Thursday, August 19, 2010
Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Life is but a Dream
Lingering in the golden gleam--
Life, what is it but a dream?
I’m plowing through Stephen King’s Dark Tower series this summer and just finished book four, “Wizards and Glass.” A key theme and phrase in these books is “there are other worlds than these,” and there are many instances in the series where characters move in and out of worlds and times in a dreamlike fashion where death is not an absolute and people are never quite who they at first appear to be. Also, I recently saw Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” in which Leonardo DiCaprio plays a thief who can move in and out of his own and others’ dreams—but when can he be absolutely sure he’s not dreaming?
In both of the worlds created by these fantasies a person to some degree is able to choose his dream. In the Dark Tower, Roland the Gunslinger seizes opportunities to move between worlds (or are they dreams after all?) in his obsessive search for the Tower. In “Inception,” DiCaprio’s Cobb character moves between dream worlds as easily as pressing a floor button in an elevator, choosing to invade the dreams of others and even plant ideas in those dreams with dangerous and tragic results. In the end he must choose to return from a dream he’s having trouble letting go of but which he knows is destroying him. And in the end, is his chosen world just another dream, albeit a happier one?
It seems our experience of life is defined by our perception of it, so we can choose our dream—but it’s so damn hard to keep that in mind (as is the case when you are actually dreaming, especially during a nightmare). It’s difficult to be mindful that we have far more space and choice than we perceive, and that we can choose to swim up through the murky water toward the surface and the light rather than succumb to the illusion we’re drowning.
The other thing it’s hard to keep in mind is that everybody else is in their own dream, in various states of unconsciousness or wakefulness, and that their dreams are not yours, or vice versa.
Nothing is quite what it seems on the surface. If we’re not awake enough, we box ourselves and other people in with assumptions, “truths,” “limitations” that are not real. If only we could have a way to jog the memory like Cobb does in “Inception”--to spin the little top to help us see what is real. On the other hand, if we’re happy and at peace, isn’t that all the real we need?