Imagine if the life that you thought you shared wasn’t really there. It was made up in your mind, could be anyone, anywhere. You’d be living in a world of your own design, undermined. In another place, other space and time.

So goes the first lines of Clean Bandit’s Dust Clears, a track from their 2014 album New Eyes. The song continues:

Imagine if the friend that you thought you knew wasn’t really true. It just existed in your head, the reflection used wasn’t you.

Even though I listen to a lot of music, I don’t really listen very often. I prefer to work listening to music, and while it might not actually be the case, I imagine that it helps me concentrate. So the majority of the music I listen to is basically advanced background noise.

But sometimes I listen, and when I listened to Dust Clears, a really weird thought began to grind in the back of my mind.

What if

I live the pretty ordinary life of an average white male in his early 40’s living in Northern Europe. My worries are few, if any at all, and my days mostly evolve around work, family and friends.

But what if the life I think I live is just made up in my mind? When I’ve allowed this train of thought to race on uncontrolled, I’ve contemplated three levels of possibly insanity.

Nothing is Real

Pushing the crazy-meter to 11, I can imagine that everything is made up in my mind. Nothing is real. The keyboard I’m typing this on is imaginary. The track I’m listening to right now exists only in my head. My reflection in the window to my right is a construct of my imagination. I’m a Hispanic transsexual in my mid fifties, locked up in a padded room somewhere, babbling uncontrollably while crazy pills are being forced down my throat.

This scenario seems unlikely, however. Even though I don’t have any personal experience with mental illness1, what I’m experiencing every day is too real for everything to be made up in my mind.

The Local Lunatic

If we tone it down a little, it might be that only parts of what I experience is happening inside my mind. Perhaps I have a real job, and real friends, but an imaginary wife and kids. I go to a kindergarten to pick up my “kids”, but in reality I just stand outside the gate for half an hour. We all go to the community pool together for swimming lessons, but I’m actually sitting in my car outside the building. My “wife” and I go on dates, except the table for two is only occupied by a single man toasting and talking to himself.

So I’m basically just the community nutcase, who go around imagining I have a family. Maybe they all existed once, but perished in a terrible accident? Unable to cope with the loss, my family live on in my mind, and everyone in the local community play along out pity2.

Madness on a More Likely Level

The third scenario is that I sit at home, alone in the dark, imagining everything about my wife and kids. But everything else is perfectly real. The difference from the above scenario is that my madness is not public. In my mind, I go to the kindergarten to pick up the kids, we go to the pool, and my wife and I go on dates. But I never leave the house to do all those things. No one is aware of my insanity.

This scenario isn’t as unlikely as the other two. Here’s one reason: I talk to my colleagues about my family and everything we do. They have heard a lot about my family, but they have never actually met any of them. Or perhaps those conversations are also something I make up. When I meet people, and think I talk about my family, I don’t actually do that.

How I ended up in a world where I have to imagine having a wife and kids, I don’t know. Maybe I’ve always wanted to have a family, but never met The One, and in the end my mind simply gave up and made up everything to make sure I get by?

No Need to Worry

All that said, I’m (fairly) confident that what I’m experiencing every day isn’t a construct of my imagination, but as real as it gets. Inanity doesn’t run in my family, and I didn’t spend a considerable time of my youth sniffing glue or other potent inhalants.

As my wife pointed out when I told her about this particular thought experiment, I could at least have made an effort and imagined a life less ordinary if everything was happening inside my mind.

Going down this rabbit hole has been an interesting creative exercise. And it made me appreciate my sanity. Or at least what I perceive as sanity.

Gotta stop thinking about this now kbye

  1. Or maybe I do? ↩︎

  2. If that scenario didn’t make you feel even a little sad, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. ↩︎