When I was younger, I remember wondering if the world really existed outside of whatever room I was in. So when I went into the hall-way, I wondered if the kitchen would dissolve. And when I turned a corner, I was convinced the street would vanish. Sometimes I would pretend to leave somewhere and then rush back in, just to check. It always showed up, but I’m still not convinced. Did you ever think the same way? I think most of us probably did at one time or another.
I didn’t know it as a child but there was a name for this eccentric belief: solipsism. It’s the conviction that I am the only person I can be sure of – everything else is probably an illusion.
Over time we usually drop such extreme views. Rather than doubt everyone’s existence we tend to accept the outside world. Nonetheless we’ll inevitably file people into predictable categories. When we spot them outside their ‘normal’ context, it scrambles our brains. Like spying a celebrity in the supermarket and wondering where you know them from. Or your doctor in the library instead of their surgery. It’s just – wrong. My doctor doesn’t have a life! He belongs in the office, waiting for people to get sick. And the same thing applies to vicars: they ought to be praying or preaching: none of this TV watching or cleaning their teeth shenanigans.
It’s not quite solpsism, but it’s still a me-centred perspective on life. I’ll allow the outside world to exist – but only on my terms. Everything else is just… wrong!
So what’s the opposite of this thinking? Funnily enough, I’ve got this covered too. It’s thinking that the rest of the world is real – and I’m the phony. “Emma” only comes out for public consumption. When people’s eyes are on her she is real. But when there’s no-one to see her, she disappears.
Problem is, whether it’s all about me or all about what others think of me – it adds up to the same thing. If you begin with yourself, you lose yourself .
I guess we need to be told who we are. A verdict that comes from outside. Outside of ourselves and outside of the world. We need a voice that is not us, but that affirms us and loves us.
Thank God for Jesus.