|Dream Sailor by Alex Grey|
For myself, as I watched the movie I couldn't help but to keep thinking of the story of Chuang Tzu, the ancient Chinese sage:
Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly I awaked, and there I lay, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a barrier. This is called the transformation of all things.
For you see, the movie's real interest stems from the complication of dreams-within-dreams; similar to the animated film Waking Life, also about lucid dreaming. This multi-leveled nature of the dreams leads to confusion among the characters about what is actually reality. And I thought, how much like real life.
So who's to say whether this whole life is a giant fantasy, and when we die we wake up into the real? This isn't idle wondering, this is a serious, ancient philosophical and spiritual question. Many sages and wise men have used exactly that analogy, saying that enlightenment is like awakening from the dream; like lucid dreaming, you could say.
It comes down to this: how do you tell the real from the dream? And the answer is, we cannot. Dreams are as real to the mind as waking life, it does not consider it fantasy until we wake up. The experiences had in dreams are 100% real, as are the emotions; the brain makes no distinction. This is why a dream that can seem so very deeply real can trouble us for a long time, it can ruin a whole day, or longer, can change our behavior or our life.
|Who says gremlins are imaginary?|
But, you argue, in dreams people fly, or there are monsters, dead people come back to life, and so on. Yet let's be honest about things-- we cannot say if this our "normal" world is actually normal. Have you actually looked at some of the animals we share the planet with? Or the fantastic technology we now have access to? We can cross the continent in a few hours, moving at crazy speeds as we fly through the very sky, but all we do is bitch about the cramped seating or the ten minute wait to board. Humans can get used to anything.
(That in itself is an old philosophical question, I believe it was Hume who talked about it. Who's more impressed by magic, adults or young children? Who would be amazed if the law of gravity took a break? In both cases, it's adults; kids haven't lived in this world long enough to build expectations on such things. Dreams return us to that same sort of credulity.)