The philosopher, Rene Descartes, tried to figure out what could be proven to be verifiably in existence (in contrast to what might possibly be a dream), and the only thing he could determine with a certainty was the existence of the thinker who was trying to figure this stuff out.
His efforts provided his now-famous conclusion: “I think. Therefore, I am.”
I come at it from a different perspective.
I’m attending a play at an outdoor amphitheater. As the audience is about to take their seats, a woman approaches me. Attractive, mid-thirties, a number of months pregnant.
Her voice is friendly.
“Hi,” I reply, taking an equally friendly tone. But my betraying eyes are screaming, “I don’t know who you are!”
She picks up the cue.
“I worked with you on Best of the West.”
Best of the West was a television show I’d created and produced a decade or so earlier. This woman had apparently worked on it with me. I have no recollection of her whatsoever. But she’s nice. And she’d taken the time to say hello. Pregnant and all.
I owe her my attention. Which emerges as hyper-interest and concern. What have you been up to? When’s the baby happening? Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl? My guilt at her absence from my memory bank sends me into “interest-overdrive.” I’m just jabbering away. Blah-buh-blah-blah-blah.
It’s totally meaningless. Except for the underlying message. Which is: “Don’t hate me for forgetting who you are.”
The play’s about to start. I unnatural a, “Nice to see you again”, and we take our seats. The play begins.
Don’t ask me what it’s about. I am way too upset. I had insulted a totally nice person. Right in front of her prenatal child.
I can’t let it go. I am determined to make amends. When the play ends, I search for her in the departing audience, hoping to send her home with a finishing dollop of Pomerantzian je ne sais quoi. I discover her, still sitting in her seat. The pregnancy suggested that she not buck the crowd.
“Remind me,” I inquire familiarly. “What exactly did you do on Best of the West?”
To which the woman replies,
“I was your assistant.”
Moments like this provide the verifiable evidence of my existence.
“I embarrass. Therefore, I am.”
Ironically, it’s on precisely those occasions when I wish I weren’t.