Welcome to My Play of Life

Posted on January 21, 2014 by Robert Ringer

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Have you ever entertained the thought that you are the only person on earth and that everyone else — family, friends, business associates, and total strangers — are but actors in your play of life?  Perhaps I’m just weird, but this thought first struck me when I was about six or seven years old.

Taking it one step further, it seems to me that the world — make that the entire universe — will no longer exist when I’m gone if there is no continuation of Robert Ringer in one form or another after his passing.  After all, from my vantage point, the world exists only in my mind and through my senses — i.e., sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch.  If I don’t see it, hear it, taste it, smell it, or touch it, for me it doesn’t exist.

Of course, less weird people will argue that after I pass through to the other side, billions of human beings will still be here and will be fully aware of life, the earth, and the universe.  Maybe so, but I, personally, will not know that to be a fact if I no longer exist.  Therefore, from my perspective, when I die, the entire universe dies.

If you take this to be an extreme case of self-absorption, you’ve missed the point.  It has nothing to do with ego or self-centeredness — and certainly not narcissism.  It is simply an intellectual deduction based on firsthand observation.  The only thing I know for certain is what I see, hear, taste, smell, and touch.

Likewise, in your world you can only know for certain what you see, hear, taste, smell, and touch.  This view of life can be loosely referred to as solipsismSolipsism is the theory that you, and you alone, are the only thing you can know with certainty exists.  Put another way, you are the only person on the stage of history.

In effect, then, I have actually created the universe as a result of my consciousness, and I will destroy the universe if and when I am no longer conscious.  (I say if, because who knows what awaits me on the other side?)  Likewise, if you are actually conscious and aware in the same way that I am (which I cannot prove and which is what makes me wonder if you are nothing more than an actor in a play about my life), then your universe will vanish if and when you cease to exist.

You could therefore make a legitimate argument that if you’re still around after I’m gone, the universe will continue to exist in your mind.  And I would have to agree that, in theory, you would be right.  Which raises the question of whether the universe really exists at all or if it is nothing more than a figment of each person’s imagination.

Which brings me back to the actors in my play.  Perhaps they are really nothing more than figments of my imagination.  If so, no one can prove me wrong.  After all, a figment doesn’t have the right, or consciousness, to argue with me.

There are scientists and philosophers who believe that the whole idea of solipsism is disproven by the fact that each of us experiences human feelings such as pain, frustration, and disappointment.  Their argument is that if I am the only person in existence, why can’t I just use my imagination to bring about a life devoid of all negatives?  Why can’t I repress all emotional desires to do things that are harmful to me?

My view is that this argument presumes far too much.  Just because I am a conscious conglomeration of atoms that can reflect on itself and discern the world and the universe — and am the only entity that can do so through my senses — does not mean that I am omnipotent.  My unique ability to perceive the universe, the world, and life in a way that no one else can perceive them does not automatically confer on me divine attributes. 

To look at it in another way, the earth supposedly came into existence about 4.5 billion years ago and Homo sapiens appeared on our little speck of dust in just the last thirty seconds of Carl Sagan’s so-called cosmic calendar (compressing 4.5 billion years into a calendar year).  So the question is, how could the universe have existed for all those years when there was presumably no intelligent life to observe it?  A solipsist would have his hands full trying to answer that question in a credible way.

To totally twist my brain in knots, I also enjoy throwing the doctrine of pantheism into the mix.  Oversimplified, pantheism is the belief that the universe and everything in it comprise God, thus God is not personal.  Rather than being a separate entity, he is everything.  Which raises another question:  Does it logically follow that God created himself?

So how does pantheism square with my perception (illusion?) that I am the only human being on earth and that everyone else is but an actor in my play?  Is there a conflict between pantheism and solipsism?  Yes, I believe there is.  If the universe exists only as a result of my being alive and conscious, then the universe cannot be God.

Of course, if God is personal, that would trump all other theories and doctrines.  A personal, omniscient, omnipotent God could have created the universe (Creator), exist in every particle of the universe (pantheism), directly intervene in secular life and the workings of the entire universe (Cosmic Pilot), and could have programed human beings, either through evolution or divine (quick) creation, in such a way that each of us experiences the sentience of being the only human being on earth.

That said, it is also possible that our entire universe is just one of an infinite number of cosmic capsules that house tiny particles we think of as galaxies, stars, planets, asteroids, meteorites, and dust.  If so, what would it mean?  Honesty compels me to admit that I have no idea.

I’ll turn this one over to you and see what you can come up with.  And don’t be afraid of sounding a little weird.  We’re in uncharted waters here, so your opinion has as much validity as the opinions of the most renowned scientists and theologians — who know so much that I sometimes wonder if they know anything at all.

