Of late, I have often been dreaming in the third person. That is, I am nowhere to be found in the dream, at least not the “I” which exists in my waking life. Monica disappears entirely. She is not the dream, the dreamed of, or even the dreamer. Sometimes I perceive things in first person, see through eyes, hear through ears, think thoughts, but in the way of the narrator in a novel. I am just along for the ride. The eyes, ears, and mind do not belong to me. Nor do I have any ideas of my own to add to the mix, anymore than a movie thinks thoughts about itself. I don’t see an event, know the thoughts of the perceiver and then think in response “That’s not what I would do.” No, none of that.
Sometimes I jump from one person to another, as in a novel written from a third person omnipotent style. Sometimes I watch from without, though I am not aware of myself watching, only of what is occurring in that moment. There are full worlds, characters, plots, but they are not recognized as such at the time. It is simply what is, in the moment. It feels semi-lucid, but not in the way that one knows one is dreaming; in the way that one knows one is awake and capable of making choices. Although, it is not I who is choosing. Is this what the so-called experience of remembering past lives feels like?
When I wake, I can sometimes recall what I had dreamed, specifically. I can review it in my mind until it sticks or allow it to fade away, as dreams do. Often I see the mishmash from which the world is build – this bit from The Matrix, this from anime, this from Star Wars, this from Farscape, this from a novel, this from San Francisco, this from childhood, this for who the hell knows where. Once in a while, there is even a direct correlation in metaphor between my waking and sleeping mind-state, but not often.
I have dreamt in third person before, but not this frequently. Now, it is nearly nightly. This morning before waking was especially vivid, full of detail, plot cohesion, and lingered in my mind upon waking, begging to be fleshed out. There were many characters, a full post-apocalyptic world, cause, effect, and goal. It was a dark dream, bleak, but somehow not depressing. Anyone so concerned with survival as these people were doesn’t have time to become depressed.
Often in Buddhism, waking life is said to be no more than a dream, to have the illusory qualities of a dream. It is said that we need to wake up, like the Buddha, like he who is awake. We need to realize our own enlightened nature.
I have wondered, what would happen to a Buddhist in The Matrix? The red pill might have been a technological way to awakening, but what if someone did it on their own? What if someone sought to wake up and did, only to find themselves in a “real” world from which they had to “wake up” from all over again? Wouldn’t that kinda suck? Do you ever think the Wachowski brothers have a sick sense of humor?
Maybe we do have to wake up from dreaming, wake up from waking, and then wake up from a third, as of yet, undiscovered layer of delusion. In fact, I’m certain that we do, and I’m certain the layers of delusion are innumerably thick. That may sound very discouraging. Perhaps it is a byproduct of my dark dream seeping into my waking life. But like the person who I was in that dark dream, I’m not particularly depressed about the prospect. I find myself accepting of it. If that’s what the world is, then that’s what the world is. If I have to wake up a few hundred times, then I have to.
I often dream that I’ve woken, gotten up, dressed, gone about my day only to realize I am still dreaming and must struggle to wake up all over again. I go through this scenario a dozen times, start to feel the frustration, the struggle of pushing my way into full consciousness, like a physical weight on my chest. I imagine that I might spend the rest of my life doing just that.
Perhaps I am spiraling into nihilism. Perhaps that is what the post-apocalyptic dreaming is about. Yet oddly, I’ve always found post-apocalyptic stories to be rather hopeful. Awful shit happens and people survive, they get through it, bind together, help one another, struggle and go on struggling, but they do continue.
Maybe the post-apocalyptic world is a metaphor for the upcoming transition in my life. I’ll be graduating, but more important than that, I’ll be leaving Lincoln. I like it here. I’ll miss it here. Of course, comparing my own future to a dark, debris-strewn, deadly, nuclear wasteland is a little melodramatic, but it just goes to show I’ve read far too many books and watched far too many movies.
Besides, not all of these third-person dreams are dark and fraught with danger – some are bright and pretty and fraught with danger.