, he had no other choice but to become undone. It was doubly bad, in fact, because of Hank’s talents as a chemist—that is, his decision to ground his experience of the world from the perspective of physical and not metaphorical law (despite his best efforts otherwise) made him particularly sensitive to most common errors one experiences among the so-called “public.” Their opinions on matters such as human civilization and its foreseeable future are, one must admit, somewhat “weightier effluvia,” and, as such, necessarily more challenging for Hank to dismiss than those concerning, say, modern art, whose practitioners are generally unconcerned with the tastes of the public and are by nature accepting of (if not responsible for) civilization’s impending annihilation. Of course, Hank’s skeptical method of approaching the world was refined by years of rigorous study and lab work in the hard sciences at the world’s preeminent academies and research institutions for doing so, whereas mine was sharpened by arguing with the world in general and with Mother in particular. Yet it was I who survived and Hank who became undone. The reason is elementary: I understood reality as something which must not only be explained but also endured, and that the greatest obstruction to both is the everyday encounters one has with the thoughts, tastes, and opinions of other people. As such, I chose to frame my perspective not in physical law but rather in metaphorical law, which led me to my discovery of the world for what it is: neither a farce nor a tragedy, but instead a Simulation, and one whose power is made all the greater by the failures of those it deceives into thinking it is something other than what it is in fact, I thought, waiting for Mother’s noodles to cool.
Erik Täglich is a profoundly troubled man-child widely acclaimed as the most precise communicator of our generation. Täglich’s theory of “reality as text” has become a mainstay in comparative literature classes the world over. In his most recent essay, Täglich attempts to compare and contrast the efficacy of different approaches to life in what he terms the “Simulation.” He lives with his mother in Vienna.