Are you sure you're not dead?


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I think, therefore I must be dead.

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I guess at the time this would have been considered a delusion.


Nononono, no, no! I’m resting! Pining for the fjords, perhaps?


“If somebody thinks they’re a hedgehog, presumably you just give 'em a mirror and a few pictures of hedgehogs and tell them to sort it out for themselves.”

  • Douglas Adams, So Long and Thanks For All The Fish

This was a plot line in the first season in Hannibal that gave me the most creeps. Actually, most of the show gives me the willies now that I type this out.

Wait… Are you telling me this isn’t a more perfect existence than the one I left behind in my other life?

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My first thought was of Synecdoche, New York, whose central character is named Cotard , for good reason. What an awesome movie that is. (The Capgras delusion arises in a similar fashion.)

I’m a hologram, you insensitive clod.


Fairly sure, for the moment, anyway. I imagine I’ll have to update that at some point. But for now, I’m going to act as if I’m not dead yet. Do you hear me? Not dead yet!

[Not yet anyway, embed fail.][1]

Well, it’s better than the other way around, innit?

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Not quite on point with this syndrome… but when I was a late teenager I went through an ordeal which almost ended my life. After waking in the hospital there were times for months afterward when I would stop and think “What if I actually did die then? How can I be sure that the rest of my ‘life’ isn’t illusory… or the afterlife?”

Even today, if I dwell on it a while it’s not hard to come close to convincing myself that none of this is real and all of you just exist in some construct of my own…

But then I become aware that breaking with reality like that is the definition of pyschosis and I quickly let it go and continue on with things.



Earlier this year, a family member had an extended period of delirium – with all kinds of hallucinations, delusions, and everything. One day I went to visit him, and as soon as I walked in, he informed me that he was dead, that I was dead, and that his hospital roommate was dead. I tried to explain that we were definitely alive, but he was insistent that we were actually dead.

If you’ve never talked with someone in a state of delirium, they operate on a kind of dream logic – or more often, nightmare logic. He wasn’t able to articulate how we were dead (were we corpses, ghosts, or what?), or how he knew we were dead. It probably seemed implicitly obvious to him, as dream situations usually do – you just somehow know things. His emotional affect was of despair – being dead seemed to mean something like being trapped in the underworld, hopeless and alone in darkness. He didn’t actually mention the underworld (or hell, heaven, or anything else), but the way he spoke of being dead implied it.

Ultimately we found out the delirium was a bad reaction to some medication, took him off the meds, and he got better. But that was the first time I’ve seen Cotard’s delusion up close and personal. It was incredibly upsetting, to be honest.


Well, it’s true, I haven’t done anything that I want…

Pretty sure that…

My logic runs as follows. There are occasions when my mind feels somewhat divorced from our usual mundane reality, but those times invariably turn out to be dreams. Just the other night, I had a fabulous dream about being young and being reunited with a long-lost girlfriend, and it was a joyous and seemingly magical occasion that included a certain amount of mind-reading and levitation. And then I woke up. And though there was nothing wrong, per se, about being awake, I could feel the joy of that imagined magic slipping away. And that was bittersweet, as you can well imagine.

I live a fairly happy life that includes some pretty joyous moments, but those moments are always the result of rather mundane (though wonderful to me) causes. My kids, an unexpected whiff of jasmine while driving in the dark, an attractive landscape, the usual stuff. Anytime I’ve felt some truly mind-blowing out-of-body type experience, I’ve always woken up (usually right before “the good part” is scheduled to commence).

Because of this, I know I have an excellent imagination, and that if I were dead, or otherwise living an illusory life, I am quite confident that that life would be far more surprising and entertaining than the relatively mundane life I currently live actually is. If I were dead and, for example, damned to hell, my life would be considerably worse than it really is. If physical laws did not apply to me, believe me, I’d be flying and teleporting and making myself invisible all the damned time.

But our consensus of reality is real enough for me. I can’t fly nor levitate, no matter how hard I concentrate or flap my arms. I can’t turn into a werewolf, no matter how sharp I imagine my left upper canine feels some days. I am not tormented by demons, unless they happen to be particularly incompetent ones.

If my circumstances did not permit me to draw these conclusions with such confidence, mine would be a tormented life indeed.


Came here to post the exact same thing. Synecdoche is possibly my all-time favourite film.

It was Ebert’s “film of the decade,” too.

Of course, we stand at the cusp of artificially mediated mind and reality, drawing ever closer to the realm of the simulation, which I feel begs the question; Is there not a chance that happened already?

The simulated mind may need to come to terms with itself before it can be introduced to the ‘real world’, what lessons will we learn today?

People already report a sense of discombobulation when exiting well made VR environments and those technologies are a far cry from the potential of full immersion.

Shit’s about to get weird. So weird that it may, in fact, already be that weird.

Dead? Sure, you could be dead. You might never have been alive.


I’m so sorry you went through this. I have some similar experience, and it’s a nightmare.

Well, y’know… it’s fun to think that stuff every now and then, but I don’t waste too much time fiddling around in solipsistic fantasy too much anymore, simply because if it’s all an illusion, it’s a pretty in-depth and stubbornly persistent illusion that constantly demands I pay my bills and get the kids to school on time. I’m standing by, hand on switch, ready to jump at the first sign that we’re in the Matrix, or that supernatural forces lurk 'neath the manhole covers, or that reality is being stitched together out of paper-clips and a.b.c. bubblegum just outside the corners of my vision… but until any of these (or other as-yet unimagined) possibilities makes itself apparent to me, I gots ta be a grownup.



The underlying substrate matters not, it’s the consistency of the data set that’s surely the most important. We’re all living in a 4D hologram projected from beyond the edge of space anyway.
I just mean that weirdness abounds and we must make a life in it. Musings about the cardinality of reality are also a matter of course for people who suffer from no delusion.

But I suspect that ‘no delusion’ may be built upon the flimsiest, paper thin reality anyway.

:musical_note: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da