Sing with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laugh, sing for the tear
Sing with me, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away
Dream On...Dream On...Dream On
Dream until the dream comes true
--Dream On, Aerosmith
Have you ever had a lucid dream? We had one once, a long time ago, and the memory lingers. Not the memory of what transpired--like all dreams, this one has dissolved in the fog of the past--but the memory of the intense feelings it evoked. Namely, we woke feeling invigorated, with a burning passion to do that again!
Lucid dreams, of course, are dreams in which you realize you are dreaming, and are thus able to control your actions and (more importantly) everything about your environment. Want to fly? No problem. Sex with Megan Fox? Done. In short, a lucid dream is essentially a movie in which you not only star, write, and direct, but are not subject to the rules of the physical world. In many ways it is akin to the "training module" in The Matrix (or, to be honest, the Matrix itself, at least for those able to recognize it...)
Try as we might (which essentially consisted of reading a few articles about lucid dreaming and experimenting with a couple of methods, such as "watching" ourself fall asleep), we were unable to replicate the experience. However, it occurred to us recently that the only difference between lucid dreaming and what we think of as "reality" is the aforementioned control over our environment (well, that and physical laws). In other words, what is to stop us from treating life as a lucid dream?
We have been experimenting with this for a few weeks and it has been an interesting experience. The concept is similar to the notion of playing a role, but with a key difference--when you treat life as a lucid dream it has the liberating effect of eliminating the illusion that others "exist."
Let us explain. In the cult classic "The Family Man" (all right, perhaps a classic only to us...), there is a scene where Nicolas Cage, freshly installed in his new "role," is asked by his 5-year-old daughter if he is really her father. No, he explains, he works on Wall Street ("with the big buildings"), and this is only a "glimpse" of an alternate life. "Well," the little girl asks, seemingly on the verge of tears, "where's my real dad?" This brings Cage up short--good question! This little girl in an alternate universe wants to know where her daddy is...and he has no idea!
But consider why this is unsettling to Cage. He is assuming the little girl exists in some sense, and that the absence of her"real" father is upsetting her. This, then, makes Cage feel bad, as he is the proximate cause of her distress.
Alternatively, think how the scene might play were Cage having a lucid dream. (First, he wouldn't be changing a diaper...) In a lucid dream there is no point in caring what others think, since they do not exist anyway, but are mere creations of our own mind. We know neither they or we are "real," and thus do not spend time worrying about what they might be thinking. We live purely in the moment, thinking neither of consequences nor past grievances.
(To head off an obvious rejoinder here, let us address the issue that such a viewpoint encourages one to cause harm to others, since it doesn't "matter." While this seems to logically follow, in fact it does not--one who renounces the self has no more desire for violence against others than to put out his own eye. In fact, it is the pernicious notion of the self that instigates and perpetuates such acts; one who has no self sees his physical incarnation as akin to sand on the beach. If there is no self then one is part of everything, and even the concept of violence ceases to make sense. Think about it...)
This brings us to the concept of playing a role, which, valuable as it is, has a flaw we only recently recognized. Put simply, while an actor in a play knows his actions do not "matter," and the people he interacts with are also playing roles, underlying this is the latent belief that he (and others) have some sort of "true nature." The "real" Nicolas Cage, for example, is apparently a chateau-loving fool on the verge of bankruptcy. But why do we differentiate this from other roles he has played? What if The Family Man were a long-running soap opera? For that matter, what about soap operas themselves? Imagine an actor that played a role on a soap opera from the age of 3 through death--who is the "real" person? What about The Truman Show?
Our point, of course, is to expose the fraud of the self for what it is--a diabolical illusion to which we are genetically in thrall, and our obsession with which has led directly and inexorably to the conflict, strife, and extraordinary unhappiness that define the human race.