Thursday, October 24, 2019

Dreams and Reality

Life is but a dream.

When we were kids, we had a song that we used to sing in rounds:

    Row, row, row, your boat, 
    Gently down the stream. 
    Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, 
    Life is but a dream.

In some eastern traditions, it is taught that what we perceive during our lives is like a big dream, that the dream of life and regular nightly dreams are not all that different. The main difference between the two states is that our waking state is more deeply linked to attachment. It seems more real, therefore we cling to it more.

Movies like "Inception" and "The Matrix" deal with dreams and reality, and how we create and perceive the constructs of dreams. These ancient themes about realities as constructs appeal to me because they touch upon some deep inner feeling that we are more than the dreaming self, more than the awake self. When I see or hear stories or movies like this, there's something about them that feels true to me. It feels right to accept the idea that both these selves, the dreaming self and the waking self are somehow constructs. Just like the architect in "Inception" creates the dream landscapes for the dreamers in the movie, we are the architects of our lives.

I wonder if that is why these stories appeal to so many of us.

I know that many dreams seem to just be ways for us to process the day's activities and thoughts, but others are meaningful; some of the events and characters I meet in my dreams are just as real as the Janet sitting here and typing this. They may be organized around different themes, like perhaps a procession of Janets experiencing the importance of a trait like honesty, rather than one single Janet exploring a lifetime chronologically with certain people and events being the focus. The dreaming self isn't tied to time and space, or even to a single Janet. It has great flexibility.

Yet so does the waking self. Within the overall framework of chronological time, of place and of people, we have a lot of range for movement and exploration. Things may not be as instantaneous, but we can build trends by deliberately placing our interest on the things we want to include.

I find this all fascinating. Which is real? Or are any of them? Is each deeper level of dream taking us farther away from reality or closer to reality? Or is it just another perception? I don't have any answers, but the questions themselves seem to lead into new areas of creativity and growth.

Perhaps that is what the architect of our lives is looking for.