It was one of those dreams where, as usual, I didn’t realize I was dreaming. So I unquestioningly participated in a fully matured, yet strangely demented world located just beyond my grasp. As an experienced dreamer I’m comfortable enough with surrendering myself to presented circumstances and found no cause for anxiety in my dream’s inherently disordered context. For example, in this particular dream I blithely accepted my location (Rice University – I don’t remember traveling to Houston.), my time period (1962 – I was 1.) and my surroundings (why wasn’t I asking those nearby Texans what the hell we were all doing there?). And yet I felt no cause for alarm. Non-sequitur preconditions often arose in my dreams and never worried me unless I found myself in line for a Disney ride called Proctologists of the Caribbean.
A completely irrational dream world presents itself every night and we just merrily cooperate: “Oh yeah. I get this. I remember this from before. Of course I’m supposed to be at Rice University in Houston listening to JFK’s ‘Send a Man to the Moon’ exhortation at the age of one. Nothing to examine here.” How dumb is that? It’s as if we don’t want to appear unsophisticated to the superintending powers that oversee such nightly phantasmagoria so we play along pretending we understand what’s happening. That we should rise up and demand to know where we go each night seems a valid pursuit and yet we’re largely silent on the matter. I hear no talk of unionizing and beginning a “dream slow-down” unless and until we’re shown the mechanics behind dreaming. I see no real interest expressed in where we go or how we spend 33% of our lives.
And perhaps our neglect of dreams, or at least lack of curiosity in them, is of survivalist benefit. If prehistoric man spent more time focusing on his dreams and less time on catching rodents, we likely would’ve moved well down the food chain and I probably wouldn’t have the privilege of writing this story you’re now reading (maybe it’s rats, and not dogs who were really man’s best friend). Let us not forget, that’s how a parallel and contemporaneous human species known as homo stupido became extinct. This pensive species would often stop abruptly in the middle of the Serengeti to contemplatively ponder last night’s dream thereby becoming so paralytically self-absorbed they were easy prey for less ruminative predators.
We Know What We Think We Know
We live our lives as if we have an unshakable purchase on our place in the world – like we understand the lay of the land. And yet we cannot even discern the difference between our wakeful state and our sleeping state – and that’s a pretty big distinction. Shouldn’t we be bothered or at least curious about this? Certainly more curious about this seeming chasm in our comprehension of reality than we are about celebrity misbehavior or Facebook memes. It seems the bright line between the collective hunch known as reality and the warped field known as the dream worlds is an imaginary line – like the line demarcating Cher’s surgically enhanced lips or the one between church and state.
Who among us is willing to admit we have no idea how Earth’s Operating System (EOS) functions. Microsoft’s Disk Operating System (DOS), we get. EOS? – forget it. Short of our little mental fiefdoms we create with our 5 senses and our limited imaginations, we’re just an infinitesimal localized consciousness in an unfathomably vast ocean. In the words of celebrated oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, “We reside in the sea, floating and waiting, waiting and floating.” I’m uncomfortable with this description of our place in the universe. I recoil at ceding loss of control to any unknown force and yet somehow this may be the key to our liberation.
Perhaps the multidimensionality of dreaming is exalted way out of proportion and may be nothing more than nature’s nocturnal hard drive dump whereby we cleanse our mind of collected daily effluvia. Dreaming could be as mundane a mental function as morning bathroom activities are a biological one, as in – “Glad I got that out of my system. Now I can start my day.”
Have you ever looked at an ant and thought, “Does this pre-programmed arthropod have any idea how vast the universe is and how insignificant he is?” Similarly, a force that towers over us (some may choose to call him God) probably looks at us and wonders, “Does this pre-programmed primate have any idea how vast the universe is and how insignificant he is?” Levels Jerry, levels. Depending on where you’re at on the Fear Scale, understanding this analogy provides you with either an “a-ha” moment or an “uh-oh” moment?
Fortunately most of us are easily contented by the hope of a better tomorrow and a supposed unshakable purchase on our environment. And that’s probably a good thing if we earthlings are to do anything productive, orderly or beneficial. And although we humans tend to complain more than your average bear (whom I’m told don’t complain at all), we have made some progress as a species. By way of comparison let me put it this way: If you think waiting in line at a Taco Bell Drive-thru is something to complain about, try hunting and gathering scarce foodstuffs while dodging rocks and crude spears from hostile and competing tribes. That’s a reality show you don’t want to star in.