Robert Ringer

+Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

33 responses to “Welcome to My Play of Life”

  1. Sylvia says:

    I also have been thinking on this… The Big Bang theory is correct and that God is the Big Bang..lol…The bible says let there be light..If nobody could observe night then a whole day is like an era…The waters were the gases and darkness filled the depth…God is the word and the word is with God…So God is thinking; intelligience or thoughts.

  2. Paul Anthony says:

    If God created the universe, what did he use for building materials? If, before God created the universe nothing existed except God, then the universe must be comprised of…God. Therefore, we really are the genetic children of God, but…Everything in the universe is made of essentially the same atoms and molecules, so everything can lay claim to that ancestry. God is said to be infinite. That means that nothing is NOT a part of God. If you could find anything – even a comma in this paragraph – that was not a part of God, then God would be less than infinite.
    If we are in fact the genetic children of the Creator, it stands to reason that we would inherit the ability to create. We are creators. This would be a helpful thing to remember if ever we think we are victims of circumstances. Creators can't be victims unless they want to be.
    I've explained this and more in a book entitled "Creating Your New Life – One Thought at a Time", available on Amazon if anyone is interested.

  3. Jon Mayer says:

    Whatever the mind can conceive can become (its) reality. Which reminds me of the William Shatner interview whereupon he was asked how they came up with all the tricks and toys used in the Star Trek TV series.
    "We just made them up!" he replied. "Take the hand held communicator we used to talk to the ship when we were down on some planet, …we just made it up."
    A couple of decades later, we called it a cellular flip phone.
    Now if I could just get this Warp Speed throttle to work right!!!

    • Patrick says:

      When that show Star Trek was on the air, Desilu producer Lucille Ball said, how come there are no stars on this show, (lack of celebritys). Guess Lucy had some splaining to do on that one. Funny, though, the first interracial kiss was seen on that show, and some script changes had to be made because Spock was the fan favorite, and the William Shatner character, the supposed Batman big macho type hero, was getting jealous. So illogical.

  4. Shiryn Turma says:

    Robert, are you on a mission to wake up us from eternal dream in which we, Gods, see ourselves as a limited body-mind organisms! Such a pleasure to read this esse from you!
    Then this dream being a creation of omni-powerful being is invincible. But I can conquer it only by conscious intense desire to wake up!! So much intense that I have no any drop of material desire left in my consciousness. Thank you, Robert, for remind to wake up to my Real Being, and leave all my Limited Body-mind Identifications!

  5. Mike Anderson says:

    Woody Allen once said that "reality isn't everything – but it's the only place where you can get a good steak!"

  6. Brian says:

    Robert-

    I think the best way to approach this enquiry is through self-definition first. Who are you….really? Who is the "I" that says "I am Robert". Is there a 'self' located somewhere inside our heads or bodies, or do human beings take on individual identities over the course of their early development by being named by their parents, being seen and experienced objectively by 'others' as well as identifying the image in the mirror as who they are *centrally*?

    I think a lot of these 'deep' philosophical questions get answered through direct experience. Uncovering who you really are *centrally* through some type of meditative practice (one of my favorites are the simple awareness experiments which you can try out at http://www.headless.org).

    Basically, noticing what you're looking at and what you're looking OUT OF. In my direct experience – I notice, from my first person perspective – I am no-thing/every-thing, the container as well as the contained, the void as well as form, spacious awareness for the entire cosmos to rise and fall in. Downstream from 'center', I also notice I am this Timeless, Spacious, Conscious Awareness experiencing life as a time bound, limited individual human being.

    The way I interpret this is that the Original Light of Awareness IS, has always been, and will always BE but had no one to share the good news with. So, The Source SELF Originated into a timespace cosmos to experience separation, limitation, and 'otherness' (which allows for experiencing relationship) since it's awfully lonely to be The Alone without a second.

    I guess this would make 'G-d' or whatever you want to term the Infinite Original Source very personal in nature since the Light of consciousness appears to be the Subject at the center of every 'object' we experience. Have you every wondered if every-thing is IN consciousness vs. consciousness being IN things.

    If we want to turn this into a cosmic creator story, this is the way I would interpret it: The Source (for lack of a better term) SELF Originated ITself into physical existence in/as a timespace cosmos to forget Itself within the creation so it could evolve on different planets, in different solar systems, into sentient life forms, which ultimately have the capacity for self-awareness, and eventually become aware that they (as well as every-one and every-thing) are really G-d playing hide and go seek with HimSELF/HerSELF.

    Is that 'out there' enough for you? LOL:)

    Best,
    Brian

    • Paul Anthony says:

      Well said, Brian.

      Everything begins with a thought. Perhaps the Creator imagined the universe into existence, and we are all part of His mind.

      Are we humans occasionally having a spiritual experience, or spiritual beings enjoying a human experience?

