‘Cogito ergo sum’ and this has a strange way of transmuting into a plummet down a rabbit hole of analysis paralysis. It’s actually gardening that grounds me each time my mind goes into overdrive. I have a sign I created for my garden in Kenya that says ‘I garden therefore I am’ 😃 No matter what it is that triggers a debilitating self narrative within oneself, it has always been the soil for me. I bury my fingers in mud and feel earthed. We each have our own way of battling with storms no matter the phantasms we invoke or worship in our minds. Warning: dissecting Descartes in overdrive ahead ……
Now imagine if the brain-in-a-vat scenario were true, that we are nothing but a disembodied brain living in a vat of nutrients. How is one to tell the difference between reality and a dream like state? In fact, how is one to tell the difference even if it were not the case? It’s hard to imagine Descartes evil demon of supreme power who cunningly employs his powers for deception by altering the laws of mathematics and logic to present an illusory world. For those that are visually inclined, Christopher Nolan’s ‘ Inception’ would be a great example, where the distinction between dreams blurs, experiences in dreams are created with objects from a prior life and the infiltrators of a dream know that they are dreaming, unlike Descartes, they are able to ‘think’ and thus know while dreaming, that they aren’t awake.
I am picking up on the thread of Cartesian thought from his dream argument, trying less to render it legible through poetry than to illustrate it. Does thinking make you realize wakefulness ? But Leo Di’Caprio is thoughtfully aware even in his dream, to his state of sleep. Have you ever been in a falling dream and woken up having experienced the fall but it’s not quite that … you still have questions, even rhetorical, if you are philosophically inclined.
Dreams, if they aren’t nightmares, can make for pleasant experiences and sometimes for humorous ones … although, for the life of me I have never woken up from a dream laughing ~ food for thought.
It may have been the votives on the table, the tea lights weren’t blinking / were they lit or were they new / the senses were a jumble like the garbled intellect of Professor Calculus floating in a sarcophagus on an ocean / Why was I remembering Tintin / It wasn’t his dream, it was mine so this is a false memory perhaps / like happiness in sleep /
Is this when the dream gets tannic like a tea kept too long on the counter / to be snapped out of, like Alice from the clutches of an invisible cat and a visible charm / in a free fall plummeting to the rocks below / amid visions of people whose philosophy she thinks she knows but cannot read ……and some that didn’t know me or possibly did /
They were dressed like birds / while you feel naked, you know those acrid dreams when you are in your birthday suit / and everyone you know is at your birthday / smiling at the emperor’s clothes of sudden shame / a vivid montage in a slide viewer unfurling seasons / without colour, unless you conjure a yellowing green in words or aphorisms / that vomits a strange music in cuneiform lyrics, disrespectfully rude in their sharp lines and arrows / as my tongue rolls around in my mouth, a hormonal aftertaste /
Was this a shared dream / the plasmodesmata logging a sequential transfer / bits and bytes of code through cellular minds creating a narrative of pixels / magnified like …… no, those weren’t rocks / It was a trough and I was careening along bridges undulating like a whip across oceans / Could this be real / the adrenalin rush of the roller coaster at Universal Studios / but mine was a feat of engineering /
Such crests rising over oceans disappearing in an atmospheric haze / to fall into an abyss of awakening / in a soft bed …… but I remembered I fell / Here, under the goose down of a plump duvet, time simply draws to a crawl and everything is really real / or so I think ……
The brain-in-a-vat scenario and the dream argument are best illustrated in the Spanish movie ‘Abre los ojos’ by Alejandro Amenabar starring Penelope Cruz and Eduardo Noriega. (An English version of the same with Tom Cruise in the lead was produced later as ‘Vanilla Sky’). Having watched both movies, the original more recently than the newest, I found the premise of immortality in them quite interesting, except that it comes at a cost of losing ones sanity while in a dream. The protagonist of the film finds himself dreaming and thinking it real, but harbouring real life regrets. Unlike in Descartes dream argument, the sophistication of dreams in these films is such that the dream scenario is coherent, in fact, in the remake of the film, prior experiences and objects are used to construct the dream sequence.
Dreams make for interesting movies for sure, great illustrations for philosophy, the dream itself lends nuance to poetry perhaps, until we know the difference between the real of wakefulness from a dream …… I have yet to get to the modern theories on precognitive dreams that may help to shed light on Cartesian thought and other such mind body problems, more on that later.
I hope you enjoyed the poem dear reader. A heady start to the day, hardly simple but dreams are complicated. Reality feels like a dream sometimes when we are unable to comprehend and then configure a coherent narrative of memories or live fully immersed in the present and plan effectively for the future. Is this what our stressors are I wonder, would the limiting of thinking variables help. A poem should always help indicate a kernel of solution. Plainly rhetorical.