Sunday, October 14, 2018
More Proof You Live in a Dream
So many proofs exist!
Ah, then, where to start?
Let’s start with your name, and the names of those you love.
You didn’t choose yours.
They didn’t choose theirs.
Unless you’re one of those rare folks who changed their name to Sunshine, Eternal, or Moon Unit, you organize your entire identity around a name given to you by, presumably, your parents.
And, if you think they weren’t dreaming, where did they get your name? A book on baby names, a relative they honored, or some other culturally-relevant source, of course. In other words, even they relied upon other, already-extant sources (part of the ongoing dream called culture) to find your name. Your friends and relatives were named the same way. Such naming forms but one small part of the mysterious dynamic dream in which we all live.
Once you learn your name, perhaps around age two or so, you build your internal dream around it. Joe is an active, curious child. Joe is good/bad at math, excellent/lousy at socializing, and remarkably adventuresome/conservative.
Can you see the pattern?
First the small group of close relatives, i.e. parents or siblings, begin shaping your self-narrative. Then you enter the social world, in your late toddlerhood, shaping your self-image even more on fictions you never chose.
By your late teenage years, as pursuit of career becomes relevant, further inculcation begins. Have you ever noticed how many young people proclaim, “I want to be a doctor” or “I want to be an aircraft mechanic”?
None of these pursuits is about being.
They are all about doing.
Once you start working these jobs, occupations, or professions, the culture encourages you to over-identify with them. Thereafter, you add them to your self-narrative—in a big way. Joe becomes not only outgoing, social, and adventurous, but good for him (!), he’s a doctor/lawyer/accountant/aircraft mechanic!
Why does work become so important? Because that part of our dream, in the western world anyway, is heavily themed by capitalism. Money, another dream-event representing mostly 0s and 1s now, is required to pay rent, mortgage, utilities, cable, entertainment, food, and so on.
Most of us are obsessed with it, worry about it. We check our bank account balances, and track the progress of IRA’s and 401k’s on our mobile phones. We need to plan for the money for the rent, mortgage, utilities, cable, entertainment, food, and so on, indefinitely into the future.
Yet another part of the game of life, these dream-like worries detract from our sense of being. Ironically, being is mostly about existing, relating, and feeling—all verbs.
In truth, nouns are lies (or sex or videotapes).
On this Sunday afternoon, or any afternoon for that matter, you’re life is actually completely absurd. You’re spinning around on a large rock which orbits around but one of the billions of stars in the universe.
And yet you, like me, perhaps worry now about dinner, work tomorrow, the phone call you owe your sister, or what form Trump’s next version of insanity will take.
Better, I suggest, surrender to the dream-like nature of our lives. It may make your suffer less from the usual pain of life; it may help to acknowledge the absurdity of existence, and work on living as verb rather than noun.
Alternatively, as Nick Bostrom convincingly argues (see below), we may be living in a computer simulation created by future humans. They might have simulated our consciousnesses through advanced computer programs. In that case, our entire lives serve as an experiment for an advanced, “post-human” culture.
Or, as the Hindus have it, Vishnu, the All-Pervading One (derived from “Vis’ in Sanskrit which means both ‘to spread’ and ‘to be present everywhere’), manifested from the original vast Nothingness of the universe. From such Nothingness, when the first ripple of awareness stirred, formless energy became Vishnu.
Vishnu, the God serving as an ancient, pre-existing version of a computer simulation, lies in a dream state. He floats for all eternity on the waters of the ocean of Cosmic Consciousness. As if watching his own dream, Vishnu sustains us. Thus Vishnu, dreamer of the Universe, also protects us. Our lives are part of Vishnu’s dream.
Who can possibly know what’s true except for absolute absurdity of existence, and it’s dream-like, game-like, fictional character?
Given the choice this windy Sunday afternoon, I’d choose Vishnu’s dream over a computer simulation.
What would you choose?
Bostrom, N. (2003). Are you living in a computer simulation? Philosophical Quarterly, 53(211):243-255.
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