Dreaming Life and Living Dreams

I’ve been finishing up a story that asks if we are awake or dreaming. Recently I read from the brilliant scientist author Oliver Sacks, “Waking consciousness is dreaming – but dreaming constrained by external reality.”

Are we dreaming life?

Dreams, the ones when we are asleep, seem to me to be somehow pure. Pure self. In contrast, the dreaming-while-awake seems often very boxed in, and maybe this is by external physical realities. The time of day, the heat or cold of the air, work or unemployment, time spent in the company of friends or enemies or strangers all box in our dreaming-while-awake.

I’ve been fascinated by dreams, the sleep time ones, and nightmares for as long as I can remember. How is it that the mind creates and lives such vibrant experiences when out of touch with external reality? It’s baffling. But it is also true that when I write stories, they come to me as dream like thoughts. Unbidden, difficult to grasp, sometimes frightening, and almost always unrelated to external physical realities of the moment. It has not yet been possible for me to really “work” at a story any more than I work at a sleeping dream. Spending a little time trying to understand both the sleeping and waking thoughts, and to make room for my dreams, becomes more and more important to me as I get older. And the more I write, in a sense, the more I am living my dream.

What do you think, are you dreaming life, living a dream? A little of both?

Please leave a comment to share views.

17 thoughts on “Dreaming Life and Living Dreams

  1. Dreams are essential. If you ever took a sleeping pill you know that the sleep they cause isn’t very relaxing – sleeping pills shorten the rapid eye movement sleep and so the time we dream.
    But dreams are essential for soul and mind, too. They can help you escape hard times and of course they can give you the strength to fight for a better life (“I have a dream…”!)…

    …and maybe we are a dream within a dream….

    A Dream Within A Dream

    Take this kiss upon the brow!
    And, in parting from you now,
    Thus much let me avow-
    You are not wrong, who deem
    That my days have been a dream;
    Yet if hope has flown away
    In a night, or in a day,
    In a vision, or in none,
    Is it therefore the less gone?
    All that we see or seem
    Is but a dream within a dream.

    I stand amid the roar
    Of a surf-tormented shore,
    And I hold within my hand
    Grains of the golden sand-
    How few! yet how they creep
    Through my fingers to the deep,
    While I weep- while I weep!
    O God! can I not grasp
    Them with a tighter clasp?
    O God! can I not save
    One from the pitiless wave?
    Is all that we see or seem
    But a dream within a dream?

  2. Leaving another ‘trace’… ‘Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn’t know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi.’ http://bit.ly/iiK6fa

    1. What a beautiful story of Zhangzi. I wonder what my dreams think of me. I often try to understand the dream, but expect as well that the dream is trying to understand me. It is very interesting to me how the mind seems different in the two states, with different ideas, images, permissions. Thank you for sharing the story and the link here.

  3. A slightly different approach, from me. A bit removed from the dreaming-life/living-a-dream angle/realm of thinking. My private fascination is with dreaming/sleeping, more specifically – and curiously enough, perhaps – with Death and Sleep and Dreams personified. In Greek mythology, and according to Hesiod, Hypnos (the personification of sleep) and Thanatos (the personification of death) are twin brothers, sons of Nyx (Night); portrayed here http://bit.ly/127RR1 as slumbering boys by Waterhouse. Always wondered what these two are dreaming about. Among other offspring of mother Nyx, and siblings to the twins, are the triplets of Morpheus, Icelus/Phobetor (the personification of nightmares) and Phantasos, all three collectively known as the Oneiroi (Dreams). No painted image of the slumbering trio exists to spur one’s imagination, but one can’t help wondering what the sleeping Dreams (the Oneiroi) might be dreaming about.

    1. Hi Vintuition, I am amazed by your comments for a number of reasons. First, the death and sleep commentary. I have thought for a long time that sleep is like a little slice of death, something Edgar Allan Poe writes about too. Except that he feared it, and hence the drugs. Unlike Poe, I don’t mind about the sleep death similarity. It feels to me as if each night we return to that place from whence we came and to which we ultimately return. Something not quite conscious, but something that can be good or at least neutral. Second, the Greek myth references are fascinating, new to me. Thank you for the lovely picture link. It is irresistible to wonder what others dream while they are asleep, and tempting to wonder what happens when we are in the final deep sleep.

      1. [Some random, and rather tired end-of-day thoughts] ‘Something not quite conscious’, you wrote. Those sleep – wake/wakefulness transitions fascinate me far more than dream(s)/dreaming. The surrender – body, mind and all – to cyrcadian rhythmicity, much like plants, animals and bacteria – bacteria ‘do it’, too – http://bit.ly/2p4yyD – but I’m digressing. The mystery of consciousness/unconsciousness as the conscious mind withdraws into the [dreamless] sleep, that slightly fearsome ‘gap in thinking’, the existential ‘break’ that comes with the fact that in the dreamless sleep the mind effectively stops thinking (- and existing? Remember Descartes here, and his cogito-ergo-sum, ‘I think, therefore I am’) and on waking returns to thought (and existence). That repeated ‘involuntary’, circadian journeying to the periphery of consciousness [and beyond?]. But this, too, is where I must stop, and say good night [smile].

  4. Whoa, one could publish an entire blog on just the different theories about dreams (in fact, I’m sure someone does.) My girlfriend dreams of things that then happen, little events mind you, within the next 1-2 days. Like ALL the time. I’m not superstitious, and I don’t believe in aliens, but I really think she’s some kinda precog.
    I don’t put a whole lotta weight in dreams. But I often think that reality is much different than we believe it to be. It’s best described in the book VALIS, by the sci-fi writer Philip K Dick – practically all of his stories question what reality is. In VALIS, the theory is that this has all happened before and it’s just happening again. Or to put it another way, the past is happening right now, along with present events – that “time” doesn’t exist as we know it. I could wax philosophical about it for pages, but it’s not an entirely original concept that time is a man-made concept and nature does not work in just one direction. How awesome would it be if in a dream state, our brains are accessing the truer state of reality that is outside our linear vision.

    1. Hi Jakethy, I love that idea, dreams potentially accessing a “truer state of reality outside our linear vision.” So cool about your girlfriend’s dreams. This happens to me too, small details dreamed follow the next day. But then it makes bad dreams terrifying. It never occurred to me that it might have already happened. Philip K Dick was on to something with his fiction, a beautiful insanity. Thank you for sharing your experiences here.

  5. I love the movie, The Matrix, for its fun treatment of this very question.

    I think we all exist on different levels of consciousness. Some are more awake and aware than others. Hopefully we can grow toward an increasing awareness (awakeness) as a race. It’s probably the difference between our survival or eventual extinction.

    1. Hi Cynthia, I recently watched The Matrix and the presentation of violence disturbed me but the ideas were fascinating. I like the idea of fearlessness in it, and of breaking through boundaries. Some dreams surely seem more “awake” than some conscious experience do. Thank you for adding your insights here.

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