I took a nap this afternoon for two reasons. Firstly, my internal clock has been completely out of whack for about the last week and my body seems to think that 2 PM is bed time, and secondly because I had a headache that made doing just about anything else painful. (And I still have it; it’s diminished, but won’t go away.)
During this nap I had some weird dreams. It begins with me walking through a huge crowded city with enormous skyscrapers lining the streets. I’m trying to get somewhere, back to a hotel or something. And as I’m walking down a sidewalk, a huge storm of comes barrelling out of nowhere, tearing apart buildings and obliterating everything in its path, and voosh, it kills me.
I wake up, still tired with a headache, so I roll over and go back to sleep.
I return to the city. Same place. Same thing happens. Storm comes out of nowhere, wrecks the city and kills me.
Then I restart the dream in a different place, and the dream becomes semi-lucid, I’m aware that I’m in a dream and that a storm is going to come out of nowhere and kill me, so it becomes sort of like a game. I try running into a building before the storm hits me, but it still kills me. I try getting on a train, but the storm still kills me. I try talking to other people, warning them that a storm is coming, but that doesn’t help.
Then I start moving toward the storm to find out where it’s coming from, and I find that it’s being created at the top of a tall skyscraper where people are partying and a rock band is playing; it’s like they’re summoning it, stirring up the clouds above them with their noises.
Having discovered the source of the storm, I am somehow able to evade its path of destruction, but something else ends up killing me anyway. I fall out of a window or a building topples on me.
And now for the finale of the dream, which makes no sense.
Finally, after having been killed many times in this city, I find myself in a large white room with two others (who took on the bodily forms of two old dead actors, whom I won’t name because it seems ridiculous in waking life). We were looking at a slide presented on a projection screen which displayed a little squiggle at the center of a large circle.
“We did it!” one of the old guys said, smiling and giving me a hug. I had a vision that the city was now completely devoid of all life and motion; it was empty and still. Somehow this was a victory.
Looking at the slide, I understood that the squiggle in the center represented the storm, while the large circle around it represented… our soul’s understanding and experience of it, or something. So we had gained victory over the storm not by destroying the storm, but by growing the circle around it large enough that it diminished in its relative significance. And we had grown the metaphorical circle by continually trying to escape the storm, even though the storm always won.
At this moment I had a few insights, which seemed profound in the dream:
One insight was that the soul “solves” problems (at least certain sorts of problems) by growing around them, not by annihilating them (which it does not have the power to do by itself).
“Aha,” I said, trying to put this realization into words, “The bridge one must cross becomes the cross one must bear.” I thought that was very profound.
The old guy laughed and replied, “Yes, but don’t say that; it won’t make sense to anyone.”
In the dream, I thought, but I must share it, it’s so profound! Upon waking, I realize that “bearing your cross” is already filled with enough varied meaning for people that adding the metaphor of crossing a bridge is only likely to obfuscate it. (Although I thought the double meaning of the word “cross” was interesting.)
Another insight was that life experiences are like movies on a screen. The soul, or the consciousness, or whatever, is like the movie screen, while the movie is the experience of life. The screen is necessary for the movie to exist, it remains existing even after the movie’s over, and the movie can never hurt or damage the screen. The sufferings of life are like the conflicts in the movie; they’re real from the point of view of the movie, but they’re illusory from the point of view of the screen. The screen remains pure and untouched. (How to actually separate what is the movie and what is the screen is perhaps very difficult while the movie is still playing; it’s hard to really see the screen “behind” the movie, they seem like one thing while the movie is playing.)
The final insight is the most difficult to express in words, but I will try. The soul does not solve its problems with logic, but rather with experience and Free Will. Actually everyone probably intuitively understands this when it comes to something like love. Where does love for someone come from? It’s not the result of some kind of logical deduction. But the insight is more than that; it’s that everything the soul grows or becomes is “beyond” logic. This is not to say that logic is “wrong” or unimportant; it is useful, important, and an undeniable part of worldly existence. The soul still “contains” logic. But soul growth comes from the use of Free Will in response to experiences, from decisions of the heart, on which logic itself is founded in first place.
Another example may be: why do you enjoy a piece of music? You don’t follow logical arguments for or against it; it is simply in the nature of the music to emotionally move you. There may be some logical basis for the music, the mathematical structures behind the harmonies of the sound, the physical nature of the neurons firing in your brain as the sounds vibrate through your ear’s cochlea. But the emotional experience of the music is beyond all that, even if it depends on it for its physical manifestation.
Reading back over all that, I’m not sure if any of it is interesting or makes much sense, but I thought it worth writing about for at least my own interest.
I still often think back to that strangely vivid dream I had in 2018, Two weeks in another world, in which I thought the dream lasted for an entire two weeks. Obviously I was not in a coma for two weeks; the dream really only lasted a few hours or perhaps even a few minutes. But what exactly does “really” even mean? In waking life, we perceive a world through our senses and derive meaning out of it, but just how “real” is that meaning? We could say it is not real at all, because it is entirely open to interpretation; different interpretations of the same set of perceptions create different meanings. On the other hand, we could say those meanings are the ultimate reality, because it is with and through those meanings that we experience the world and exercise our Free Will, our very being. So if defining the nature of reality is difficult enough with waking life, what about dreams?
The experience of speaking with others in dreams is what mystifies me the most. In a dream, I am not consciously thinking or deciding what another being says, so just where the heck do his words come from?! I suppose it could be something like GPT-3, just a bunch of connections in the language part of the brain firing randomly? And perhaps when it says something seemingly profound, it’s just a matter of survivorship bias; it outputs mostly nonsense, but when it outputs something that the conscious mind responds well to, it gets remembered and seems more mystifying than it actually is. That might be it.
Dreaming is fun! More dreams please!