A “person” is a mask1—but a mask worn by what? When I dream, I feel like myself, but when I wake up, everything I do seems fake and artificial. When I write, I don’t really mean what I write; if I were dreaming, I might write exactly the same words, but they would mean something! Everything that I am, think, feel, see—it all has a quality of as-ifness, as though I’m merely pretending to be experiencing it and not really experiencing it. How would I recognize the real experience? I don’t know.

There is a human that follows me around everywhere I go. Others call it “you” or “he” or sometimes by some meaningless name. That thing is my person. It’s who I am to others; it’s what shields me from the world and also what prevents me from being in the world, keeping me isolated from anyone else that might otherwise have shared this dream with me. When others look at this person, they sometimes think that it’s actually me. Being looked at like this, being understood in the same way as people explain physical phenomena, having one’s self reduced to the physical object called a brain—this is a form of violence.

Being seen as an animal in this way is humiliating. I try to prevent others from seeing me like this. They mustn’t think I’m like them. And so, in order to preserve my independence from the world, I cloak myself behind a layer of artificial irony, and thus the cycle perpetuates itself. Or else, I protect myself by withdrawing, either literally or else by pretending to not be anyone—by acting like a ghost, not being noticed by others.

  1. From Latin “persōna”