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How To Make Your Brain Hurt In Ten Easy Steps

by Cth (

Let's talk existentialism for a second. 

Actually, let’s throw in some solipsism too for good measure.


Y'know.. that philosophical movement.. John Paul Sartre and all of that?  

Ok, I realize that's like saying the Encyclopedia Britanica is just a bunch of words in some books.

So, let's get some textual definitions…

Ex·is·ten·tial·ism  n. Philosophy

A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.

Sol·ip·sism n. Philosophy

1.      The theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified.

2.      The theory or view that the self is the only reality.

Isn't this going to be a fun column this week?

No really, honest.

I was thinking.. (I know, already a mistake) the other day on this very same subject.  Well, admittedly, I had some help.  Over at JINXWORLD, someone jokingly asked "Why Is The Sky Blue?" in an attempt to draw out a witty reply by another poster. 

First off, let me state that I am not an Existentialist nor a Solipsist.  I mean, what's the point of being a columnist if your philosophy is that no one really exists outside of yourself?

“.. what’s the point of being a columnist if …no one really exists outside of yourself?”

See?  I told you this would be a fun column.

Consider the following example.  Take your time with it if you have to..  If it helps, re-read your collection of Grant Morrison's Invisibles..

Colors do not "exist".

What we "see" is how our eyes interpret the information coming into them.    How can we see color?

From the scientific fact that when light is bent around an object, our eyes interpret the resulting color spectrum.   Beakman said so, and frankly, if it’s good enough for him…well…

So in fact, that orange you're eating for lunch, isn't REALLY orange.  Don't believe me?  Step into a closet and close the door.  Now make sure the light is off, or it won't work.

Now, look at the orange...

Or your hand...

Anything in the closet. 

What color does it look like?  Neon Black?  Good answer.

At this point, the object sitting in your "hand" is a loose collection of atoms we commonly refer to as an "orange".  But consider, your "hand" is also another loose collection of atoms.  If you REALLY want to get interesting.. start looking at the world as a collection of atoms.

Perception is the key to all things.

And for the record, no, I have never touched drugs.  Scary huh 

Why am I talking about this?

Well, besides the fact it's kind of an interesting way to view the world.. it has some strange applications to how life could be in the future..

Consider the following.  Are you more of a person because you have both of your legs?  Your hands?

They're only tools, really when you think about it. 

So, if you can.. Imagine how it would be like not to have any of these tools available.. Could you not envision a world where you exist only in thought?

Atoms transfer energy all the time.  If what truly makes us... "us" is electrical in nature think of all the possible implications this could mean.

Energy cannot be destroyed, only transferred.

Could we not transfer our "consciousness" into a medium that could store it, or interact with it somewhat?

I'm not talking "The Matrix" here.., but could this not be another world yet unexplored?

I explored these thoughts in the graphic novel I’ve been working on called "The End" but I've also seen it touched upon in the anime movie "Serial Experiments: Lain".

To summarize, there exists another world, layered on top of ours, co-existing.    What if, however, something was there already on the other side?  What if it wasn't totally benevolent either, waiting for its  chance to break through?

Sure, this is the makings of science fiction here, but think of what makes you who you are, and why your loose collection of atoms means more than any of the others out there.. What makes you … “you” and why do things interact the way they do?

If you really want to think bizarre, consider yourself a cell in a larger body.  The criminal element is an attacking disease, so we provide antibodies to combat them.  Far fetched?  Not really.  It's a theme touched upon in comics like Earth X, movies like Osmosis Jones, etc.  Isn’t it fun to imagine the world this way?

Consider Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics example.  What causes us to absorb other items into our collective selves. How can a hat become part of you?  How come when someone bumps into your car, you say “That idiot hit me!” instead of  “You hit my car!”

A collection of atoms that due to our perception become part of a larger whole, that being our identity.

The point I’m trying to make with all this stuff?

Start thinking about the other atoms out there.  Your environment, your co-workers, your pet, anything and everything.  If there are no colors, no disabilities, anything, what do we have to disagree about?  Perceptions can be changed, and what better time to start than now?

Hi folks..

Cth here..

If you made it this far, congratulations.  Yeah, this weeks column was a bit intellectual and weird..  Wait til the next update ;)  Seriously though, I’ve juggled some of the other columns around, so expect some fun stuff on its way shortly.  Now go do something mindless like watching Teletubbies or something to recover..

As a reward for making it this far.. here’s some more recommendations this week.  These are a short list of some things I think you may enjoy.. contact me at my email address if you’d like a more in depth discussion or anything else related.


American Beauty: Directors Cut    [An excellent directors commentary track explaining some interesting themes that are hidden throughout the movie.  Enhances the film quite well!]

Seven Samurai: The Criterion Collection     [You can easily see why Lucas, Spielberg, and others rate this film as one of the all time great films of all time.  Another great commentary track too!]


Titus Crow vol 1&2 by Brian Lumley       [A modern delving into the Cthulhu Mythos from the author of the Necroscope series..  Very faithful to Lovecraft, in addition to being a fun read]

Robert Anton Wilson’s The Illuminatus Trilogy          [Interesting reading.  Past, present, and future spoken in the same breath.  Learn about the Illuminati and why they control everything]

Thieves World Anthology          [Explore the city of Sanctuary, as told by numerous fantasy authors.  As featured in many online RPG/MUDs.  Edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey]

WildCards          [Difficult to find series – If you see any of the paperbacks, contact me!  A world where everyone was mutated by fallout into jokers (monsters) or Aces (superheroes).  One of the early realistic portrayals of superheroes in everyday life and what their impact in a world like ours would be like.

Ed Brubaker’s Deadenders          [DC Comics/Vertigo.  A futuristic action/drama/punk story.  Realistic portrayals of human relationships, as well as slowly burning subplots and real consequences for actions]

ACME Books: Jimmy Corrigan The Smartest Kid on Earth        [Chris Ware is one of the most innovative artists out there, constantly experimenting with format and storytelling style.  If you enjoy David Mack, Dave McKean, or any other experimental artist, you’ll love his work.  It also helps that he’s a competent storyteller too.]


The Doors Concerto          [An orchestral version of many popular Doors hits.  As always I am on the lookout for various versions of the song “The End”  If you have any, contact me :) ]


Fight Club Soundtrack          [An oldie, but a goodie.  The Dust Brothers make an excellent film debut in scoring this soundtrack.  Also worth getting for the Tyler Durden Monologue track.]

WEBSITES    -  Brian Michael Bendis’s JINXWORLD Message Board - Patrick Keller’s Fightin’ Words Column, featuring the Create Your Own Comic Thingy..  Ask him about his character “Disco Midget” - Star Wars Origami - Superman’s Babysitter by Kyle Baker - Send text to any telephone..  Fun little toy.. - Build Your Own Toy.  Star as an action figure!  Endless possibilities..

Copyright©2000 Travis W. Howard