Jared Loughner’s World of Illusion … and Ours
As long as we’re using Jared Lee Loughner’s tastes in philosophy and literature to probe his psyche—and I’m not saying we shouldn’t—let’s scrutinize our own tastes, too. I’m not suggesting a Mailerian equivalence between Loughner and the average man, so stop composing that irate e-mail to me right now. But Loughner’s obsession with alternative realities, his idea that the universe is malleable and a function of an individual’s will, is mirrored almost everywhere we look in pop culture.
According to a Mother Jonespiece by Nick Baumann, Loughner believed in “lucid dreaming,” namely that “conscious dreams are an alternative reality that a person can inhabit and control.” That may sound like the currency of the insane, but it’s the stuff of our most popular entertainments. Lucid dreaming served as the foundation for the fifth-best grossing movie of 2010, Inception.
Today’s Washington Post calls reality-bending novelist Philip K. Dick—the author of such classics as Time Out of Jointand Ubik—Loughner’s favorite writer. While Dick produced most of his short stories and novels for the pulp press, he has recently been acknowledged as a master of literature by the Library of America, which has published three volumes of his work. In Dick’s fiction, characters are trapped and liberated as the realities around them melt, buckle, and turn inside out. He defined reality in a 1978 essay as “that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away” but characteristically amended the thought several paragraphs later, writing, “If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.”
I doubt we can lay this at Philip Dick’s door but concept “we create our own reality” has taken off frighteningly in recent decades.