I had a weird moment in a strange dream last night. It was a half-lucid dream. I knew I was dreaming, but I didn’t have any conscious control over the world.

There was an old woman in the dream, and I asked her: “If you’re dreaming, and you know it’s a dream, what does it mean?” And she thought for a moment, then said: “Nothing.”

Then I asked: “What about if you don’t know it’s a dream? Then what does it mean?” And she responded: “Everything.”

It’s kind of a paradox, isn’t it? If her words are true, then they shouldn’t mean anything, because I knew I was dreaming. But if they’re meaningless, then she was telling the truth, which means it wasn’t meaningless.

Earlier in the dream, I was discussing existentialism with two other guys who I thought were smarter than me. Then I realized that when you’re discussing existentialism with figments of your imagination, you usually have the upper hand.

Categories: Philosophy


S P Hannifin · March 7, 2011 at 5:52 PM

Actually, maybe it was a “meaningless truth”? That is, it was true, but implied nothing beyond itself? The only way to interpret a statement to be true or false, one must interpret it as being meaningful. But if it keeps being meaningful, then it might also imply things beyond its truth (the truth of some other logical deduction). So a meaningless truth is a truth that is considered meaningful only in determining the truth of itself (if interpreted with meaning), but is meaningless beyond that. Maybe this is the way out of many a paradox? Or maybe it’s just a stupid idea?

Luke · March 9, 2011 at 12:42 AM

Well, yes, you have the upper hand, if existence precedes essence! 😉

But yes, I love the fact that it seems possible to educate oneself / gain wisdom from a dream… which is, of course, one’s own mind! And how this bit of sagacity gets represented (for you, and in this case) as an old woman. Cool.

I think that’s related to what her answer meant. If you’re aware that what you’re learning is just something you made up, you discredit it; but if you observe the wisdom as you would a real scene, perhaps it gets treated differently in the mind?

S P Hannifin · March 9, 2011 at 1:16 AM

Aha! Yes, your interpretation makes more sense. My interpretation was simply to make no sense of it, but I guess that’s because it was my dream and I had to take into account what the woman said about it.

So the question is then: “If you’re dreaming, and you know it’s a dream, what does it mean *to someone else*?”

I would ask the old wise woman this, but I am not sure if we will ever meet again…

Luke · March 9, 2011 at 11:47 PM

Yeah, if you meet her again, better get in as many deep questions as possible!

S P Hannifin · March 9, 2011 at 11:59 PM

Since she apparently only gives one word answers, the real wisdom is in the interpretation… 😀

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