Maybe the only point of being awake is to sleep.
— Ann Germain, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine
Maybe we’ve had this wrong all these years. We sleep because our body demands it. The body requires we sleep in order to heal physically, and there is a school of thought that our dreams help us file all the stuff that consciously or unconsciously invades our senses while we’re conscious. Without dreams we would go insane and perhaps die.
But what if it were the other way around? We are awake to take in physical nourishment and to reproduce our kind in order for us to engage in our primary activity — to sleep and to dream? Maybe souls, our essences, our true selves, are found in the dream state. Isn’t it there that we might dip into the collective unconscious? Maybe it is only during what we call dreaming that we are connected to the universe.
Maybe this adds a little body to Chuang Chou’s familiar poetic, and gossamer, philosophic words:
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.
Let me tell you a story. It might be true. Sometime in the early hours of one Sunday morning, I met a man. We were leaving a party and we were walking outside on a balmy night, a night that was nearing morning. We talked easily, comfortably — as if we’d known and trusted each other for years. We talked about cancer and friendship as well as disappointment and hope.
The thing is we had just met. I cannot tell you where we were or who he was. We had no history. Further, the whole thing happened in a dream. As far as I know, this kind fellow, whose name I didn’t get or don’t remember, doesn’t exist in the real world or at least in the world I appear to be occupying at the moment. Yet, he was real. He had a distinctive face, a particular voice. I spoke. He spoke. For at least those flickering moments, he was a being. This isn’t an unusual experience. I’m not sure I’ve met anyone who didn’t dream.
In our dreams, we create people and places and often a set of circumstances, sometimes wonderfully pleasant, sometimes horribly frightening. Sometimes the story in our dreams unfolds surreally, impossibly — at least as we think of these things this way in our so-called conscious moments. Sometimes though, they are cut from the same, ordinary, three-dimensional fabric as our everyday lives. Yet — please excuse the redundancy — in many cases, these places and people, however real they appear to be, do not exist.
The question is this: Everyone has this reservoir of fiction that manifests itself during dream sleep. Is the writer — and let me broaden that to artist — simply given the ability to pull from the reservoir in the unconscious what he or she wants and bring it to the surface or is it something else altogether?
Then again, we have this question: Which is the awakened state? Or are these states equal in some fashion?
Could I pose the question that writing fiction is organized dreaming? Controlled dreaming?