27 June 2011

Sleeptyme

In the past week, I've been to Seoul, Baltimore, NYC, and places unknown. I've been a South Asian law student, Malcolm Gladwell, inner-city reporter, and an assassin. I've experienced congestion road pricing schemes, fence building, social network exclusivity, police corruption, race relations between South and East Asia in America, George Carlin as a bad driver, rejecting homosexual advances, and the running of a convenience store.

All of this is largely possible by dreaming. Or rather by sleeping. A friend experienced monsters eating people tossed into a hole in the floor and other strangeness. Evolutionary speaking, dreams seem more or less to be the result of humans having brains, brains which remain reasonably active while one is asleep and continue to conjure up ideas, facts, and images. They're generally meaningless sets of incoherent imagery assembled into loose stories. But I'd submit that there are a couple of meaningful similarities between a dream world and our real world. Principally, the first is that dreams are inhabited by fears or wonders (people/friends dying, sexual encounters, places you've never been, etc). None of these seem always particularly "deserved" in the sense that there's always a working just system at play. The same applies in life.

"In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying." - A dream, the world asleep will begin to resemble more and more the world of the "living", awake, when one recognizes this "flaw", so to speak, of a belief in an ordered universe where justice is readily at hand. Our dreams possess no such system. Neither does reality. One should never worry that they are being punished for something they imagine they did wrong, and only the pangs of conscience that afflict them for things they did a wrong over, where a suffering is involved by their action (or inaction), should they begin to worry themselves. Imagined slights taken up by others, and in particular an imagined sense of balanced justice (say, an offence against "god") are not sufficient reasons for one to lose sleep and become fitful or insecure.

"It is a good viewpoint to see the world as a dream. When you have something like a nightmare, you will wake up and tell yourself that it was only a dream. It is said that the world we live in is not a bit different from this." - When the world resembles a dream for this reason, we can see more clearly what use we have for dreams. In expressing our fears and hopes, our aspirations and our paralysis, we're left free to make choices about which to follow in action. Asleep we are motionless, but travel widely and see great and fine works of others, perhaps even ourselves, and against this we see horrible things and will learn to accept them calmly or impassively as a manifest risk of our existence. We can get on a plane still having had a nightmare or a flicker of watching the plane explode, our bodies tumbling skyward and fatefully ground-ward to our unpleasant tinny of screams and eventual demise by acknowledging the likelihood of such things is more certain in a dream than in reality. Or we can witness pleasures possible only in fantastic realms and aspire to attain them.

In a dream we in effect control what is possible and select imagery, plots, or endings as we see fit in order to make a dream seem or appear coherent and meaningful. Our reality is little different. Some of our choices will be limited, imposed by conditions from others, but this is often because we choose to limit them ourselves. We have imagined far greater importance of ourselves and our actions upon others in still more of these cases of limitations. In the end however, what we're doing is settling upon things and activities that seem to appear coherent and meaningful.
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