Ortega y Gasset, meet Lady Gaga

Someone I interviewed recently quoted Ortega y Gasset from The Revolt of the Masses as saying “listen closely and what you will see is instead of people trying to describe reality, it’s their attempt to try to escape reality.”

It’s a paraphrase (see the full quote below). The person I interviewed used it to belittle academics, whose sheltered reality infects their research. That would probably make Ortega y Gasset frown, since academics presumably qualify as those small few who should set the rules for the masses. I wonder about my own sense of reality. Part of me believes I’m quite reasonable; part of me thinks my sense of reason disregards reality. I know where that puts me on Ortega y Gasset’s scales. But I do think Ortega y Gasset was too kind to elites. Perhaps he thought their reality distortion fields preferable to that of the common person.

The full quote:

Take stock of those around you and you will . . . hear them talk in precise terms about themselves and their surroundings, which would seem to point to them having ideas on the the matter. But start to analyse those ideas and you will find that they hardly reflect in any way the reality to which they appear to refer, and if you go deeper you will discover that there is not even an attempt to adjust the ideas to this reality. Quite the contrary: through these notions the individual is trying to cut off any personal vision of reality, of his own very life. For life is at the start a chaos in which one is lost. The individual suspects this, but he is frightened at finding himself face to face with this terrible reality, and tries to cover it over with a curtain of fantasy, where everything is clear. It does not worry him that his “ideas” are not true, he uses them as trenches for the defense of his existence, as scarecrows to frighten away reality. — Ortega y Gasset, the Revolt of the Masses.

[cribbed from The Blog of Innocence, which cites Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death.]
To think this burbles out of binge listening to Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance.” Reason says I’m wasting time, or even pretending I’m 21 again and out all night at some Chicago club. But reality suggests I’m just in the mood for something fun.

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