How to Experience the Dreams of the Waking World - #92

 "Am I dreaming?" - It's a periodic question raised in A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming to help you differentiate from the waking and dreaming worlds. Yup, it's like the totem in Inception. And although we're all very familiar with that movie, even scientists are still very unfamiliar with why we sleep and, arguably, more importantly, why we dream.

Lucid dreaming is knowing you're dreaming when you're in it, not simply reflecting later on in the waking world, like most of us do. It is the very real ability to interact with the subconscious playground of your mind, so the field guide says. 

My mind was screaming serendipity when I found myself at the launch party for the guide book last night, only a five minute walk from my new apartment. Listening to the authors speak about how the book came to creation, I couldn't help but feel like this was why I moved to a giant city, to crash into opportunities and moments that would zig and zag my course every day.

Jared, one of the authors, made it a point to note the surrealism of the whole experience of launching the book. The three authors shared their lucid dreaming experiences over the years and dove into the project of writing the book. They started to use Kickstarter to crowd-fund their project and even accidentally met one of the founders of Kickstarter on a whim, and he later featured the project on the site, boosting their contributions. And then it was picked up by a publishing company and spread even further than those with the faith to hand over money to have it made. 

Surrealism was the hilarious period to Jared's comments on the process, but he made an excellent point to the concept of the book. The excitement and adventure of being able to dream anything we want when we fall asleep has real world consequences. It can make you more aware that the two worlds don't have to be that different, and dreaming in the waking world can be just as wild and amazing.

And so there I found myself, chatting with the authors in the Black Rabbit bar down the street. And right now I'm writing with a new kind of faith and understanding that this world could be just a dream. It's worth remembering, checking. "Am I dreaming?"

The challenge is to experience it, whether in the waking world or dreaming world. Louis CK seems to have his hand on the pulse of this idea. He hit a chord once before on Conan with the now viral video Everything is Amazing and No One is Happy. And he did it again most recently with his argument against the constant, ubiquity of cell phone attention, particularly for children. We're so buried in our phones and digital communication that we forget, or worse, never learn, how to be an empathetic, interested person in real-life communication. We forget that life can be sad sometimes, and we're not sure why. Louie makes this easier to digest than anyone I've ever seen or heard.

Jason Silva might have the right kind of response to follow it up. What Silva says about the existential bummer of our mortal love is so beautiful to me now, I had to write it all out here instead of rely on the video (which you're free to watch too):

"There is a sadness to the ecstasy. Beautiful things sometimes can make us a little sad and its because what they hint at is the exception a vision of something more, a vision of a hidden door, a rabbit-hole to fall through but a temporary one. That thing ultimately that is kind of the tragedy. That is why love simultaneously fills us with melancholy. That's why sometimes I feel nostalgic over something I haven't lost yet because I see its transience.

And so how does one respond to this? Do we love harder? Do we squeeze tighter? Or do we embrace the Buddhist creative of no attachment, do we pretend not to care that everything and everyone will know is going be taken away from us? I don't know if I can accept that. I think I'm more side with the Dylan Thomas quote that says, 'I will not go quietly into that good night but instead rage against the dying of the light.' I think that we defy entropy and impermanence with our films and our poems. I think we hold onto each other a little harder and say I will not let go. I do not accept the ephemeral nature of this moment. I'm going to extend it forever. Or at least I'm going to try."

What we need to do is feel it. Experience the sadness of being alone, without texting someone. Experience the happiness of sticking with a skill or habit, and reaping the benefits. Take the risk to make something surreal. 

Until next time...
I explode into space.


Explode into Space #66 - The Treasure & Trouble of Owning Your Story

Dear Readers,

Like the hard-boiled detective dodging tricky dames and whizzing bullets or the sci-fi hero traveling to the ends of the galaxy to roll out justice, we're all searching for our story while we're creating it. We are the stories we tell ourselves and others. You can't deny that everyone loves a good story, it almost seems within our nature. As Jason Silva quotes Douglas Hofstadter in his latest video The Mirroring Mind, we are "miracles of self-reference". 

Stories keep us equal-parts sane, providing structure and context, and advancing forward to The Next Best Thing. Would we aspire to anything if we didn't first see those achieve it before us? Would Tyson have been anything without the existence of Ali? Would Louis CK exist without George Carlin? Would any astronaut ever exist without Neil Armstrong? We adopt stories and tweak them as our own, pushing the corners of possibility.

The trouble comes when real life is not the fantasy we constantly imagine. Life coach Tony Robbins put it this way in a video entitled Create a New Story: "We live in a culture in the West that teaches people that you're not enough unless you're doing something really special and unique and we define special and unique in interesting ways." We can't all be rock stars and supermodels, just by telling ourselves it can happen overnight. Dreams only work if you do. Nothing new, right? We fall into it anyway. Personally, I've always had this blueprint of independent wealth and success at a young age. Lord knows I've tried with random adventures and they failed for whatever was a number of reasons. The trouble that keeps me up at night is finding the way to push myself, my stubborn, comfortable self, up a hill, in the snow, both ways, to realizing I am my dreams. Life can feel so inauthentic until you're happy every day giving everything you can to become the person you want to be.

On the flip side you have to imagine that Life can throw a curveball. You can get hit by a meteor, slammed by a drunk driver, or diagnosed with cancer. The pain you experience, besides physical, is learning that this is now part of you, no matter what you do. I'm not a big comic guy, but if I remember correctly that's how most superheroes begin their transformation, with bitter rejection and delusion of their great responsibility. There is the beauty. You have to own your handicaps as quickly as your strengths, and write your story like no one else. Sure, it's not always cut and dry, clean and simple. Sometimes, we need to go outside ourselves to understand the story. Psychotherapist Philippa Perry delivers a gut-check with this warning: "We need to look at the repetitions in the stories we tell ourselves [and] at the process of the stories rather than merely their surface content. Then we can begin to experiment with changing the filter through which we look at the world, start to edit the story and thus regain flexibility where we have been getting stuck." 

The road to being extraordinary is paved with more than your normal stories. When someone asks what's up, is there really nothing to offer? When someone says FML, are they not just noticing the negative aspects of life? And while Emerson and Dr. Schuller and Napoleon Hill all had the idea that you are what you think about all day, I think it's more than that. You are everything you breathe in. You are the thoughts you think and the actions you take, and the story your thoughts and actions unfold. And as Joe Rogan notes, "You have to be the hero of your own story." 

What is your story? What is that fantasy in your head that's just not coming true? Can you change it or can you change yourself? There is no other way. Think about it.

Until next time...
I explode into space.