The Power of an Idea

I’m just one in a room full of solipsists.

It’s the third annual convention. People are filing into the Marriott conference room. Most of the younger members sit in their chairs shooting weird glances at everyone else. The older ones stand around chatting. It seems, with the years, they’ve learned to be realistic (as it were). I may have misled you at the start: I, for one, am an observer. I’m on the fence about solipsism, and came here to learn what the life of an adherent is like. I realize I may be the only person who can answer that question for myself, but what the hey, it can’t hurt, right?

I spend my time walking around, mostly listening in. Most conversations center on how Holocaust and moon landing deniers kind of have a point, on families and the difficulty of loving them “unconditionally” (“I love you, sweetie—if you exist, that is”), on how the kids are detached emotionally and epistemically, and how they seem eager to play with others but also confused by the concept. I figure if I’m going to talk to anyone else, I might as well talk to myself, but if I’m going to talk to myself, I might as well talk to someone who at least seems to know I don’t think I know I’m not talking to myself.

I’m listening to the gloomy life story of some nobody when a stone-faced man walks up to the podium and announces that attendance has successfully been taken: there is at least one person present. There are nods all around, and an old man sitting near me mumbles something about the previous record, to no one in particular.

As the man at the podium opens his mouth to address his putative crowd once more, one of the large doors at the other end of the room swings open, and a bright-eyed, fast-talking fellow sticks his head in, his fist full of party balloons. “Is this the idealist convention? A got a notion that it was. Ah ha!”

The man at the podium doesn’t seem to get it, not that I would have believed he got it in any case. “No, this is the solipsist convention,” comes the slow response from the podium. “The makeup of the executive board is in dispute, but I can say I’m the president.”

“Oh, that’s wild!” says the young man in the doorway, beaming. “Must be the one down the hall I want. I was wondering where the moonbounce went! Sorry for butting in. I’m so scattered, sometimes I think I’d lose my idea of my own head if it weren’t attached to my idea of my own body!”

The supposed president of the solipsists opens his mouth to respond, but the young man cuts him off, jumping into the room. “I know what you’re thinking! Because I’m thinking it too—we should all get together later! We’re all gonna go have a drink after our conference, and, to my mind, there’s no reason for you guys not to join us!” Again he interrupts before his interlocutor can start. “What a good idea I had for us! Then again, I’m just full of ideas! Haha!”

For a third time, the president begins to open his mouth and is cut off. “Well, keep it in mind! And if I don’t see you—“ He pauses for a few seconds, wearing a gaping grin, eyes darting around at the crowd, then exits and closes the door behind him.

This balloon bearer seems fun, and I get the impression that there is no more than meets the eye with this guy. I quickly leave myself and follow him down the hall to another room. At the door is an imposing security guard, who stops the two of us. “What’s the big idea?” he asks, and starts to chuckle uncontrollably. This is a philosophical minority for me.

-Brendan Mooney, Philosophy Major