Constructed Realities

"Issue": 038

I walk with my girlfriend to our train station. The F on York. It’s the last stop on the F train that’s in Brooklyn before you emerge on the other side — East Broadway in Manhattan.

Usually when I walk to the station there’s a homeless man right at the entrance. A silent friendship, where if I have a few singles in my jacket pocket I’m sure to give it to him. He holds it to his chest and flashes a smile. I return the nod, say “alright boss”, and hit my heart twice. Like I said, a friendship.

A couple of months before social distancing, my guy wasn’t there. I had no one to ask about his whereabouts. I’m sure to many, his presence or lack there of hasn’t even registered. He isn’t part of their reality in any meaningful way.

The Unknown Notebooks of Jean-Michel Basquiat - The New York Times

I have this short story idea around a new pair of AR glasses. In which our protagonist selects his filters and begins his new reality. After an encounter with an angry homeless person, he decides to filter them out as well. And the story would continue down this path — getting darker in some ways, but hopefully pulling to light some unpleasant truths that we already choose to filter out daily.

This past week I’ve been thinking about constructing realities a lot. Not in a lofty metaverse style way. But in the understanding that to a certain extent, we are presented with and make a multitude of choices that allow us to see the world in a certain light. Of course there will always be shocks to our individual systems — the very nature of externalities. However, the truth of modern American life is that there is no one shared reality. And this is a psychological privilege in some senses… that we can continually choose to reinforce what we believe living is… and how we might share in that experience.

Joan Didion: Living and Writing Between L.A. and New York City ...

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.

— Joan Didion

The construction of any reality comes down to the values this reality will sit on top of. We encode values into any system we design. The translation of these values, from the very moment it moves from the first person to the second — will warp. Like a game of telephone, how far off might we be by the time it reaches the 1,000th person. It doesn’t take too much time for “All men created equal…” to become something-else entirely.

Ultimately, I think everyone wants to feel that their basis for reality translates well between those within their view. Maybe this is the essence of presence. The reason many said “that’s not my president”. The inability to recognize the presence of someone that cannot fit their reality, which is to say that their perception of the individual’s values are so far from their own… how could it possibly exist within the same space.

I’ve noticed, the examination starts to become an intellectual exercise. I think this is why the attraction to Tiger King was so strong. Look at these people, all twisted in every different way. So far from my reality. We consumed them. Countless hours straight. Meme’d and profited off of the narrative.

In a way… this might also be at the core of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Documenting these alternative realities for our own consumption, dialogue, media machinations. Maybe Paris Hilton is the OG of modern reality construction — maybe she’s the future as well with her VR DJ Club.

To wrap this up, in the shower today I was contemplating the nature of language during the product development cycle. What are we ever really communicating, and subsequently trying to communicate through our products. If actually, the creator wants to communicate anything. How common is it to hear a creator tell a story that goes something like — “well we wanted to do this, but then this other thing made us more money and we just keep going until it doesn’t”

What even is that… it legitimately doesn’t compute in my mind. Perhaps this is my reality being confronted by others… maybe this is my short coming on display here now.

I used to get spanked a lot as a kid. Mostly because I think the disrespect I showed to my parents was rooted in never yielding what I believed was true. Until the very last swat. In a way… this is what fundraising is. Getting smacked around while refining the details, yet unwilling to compromise on your vision of the world. How it is, how it ought to be.

This notion, of how it ought to be. This is where creation starts — or at least where it should start. Plenty of people are happy to complain and be a hater. I have little patience for that.

I attempt to live simply and deliberately. Setting values that we can collectively build around. Creating a language that might be shared. Delivering products that embody this and improve another individual’s reality daily.

I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.

Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.

Much love.