We are pleasured by a feeling of deep-seated well-being fostered by a working knowledge of our place in the universe. We feel very self-satisfied in our understanding of things like mortgage rates, geopolitical events and how if you stub your toe really hard you have to wait that agonizing 1½ seconds not knowing how much it will hurt until the pain starts to register – “Eoowww….not so bad.” These heuristics, these anchor points allow us to navigate the predictable Newtonian waters of Earthly existence. So what if we perceive barely 1% of what’s available. For example we only see the visible light bandwidth of the electromagnetic spectrum and are very gratified by our triumphal vision. We see it all – right? When in reality only the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum (not X-rays, gamma rays, radio waves etc.).
That preceding fragment was a purposeful incomplete sentence, presented as an example of how limited our garden grows. We’re stunted and we don’t even recognize it. I’m not going to delve into String Theory and Multiverses because being stunted is where it’s at. Or at least where I’m at. I’m haunted by my inability (lack of strength, awareness or resolve) to step into my dreams and shape them – if not lucidly at least participatively.
Or Don’t Consider This
Let’s not be fools here. More unseen stuff is going on around us than can be found at a pheromone-sniffing contest. We can’t perceive most of it with our onboard senses. As well should be the case. We don’t want our heart surgeon becoming distracted in mid-ligation by the exquisite beauty of an Ultra High Frequency radio wave wafting through the operating room while we flat line on the gurney. No, we’re situated in our bodies with appropriate blinders so we can carry out our mission here on earth (whatever that is). In the absence of drugs or transcendent spiritual experiences we perceive only what’s on offer. Unless we’re dreaming. And then all bets are off. Then we may find ourselves placed in a venue where we just inherently know, “Oh yeah I forgot I could breathe underwater” or “That’s right. There have always been 2 suns in the sky” or the more unsettling, “How long have I been having sex with my mother?”
They’re just dreams and we believe them like we believe those letters from Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes saying we may have already won. In this story we are the ants smugly thinking, “Oh I’ve so got this. Look at me. I’ve got a refrigerator worth of food, a nice colony to live in and oh boy do I love presenting Royal Jelly to the Queen Ant.” We’re so full of it. We’re so cowed by our comfortable surroundings in complete ignorance of the treasures awaiting in the vault of God. We proceed ahead believing in the surety of our place in the universe. And everybody is happy. Until the French Fries run out. Then it all changes. Then we start to wonder – didn’t they get the memo? Don’t they know it’s me and I’m not supposed to suffer?
Of course what’s the alternative? Do we cringe behind the couch panicking because we’re a temporary mass of atoms localized on some planet destined to burn up in a billion years leaving no record of our, or its existence? No. We all know something. An inkling. A remembrance. We’ve all stolen a glimpse of God’s coattail. And that, in the most circumlocuted, byzantine and fractal way brings me to our story. A dream actually. A dream not unlike the one I may be living now. But one alternately preposterous, unthinkable and yet believable.
In this dream everything was slightly altered but I didn’t quite notice it at first – like that time I accidentally walked into a gay bar. In the dream I was sitting in the stands of the Rice University football stadium watching President Kennedy deliver what I think is his “Send a Man to the Moon” speech on space exploration. The New Frontier had arrived, but the Beatles and the Mustang were still about a year away. I sense that something is slightly askew because in the speech the President is motivating the country to reach inward to the exploration of inner space. Inward? I’m perplexed.
In his imitable Bostonian accent, JFK elucidates his vision for the space program. The soaring rhetoric strikes a patriotic chord deep within me. But something is wrong. I keep listening, but I’m cocking my head like that dog listening to his Master’s voice on an old Victrola record player. JFK’s message today is off key and slightly demented as I hear him announce: “We propose to send a man to the center of the Earth and to return him safely to the surface in this decade. We choose to go to the inner core, not because it’s liquid, but because it is solid.”
Huh? WTC. What the Camelot is going on here. As I sit in the stands at Rice University I’m nonplussed (and I’m not sure being “nonplussed” was even legal in Texas then). In the dream JFK motivates us to go to Inner Space when in reality Outer Space was the focus of the original Mercury 7 astronauts. I’m starting to awaken into the dream. Inner Space is where truth abides say the sages. Perhaps this dream was a metaphor phor seeking spiritual grace through an inward journey. Maybe it was about a spiritual reconciliation only to be gained by searching deep within. Or maybe it was just the Taco Bell Gordita I ate before bed.
In my dream JFK’s message – “We propose to send a man to the center of the Earth and to return him safely to the surface in this decade. We choose to go to the inner core, not because it’s liquid, but because it is solid.” – was blithely accepted as a patriotic statement of factual national aspiration. I never once considered its feasibility, let alone its necessity. It wasn’t till I woke up that I began to laugh at the zaniness of his proposition to send a man to the inner core. Then again who am I to dismiss JFK’s core belief?