  7. Pat says:

    Hey, I had this idea when I was 6. I got over it. 😉

    Let's say you start with the senses, what you directly experience. What if you are taking a drug that produces hallucinations? Are these real just because your senses "detect" them? On the other hand, let's say you value your mind and senses enough you refuse to tamper with them. (That's where I sit.) Now let's say you see something on television that says there's a snowstorm in another state. You want to make sure this is true, so you hop a plane (how do you know the plane will get there safely?) and fly there, and you learn the report is correct. You do this a few times, and you come to trust the reports that show photos of the weather in other places. If you rely solely on what your senses observe directly (and did they observe directly the photos on the TV?) then your experience will be limited. There is no reason to accept the thinking processes of someone who writes a book suggesting that libertarianism is the best political system. Let's say you conclude you wrote the book yourself, because you don't know that another writer exists, but you conjured up in your mind the image of the book, and the words on the page. How do you know what the words even mean? Who decided? If you have relationships (say you are married), how do you know your wife really exists?

    In my estimation, this is not a particularly productive way to live. Fun to speculate, sure. But where does it lead? I think it leads ultimately to madness.

    Examine ideas. Look at the material evidence for a claim. Does the claim accurately describe the material evidence, or can it be logically inferred from the material evidence? Is the conclusion self consistent and logical?

    And why do you write English for me to read? What would be the point if you are the only person who exists? Might as well save your fingers.

    If I claim that currently there is a snowstorm headed for the east coast, then the claim fits in with your other experiences, and you can see the weather photos for yourself, and trust they are accurate. Suppose I told you that there is a green elephant in my back yard eating a strawberry ice cream cone. It would be logical to GO LOOK and not take my word for it, because such a claim flies in the face of your own life's experiences, and contradicts your observations. You have never seen a green elephant. You have never seen an elephant eat ice cream. All the elephants you have ever seen prefer grass, leaves, and hay.

    Hey, if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound unless someone is there to hear it? The force of the fall of the tree does create contractions and expansions of air that our ears interpret as sound. Hey, and what is the sound of one hand clapping? (Don't get lost in Zen; you'll go mad if you are the least bit logical.)

    And how do you KNOW the earth is that old? Someone said so, right? Why do you believe that person? Should that person be believed? Maybe you need to figure out a way to determine the answer for yourself, and not just take someone's word for it. How do you determine WHOSE word to take for anythign?

    If you get up in the morning, you probably turn on the light switch, and you expect the light to come on. You don't even think about it. But occasionally the bulb is burned out, or the power is off. Does that keep us from doing operational things in our lives just to function? Of course not. Prior experience tells us what to do if the light doesn't come on. There are certain things you just have to assume for the sake of argument, because if you hashed out each and every question, you'd never get anything done!

    I'll be willing to bet that somewhere out there is a philosopher who has hashed this basic idea to death long since.

    Here's a thought. Look at the writings of other people who consider such questions. I don't know that he has ever WRITTEN DOWN any of these, but I heard John Warwick Montgomery SAY some of these things. He's the one who suggested the green elephant. This is a fellow who has nine earned degrees, eight of them on the doctoral level. He is also an accomplished French chef, and speaks French fluently. I watched him have a discussion in French with the chef at the French restaurant where he took us to dinner. He wrote a book called History and Christianity. There are used copies on Amazon. Let me know if you read this, and what you think of it.

    • Paul Anthony says:

      Do you speak French? If not, how do you know they were speaking French? :)

      • Pat says:

        LOL Oui, M'seur. Je parle un peu de français. And I read French. :)

        How do you know you are talking to me, a separate being, and not a figment of your imagination?

        • Paul Anthony says:

          Simple. My imagination doesn't speak French. LOL

          • Pat says:

            ROFL!

            My husband says, your imagination might not speak French, but you might imagine it does. And if you follow that road, you can really tie yourself in knots!

    • Patrick says:

      I hear what your saying. Always wondered why do they call it the Evolution Theory and say it is a fact, would it not be Evolution Fact then? And a scientific theory has to be proven. It has yet to be proven, therefore just a theory, not better or greater than others.

    • rockdoc01 says:

      "I'll be willing to bet that somewhere out there is a philosopher who has hashed this basic idea to death long since."

      One philosopher that addressed this subject was the Greek Plato – Allegory of the Cave

  8. Pitch says:

    Hillary Clinton doesn't give a shit and neither do I.
    You need a good nights rest Robert…or perhaps it's time to check in to your friendly Psych Ward for a little R&R? The one thing I am absolutely certain of is that the Human Species on planet Earth including you and me are making our last mad dash down the road to total extinction. Ho hum…I'll be damned>>>just another big bang…and history repeats itself once again…

  9. YoOleMe says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!! … Pursuant to your first two paragraphs, you, Sir, are an unmitigated candidate for "Speaker, of the U.S. House of Representatives"!!!!

