A Kid’s Refutation of Idealism

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After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, ‘I refute it thus.’–James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson

After we came out of the library the other day, Cool J was straggling behind on his scooter, so I called to him to catch up to me and Baby M. “What about me?” asked LL, who, ten feet ahead of me, needed no catching up. “You who?” I asked.

“Yeah, who are you?” Cool J added, rolling up to my side.

“You know —me.” And LL said his name, first and last.

“Never heard of him,” I retorted. This was in good fun, of course. I wasn’t trying to provoke an existential crisis.

“Nope, me neither,” added Cool J. He pointed to Baby MoFo. “That’s my brother there.”

We were laughing, even LL, though it’s possible he became a tiny bit concerned. “But I’m your brother, too!”

“Are you?” asked Cool J.

“Are you?” I asked.

“Yes, of course I am. I am your big brother,” pointedly, “and your oldest kid.”

“Nah,” I said. “My oldest kid is this one.”

He thought about that for a while.

“But don’t you remember me? I was born here–in this state!”

“What do you mean, in this state? We just moved here two years ago. We’re all Canadian. How could you have been born here?”

And Cool J: “Yeah, we just made up a big brother. And we said he was born here cuz that’s where we are now.”

Me: “Yeah, and you know why you like screen games so much? It’s because we didn’t quite make you up so much as find you in a screen game. You’re a kid in screen game.”

Cool J: “Yeah, it’s a screen game about playing screen games. In the screen game there’s a kid who is playing a screen game. And in his screen game is a kid who is playing a screen game. And in that screen game is a kid who is playing a screen game. And in that screen game–Ow!!!! Why did you kick me?

LL, triumphantly: “I guess I’m real then, huh?”

LL contemplating his existence under The Bean

LL contemplating his reality under The Bean

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