Jared Loughner's world of illusion.

Media criticism.
Jan. 13 2011 7:32 PM

Jared Loughner's World of Illusion … and Ours

The accused Tucson killer isn't the only one who has a love affair with alternative realities.

(Continued from Page 1)

According to the Post, Loughner especially loved the movie Waking Life, which chronicles one man's adventures in the dream pool, as he walks "in and out of dreams, exploring ideas about the fleeting nature of identity."

Dreaming your way to a magical space was already a hackneyed notion by the time Dick started writing in the 1950s. Alice dreams her way to Wonderland, Dorothy's unconscious mind transports her to Oz, and Peter Pan takes Wendy and her brothers to Never Land as they prepare to settle down for a night's sleep. In all three stories, the young heroes struggle against the sometimes tempting, sometimes frightening alternative reality until they break free and return home. So satisfying were these tales that their audiences demanded—and were given—sequels in which Alice, Dorothy, and Wendy all return to their other, truer dimensions and were tested again.

Advertisement

Everybody shares Loughner's appetite for life in another dimension where they can be in control. One difference between Loughner and the man in the street is that the man in the street can easily distinguish between the imagined and the real—something Loughner appears to have struggled with. When our minds occupy alternative realities, we know it's only a movie, only a book, only a philosophical tract, or only a flask of physicists' moonshine. When we visit alternative realities, our grips on this reality grow firmer. When Loughner goes there, I suspect he strips a few mental threads and loses his hold on our world.

What's it like to live on the leading edge of paranoia? From his perspective, what does his 6-by-6 cell look like? Is it a collapsing cube or does it stretch beyond the infinite?

******

What alt-reality stories, movies, and authors did I neglect to mention? Surely something by Borges. Send tips to slate.pressbox@gmail.com. For an unsavory reality, dip into my Twitter feed. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

Track my errors: This hand-built RSS feed will ring every time Slateruns a "Press Box" correction. For e-mail notification of errors in this specific column, type the word Dick in the subject head of an e-mail message, and send it to slate.pressbox@gmail.com.

Like Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

The Best Thing About the People’s Climate March in NYC

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

John Oliver Debunks the Miss America Pageant’s Claim That It Gives Out $45 Million in Scholarships

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 22 2014 1:29 PM “That’s Called Jim Crow” Philip Gourevitch on America’s hypocritical interventions in Africa.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 1:37 PM Subprime Loans Are Back! And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.
  Life
Lexicon Valley
Sept. 22 2014 1:22 PM Is Arabic Really Just One Language? 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 22 2014 2:12 PM Crusader, Sans Cape The superhero trappings of Gotham are just a clever disguise.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 11:23 AM Two Impacts, One Landslide … on Mercury
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.