Friday, April 06, 2012

Experience vs. Dreams

“Everything in this book really happened, but some of the things that happened only happened in my head.” Geoff Dyer, Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It.

“People always think something's all true.”
J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The other day, I arranged more than one terrarium on the table outside by my mural. The small terraria are real; the view from the painted window is not real. But the overall effect is pleasing.

The other day, a person I know described a vivid experience involving a train passing outside her bedroom window. In passing, the noisy train had woken her from a nice nap. She recounted that there was a neighboring lady who was going to buy the train, which was clearly frivolous and impractical.

The person recounting this experience is a dementia patient confined to a wheelchair and living in the midst of suburban houses where the nearest passing train is more than ten miles away. Her days are so routine as to be mind-numbingly boring, and I figure her dream-life is compensating by giving her something interesting to experience.

I am not the first person to speculate that if something does happen but only inside one’s own head such events are as real as experience as far as our brains are concerned. But what about the flip side of the question: can my brain insist that something I saw while awake was merely a dream, to be kicked to the curb of memory lane? There are more things these days that I’d rather forget than remember. At least, things that I can recall at the moment. For example, I’d rather remember the lovely blooming white iris, and forget the small crocodile lurking in the background.

It is sobering for me to consider that the foundation of my cognitive functions in the future rests on the shaky structure being constructed of my present experiences. Perhaps it’s time for me to research the whole lucid dreaming thing, so I can attempt to establish a less bewildering muddle of experiences to remember.

Then again, perhaps not. I do like trains.

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