Tuesday, 30 June 2009

807 - Other People's Dreams

One, possibly the biggest, of the issues I've been wrestling with is the relationship between objectivity and subjectivity - the experiences I have externally (relationships, meals, physical contact in a built or natural environment), and those, like dreams, that are internal.

At point of dozing, hauling myself awake again, I've just caught myself imagining a tractor, straining through mud. The image came into my mind unbidden, but I was party to its creation, as in the process of inspecting it I evolved the mud against which the tractor wheels were set. At the same time I sensed bodily the strain the tractor would be undergoing. A second of clarity, then I was out of the dream state and back in the external world.

Reflecting on this, it seems to me that I used the image to relay within myself useful information about my state of being snappily and provocatively. The incentive was there to pull awake before a bog of sleep sucked the tractor down. Acting in such a way as to move the tractor, and thus myself, free of a catnap, necessitated a role change from observer to driver of the machine, in the process of which the internal state of mind in which I was able to stand separate from tractor me passed, to be replaced by one where I and tractor me, combined, re-engaged with the external world.

If in dreams I am encountering and watching the interactions between aspects of myself that is more or less what the poets, philosophers and psychologists I have read say happens. The difference is that reading about other people's experiences is no substitute for my own. I needed to catch myself in the act in order to know the truth of it. The biggest question is whether the internal world I experience in dreams is in any way connected to the internal world of everyone and everything else. Whether we can dream through each other's borders, perhaps not all of the time, but some of it.

The question then would be whether the tractor had some form of objective reality, one that I was borrowing, sharing for a while, perhaps share even now. Climbing mountains in the Lake District there were times when I set myself physically against the local stone. I reached the summits because in some sense I was identical to them (if we were a different state, I'd not be able to match foot against rock - there'd be no action:reaction). I concluded that in each of us there is a bit of mountain. That's true subjectively, and also objectively. Who's to say whether the words are a statement of science, or poetry, or both?


Dominic said...

This makes me think of 2 things.

Firstly the act of observing a brief dream as analogous to a larger system brought to mind the hermetic concept of as above so below - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeticism#As_above.2C_so_below

Secondly and as a slight aside I came across thing called the ceremony of doors a while back. I heard it was some ancient practice (Egyptian) but can't find anything to back it up. It involves stopping for a moment every time you pass through a doorway and ask yourself if you are dreaming. Eventually this becomes a habit. Then one time you walk through a door, ask yourself if you are dreaming and you will be surprised to find that your answer is yes.

Steve Lancaster said...

I've been thinking about the ceremony of doors since you posted about it.

Some of the neuroscience I've read looks at the shifts in worldview we undergo whenever we leave one situation and enter another: different neural networks come into play. When I leave our house and go out into the world I frequently feel I am leaving my 'home' persona and entering my 'public' persona. I am far more aware of the world around me, far more outward focussed. It feels like a very different me.

Steve Lancaster said...

Too many esses in focused!