A weekend on Mars

As I write, we are coming to the end of a lazy weekend. The plumbers return tomorrow, starting another week of building work, so we thought to take it easy and enjoy the silence. We could have taken a trip somewhere but the weather wasn’t very nice. It seemed pleasant just to stay at home and relax.

On Saturday we went out for breakfast and then returned home. Like any well fed cats, we lolled around doing nothing much until hunger prompted further action around 6:30 pm. Intermittently we listened to the radio, plinked away on the computer keyboard and watched DVDs. Then we went out to supper and returned home to finish off the second and final series of Life on Mars.

Today was more or less a repetition of yesterday with added shopping: a quick spin through Sainsbury’s to pick up a few necessities. I learned how to program presets into the central heating: press “Set” when you go out and it turns down the heat; press “Set” again when you come in and it turns up the heat again. Remember, this is all new to us who have survived thus far with a single gas fire.

The series Life on Mars intrigued me. Tigger loves her films but I tend to watch ’em and forget ’em. There are two series that I enjoyed, however. The first was Mapp and Lucia and the second Life on Mars. I expect you have seen it as everyone seems to have done so. There is something rather surreal about it as you do not know the truth of the protagonist’s situation until the end. Is Sam Tyler dreaming in a coma, has he really travelled back in time, is he schizophrenic, or what? I think it is up to the viewer to decide. If the 1973 world is but a dream, it seems more real than the rather alien looking 2006 to which our hero briefly returns.

The story and its conflicting time-worlds invites one (well, me, at any rate) to reflect on the nature of our own “reality”. Our own time-world seems solid and real to us but how real is it? Could I be living in some sort of dream in which my own mind is the sole reality and everything else but a figment of it? I don’t think so but I cannot prove this. If even Descartes’ famous cogito ergo sum has been punctured and found to be less than solid, what hope have the rest of us of finding a basis for our theories of reality? Someone I know suffers frequent hallucinations which he asserts to be as real as the things we both see. How then can I be confident that the world I know is not also an illusion?

All we can do, I think, is to live as if our world were real and to face it with honesty and integrity and, if the word is not over-used, with love.

Yesterday, at the restaurant, I noticed that the chef-owner wore an intriguing silver bracelet. At first sight the motif appeared to be Ancient Egyptian but when I asked him about it he said it was Iranian, something to do with Darius the Great. I admired it and told him how much I like silver. He smiled and said “Next time I go home, I will bring you one.” Such moments are like finding gems in the dust.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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2 Responses to A weekend on Mars

  1. athinkingman says:

    I tend to agree with you that, despite the skepticism of Descartes, the material world is probably real. What I am finding more and more fascinating is the strength of the internal reality that we create within the confines of the real world. This is most clearly seen when people develop psychosis. However bizarre it may seem to the rest of us, the strength of the reality that a psychotic person creates is incredibly strong.

    I remember hearing about someone who was continually cutting himself and trying to peel the skin off his forearms because he was convinced that he had spiders underneath his skin. No amount of persuasion that this was not true would convince him otherwise. In the end the medical team dealing with him took the view that the only way forward was to work with his reality rather than try to convince him out of it. They told him that they had medicine that would kill spiders. He happily took his anti-psychotic medication and the spiders beneath his skin disappeared.

  2. SilverTiger says:

    I am glad there was a happy ending to that terrible story.

    I am sure that the man’s “spiders under the skin” were delusions but the case does pose interesting questions. How do we decide that X is deluded and that the rest of us are in possession of the truth? It is no good saying that the patient is one and the doctors many and that the doctors are therefore to be believed because the truth cannot be established by vote: the maverick has often turned out to be right.

    Can we say that the man is deluded because there is no proof of his spiders? No, because even if there are no spiders there might be something that is causing real problems and happens to be undetected. (Many diseases remained mysterious until causes were discovered in modern times.)

    Can we say that his delusion was proved by his being cured by a placebo? Unfortunately no, because there are documented cases of real diseases being cured by the “placebo effect”.

    As I say, I don’t for a moment doubt that this man’s spiders were a delusion but such cases do raise interesting questions about the nature of reality and our perception of it.

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