This place is getting to me. I think I'm ... getting the fear.
I've been thinking a lot about solipsism today. (Maybe it's because having a job in which you do nothing but speed-node annotated links of CGI scripting sites into a database inevitably leads to feelings of disconnection, isolation, and surreality.) I think everyone, at some point or other, has solipsistic thoughts. Some people are so self-centered that they might as well believe that they are the only real entity in the universe and that everything revolves around them. These people believe that nothing matters but themselves.
But there's a variant: you are real, but the world around you is a fabrication.
This idea has been explored in a lot of science fiction, from the stories of Philip K. Dick to old Twilight Zone episodes to The Matrix.
Some days, I find myself entertaining the nagging notion that this scenario could be real. It comes on when my life seems overly closed-in, when I feel disconnected, when my daily comings and goings and activities feel scripted. The events of my day and my interactions with others might as well be something from an advanced virtual reality program ... so who's to say they're not?
Classical solipsists believe that any harm they cause others is irrelevant, because all those Others are just figments of the beholder's imagination. It's a free ticket to act in a completely heedless and hedonistic manner.
But when I start feeling like I'm living in an artificial box of unreality, I can't shake the accompanying notion that it's a game. A test. A test you can fail.
That's not carte blanche to do much of anything, is it? Except twitch, worry about dotting your "i"s and crossing your "t"s, and slowly sink into paranoid madness as you wonder what the consequences of failing such a test might be.
So don't think about it, kids. I'm real, you're real, we're all real here.