Tuesday, August 31, 2010
The validity and value of lucid dreaming has only been recognized by the scientific community since about 1978. However, Lucid dreaming is almost as old as history. The Hindu culture wrote on lucid dreaming as early as 1000 B.C.E. and Aristotle refernced a knowledge of lucid dreaming in his treatise entitled On Dreams in the year 350 B.C. Before the Reformation and Enlightenment, the Catholic church and some of the most famous philosophers of the era begin to dismiss some dreams as false and others as true, creating a subjective value that cost dreams any significance in the scientific community and Western Culture. However, at the end of Descartes' Meditations, Descartes dismisses his own Dream Skepticism, as he recognizes that he can tell the difference between a dream and reality. This is a mere hint to where we can see a record of his own lucid dreams in a private journal entitled by future students of the work as: The Olympica.
Controlling your own dream creates limitless potential. You can build your own world, live your greatest fantasies, you can fly and you can defy physics entirely. There are few rules in dreaming, but since their rules are different than the confines of our common reality, it creates an alluring place for people to assert control.
However, not many people realize that this attitude and practice can also be applied to our waking lives. In Waking Life, a film by Richard Linklater, we follow a boy walking through a dream. He encounters nothing but what seem to be disconnected and unrelated experiences, occasionally with recurring characters. After reading The Words, Jean-Paul Sartre's autobiagraphy, I can say that I am beginning to understand Waking Life to a much greater extent. In Waking Life, the main character slowly begins to become lucid. He must struggle with the knowledge that his experiences are but a dream and that they are merely fleeting moments.
Although this describes dreams perfectly, it also describes reality in a vague sense. For example, when we take a look of Zeno's paradox of motion.
"If everything when it occupies an equal space is at rest, and if that which is in locomotion is always occupying such a space at any moment, the flying arrow is therefore motionless." -Aristotle, Physics VI:9 239b
Motion appears to be an illusion when we consider that within each moment, a unit we can assume to be the smallest divisible unit of time, we can take a snapshot of reality in which no motion occurs. Motion can not occur within this instant because it takes time to travel any distance. If time is removed and we examine an individual space on the spectrum of time, a single moment, then there is no observable motion. Which means that at this particular instant, I am only where I currently am and no motion is occurring. How then am I able to type and push these different keys if there is no motion between these instants? If motion does not occur in any particular instant within time- then how can motion exist?
There is a fleeting disconnect between each moment of time that it is difficult to grasp. We are not floating through time space, but we are one singular object. We exist as one entity from the moment we are born until the end. Any change is just an illusion created by a limited perspective. So then, does predestination exist? Yes, but it matters not- for the illusion of freedom is enough to guide us all pragmatically. If freedom does not truly exist, than we must re-invent it so that it may. So then, what about the possibility of a multi-verse? Does this create possibility, or does the illusion of possibility create a multi-verse? And if this multi-verse can possibly exist, does it's potential existence demand that it must? I say, no. Many people posit the possibility that the only moment that exists is the present one and that all past moments are merely illusions, implanted as false memories within the very singular moment of the present. This only becomes problematic when we begin to take our memories for falsehoods instead of experiences. If in the moment, we accept the possibility of infinite falsehoods and confirm our reality, than we are in better shape than most could hope to be.
But wait, just pick one at random and that's it? I know I'm leaning heavily on rhetorical questions, but bear with me. No, I reject that answer even more-so than living in doubt. That answer is to reject human development. It is laziness incarnate. It is what separates the Ubermensch from the nihilist; it separates happiness and meaning from abysmal despair. So then, we can do nothing but determine our limitations and how our lives can best be lived.
"On this bridge, Lorca warns: Life is not a dream, beware, and beware, and beware. And so many think because then happened, now isn't. But didn't I mention? The ongoing WOW is happening right NOW. We are all co-authors of this dancing exuberance, for even our inabilities are having a roast. We are the authors of ourselves, co-authoring a gigantic Dostoevsky novel starring clowns... An assumption developed that you cannot understand life and live life simultaneously. I do not agree entirely, which is to say, I do not exactly disagree. I would say that life understood is life lived. But, the paradoxes bug me, and I can learn to love and make love to the paradoxes that bug me, and on really romantic evenings of self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion. Before you drift off, don't forget, which is to say remember, because remembering is so much more a psychotic activity than forgetting: Lorca, in that same poem, said that the Iguana will bite those who do not dream, and as one realizes that one is a dream figure in another person's dream... that is self-awareness!"
We are the clowns that star in our own novels. We can write our own characters and live our own lives hoping to be Shakespeare's comedy- a story with a happy ending. So why would we avoid writing them to be the best stories we could possibly imagine? To understand life is to live it, in the way that we must read before we write. We must know the rhetoric of the language before we attempt to use it, or all meaning is lost. But is it simple enough to understand? It is a difficult question. Knowledge demands its use. You can not know things and never use them, or else you effectively know nothing. Fill your life with knowledge as if it were passion and you were living life as passionately as one could hope to live. This creates quite the paradox- quite the art and quite the beauty. How then are we to write our lives when so much of it is unpredictable? When other authors will stumble over us and when we know so little of the world around us? The answer lies in reading. Always read as much as you plan to write. keep the readings relevant and learn all that you can before your pen touches the paper. And once you start writing, don't stop reading. Always read as much as you plan to write.
And now for the final line. The (imagine your own accents) coup de grace of the self. A destruction of all knowledge long since sought by Descartes; a restoration to a Socrates just before we can build to a life worth living. A book worth reading as you write it.
What of those who don't dream? Some who refuse to face their selves and refuse to hope and evolve as a person. They will be bitten. This is no longer about real dreams, or it at least transcends them. For in his poem Lorca cries out:
"Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths"
We must live in a real and grounded world with hopes and aspirations and the will to continue to move in a world where death is not our inevitable destination, though it is inevitable. I will not live forever in the conventional sense, but I will live forever. I am unlimited as I exist in someone else's dream. I can control it to an extent, I am fleeting and I am dependent on something outside of myself for my reality. I am self-aware. Once someone wakes up, I will not exist. But in this dream I can do just about whatever I want to do, remembering that I am only a reflection of where I am.
The eternity in this instant is enough to satisfy me, but to be happy I use this instant wholeheartedly to make an unforeseeable next instant better. In Sartre's view, we are constantly redefining ourselves, an incomplete work until the exact instant of our death. Only in death are we entirely complete. So then, with an uncertain deadline we should do nothing more than to make the most perfect works we can. We must write our magnum opus, realizing that our greatest work should be ourselves. So read on, and learn to write. Then write the best you can. Lucidity is the key.