It’s exciting to note that in spite of our best technologies and intellectual sophistication, we are none the wiser about our nightly trips to impossible countries and conversations with impossible others. Brain studies have helped throw some weight behind the notion that there are physiological events intimately correlated with dreaming, but the mystery and suspense remains – and, I think, is heightened when we come to terms with the surprising results of fascinating psi experiments that have been conducted since the 30s, showing that there is much more happening ‘in our heads’ than is apparent.
What is even more interesting to me is being awake and – if I must widen the circumference of that rabbit hole just a tad bit more – the space between dreaming and wakefulness. At what point does a dream cease to be? At what point does what we suppose to be ‘reality’ come streaming in? If you are familiar with the Sorites paradox or ‘the paradox of the heap’, what is the line (the grain of sand) that divides dreaming from waking? It’s hard to tell since we do not know what the twain are.
I like to think that wakefulness is dreaming, only in concentrated doses. When we are awake, we are still dreaming – but our expansiveness, our affinities with unspeakable worlds, with pink plaintive seas and spinning gyres of light are displaced, forgotten briefly. We are brackets of contrived coherence in a sentence of utter incomprehensibility. In cherished moments during our waking states – when we sight a loved one afar off, the first moments we hold a newborn child, or in the split second that stands between us and death’s righteous claim – our native apertures of experience soften and the wilds trickle in. However, during sleep, our defenses are undone, and the ecstatic ‘reclaims’ her space, corroding our fixations and undoing our logic buttons. Perhaps dreams are emissaries of our source, echoes of a redemption we need not strive for, portals to grace. Perhaps they are endnotes on the text of our days, nudging us to find comfort in our bafflement, inspiring us to find the comedic in those things we take seriously.
We die a little every time we dream. And what a glorious dying this is – one that is surely missed in a modern world where sleep is derided as an affront to the more urgent task of ‘becoming someone’, and one which suggests to us that we are much more than can be contained, that if perhaps we slowed down a bit we could tap into realms that defy the lines between time and eternity, reason and madness, belief and heresy, you and me.
(In honour of Stéphane Charbonnier and faith)