  10. Carl-Edward says:

    “Good creatures, do you love your lives
    And have you ears for sense?
    Here is a knife like other knives,
    That cost me eighteen pence.

    I need but stick it in my heart
    And down will come the sky,
    And earth's foundations will depart
    And all you folk will die.”

    ― A.E. Housman, More Poems

  11. YoOleMe says:

    Obviously "BO" is out to dispel any problems you may be having with solipsism, for he is diligently at work, FUNDING ALL OF THIS http://www.raymondibrahim.com/in-the-media/graphi… WITH U.S. TAXPAYER DOLLARS, so he obviously expects to bring it here for our "benefit" as well!!! …

    Make no mistake here: While Christians & Jews are the main theme in the Islamist Jihad; In Islam, an "Infidel" IS ANY NON-SHARIA PRACTICING MUSLIM — A CONCEPT, FAST COMING TO A NEIGHBORHOOD NEAR YOU!!! … May I suggest: 2 Corinthians 6:12~18, as a antidote!!!

    God Speed,
    YoOle Me

  12. Jurgy says:

    I also wonder about these things Robert, but not too much. Nobody really knows how or why we are here. I do not know if everyone else is on my personal stage in my personal reality (I certainly hope that I have not conjured up all the clowns and insanity I've encountered in my journey so far!) or if we are all sharing the same reality. Rather than be too concerned with it all, I would rather dwell on just enjoying the ride to the fullest – I think that that is what we are meant to do, no matter how or why we got here and in whose reality we are living.

  13. RandaLL says:

    Christopher Langan has the "Theory of Everything" CTMU. BTW Mr Langan has a 190 to 210 IQ
    Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe. ctmu.org

    • Pat says:

      At that level, IQ measures have no real meaning. I think any meaningful rate tops out at about 150. At that level, people qualify to be in the top 2% of the membership of Mensa. Personally, I don't worry about my IQ. No matter how astronomical it might be, it pales when compared to God's IQ.

      You heard the joke about the man who challenged God, saying, "Let's have a man-making contest"? God says, OK, so the man picks up a handful of dirt. God says, "No, you don't understand. Make your own dirt."

  14. Stan says:

    After reading this piece of tripe, I will be a lot more critical when reading your "normal" commentaries.

    • frank says:

      Stan this is not tripe man has been wrestling with these thoughts forever or at least back to the time of Plato, it recalls the old joke of a philosophy class not getting past recording attendance because no one could prove their own existence.If for nothing else solipsism is a heck of a way to stay in tune with your own presence watching and experiencing your thoughts as opposed to reacting to them.

  15. Murray Suid says:

    Mr. Ringer writes: "Likewise, in your world you can only know for certain what you see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. "

    But I'm going to guess that most of us have been fooled more than once by something we thought we perceived as being "true" or "real." Our senses frequently mislead us. I wonder if Mr. Ringer has never been misled by his senses, or witnessed someone else who was "sure" his eyewitness report was accurate, only to later discover it was wrong wrong wrong.

  16. Heather says:

    Oh Robert – you are eating soup with a fork. You have the general idea, but not the right tools to actually make it work. It is our limitation, our physical limitation that clouds what we can actually see. We get divine glimpses now and again, but they are shored right back to the earth we are tied to. I do know this, primitive as it is: Energy creates matter, not the other way around. I believe you have created everything in your world – your desk, your home, your friends so you can make sense of your journey here, so you come away with having created something. But I cannot help but feel that our human filters are missing things right under our earthly noses that are more advanced, more complex, more indescribably amazing than we can even comprehend.

    • Robby Bonter says:

      I don't know who you are, Heather, but you are a well-grounded, rationale human being far beyond the commonplace morass of society.

    • patg2 says:

      I got over that one when I was six. I imagined that the world was a figment of my imagination. I am reasonably certain Robert doesn't have a carpenter shop in his home, so he didn't create his desk. He probably hired people to do the bricklaying for his home, so he didn't create his home. And unless you think you are a figment of his imagination, he didn't create you. Likewise, his friends. Or did they create Robert?

  17. David Walters says:

    Robert, my tuppenceworth.

    I believe that the quantum physicists have actually discovered the Holy Spirit. http://youtu.be/EC3fxmGLVl0

    They either don't realize it, or daren't tell anyone for fear of their funding being cut.

    • patg2 says:

      Well, not exactly. They have possibly discovered what God DID, but God is triune, so not just the Holy Spirit.

  18. Common Sense says:

    I have my five senses to take in the world, but I also have a mind (of normal I.Q.,) so I'm able to realize that other people aren't just figments of my imagination.

    Since you, Robert Ringer have more brains than me, I can't believe you're serious. And you're not.

  19. Dale Foks says:

    Very smooth post. I certainly appreciate this site . Keep it up!

  20. patg2 says:

    Either spam or viruses.