Saturday, April 23, 2011

What's Real?

In the middle of the date I had to run back to my hotel room to use the bathroom, but couldn't go because my niece kept opening the door, so I ran to the neighboring hotel to see if they had a free bathroom.

As I crossed the plaza between hotels, I thought, "This is exactly the kind of thing I would dream about." How funny, because it was obviously real life. I wasn't imagining the concrete beneath me!

When I got to the neighborhood hotel, I climbed a staircase in search of a bathroom. But the staircase suddenly got closed off, and I couldn't continue. Goddammit! WTF! I walked back down the stairs and asked the bellman if there was a bathroom around. He walked me back up the stairs, and where there had been an impediment, now he opened a door to a dingy little dive bar. "There's a bathroom in there," he said.

After some searching, I found the rickety door to the men's room. But when I opened it up, it was not what I expected. It was a huge video game room-- many times larger than the bar I'd come from. I didn't see any toilets, but I walked around thinking they must be behind the huge rows of video consoles.

Then I woke up.


I apologize for springing this dream on you. I know that hearing about other people's dreams is about as interesting is watching videos of their child's birth, and if I had started the above passage with, "So I had this really weird dream...", you would have tuned it out much sooner. As I quoted Nicholson Baker in this blog a while back, "...lovers are the only people who will put up with hearing your dreams." And that's as it should be.

I'm generally not a fan of listening to other people's dreams. Dreams are your subconscious taking out the trash. I don't need to sift through the discarded coffee grounds and junk mail of your mind. (Unless, as Nicholson Baker says, we're sleeping together. Then I take my job seriously.)

But at least real dreams do give a glimpse into a real person. What I really hate is fictional dreams: reading an account of a dream in a novel or seeing dreams in a movie/TV show. Unless the dream is integral to the plot (a la Inception), I don't want to hear a crude imitation of some fictional character's subconscious. Invariably they are either too obvious or too cryptic. It's really hard to make something like that interesting to me.

So, anyway. The particular dream I had the other night was interesting only for the fact that, while I was dreaming, I acknowledged that it resembled a dream, and yet I still believed that it was 100% real. Even though it wasn't.


My certainty that I wasn't dreaming, when in fact I was, makes me wonder what is really real in my life and what isn't. I will often daydream about whether the things I'm seeing, hearing, touching and smelling are real. Am I in The Matrix? The Truman Show? The Sixth Sense? Memento? I love movies like that, because they challenge our basic assumptions about the nature of reality.

Even before I saw any of those movies, I had this elaborate fantasy that I was the only real person in the world. I'm a test subject in a huge alien experiment, and everyone else in the whole world were actors given scripts designed to see how I would react to different situations.

"Let's see how the subject deals with his wife leaving him," the coordinators of the experiment say. Or, "Let's let him win the tennis league." I imagine them with clipboards, recording all of my reactions.

Judging from movies like The Truman Show, I'm sure I'm not the only person who's had similar thoughts. They're incredibly narcissistic, but don't we all have a little of that in us?

Don't we? Don't we?

Or am I the only one?

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