Thursday, December 23, 2010

1:69 p.m.

It is the first day of school. It is a nice sunny afternoon in some strange unfamiliar place (looks like Florida, but I'm not certain). I am walking towards campus, going to teach my first class of the semester. The thing is, I have no idea what time the class is supposed to meet, so I'm trying to get to campus as quickly as possible, so that I can find out what time my class meets (why didn't I find this out at home?... Frustrating...). 

Anyway, I continue to walk as fast as I can. I glance at my watch. It says 1:69 p.m. Okay... at least I know what time it is. I finally arrive on campus. I walk into the philosophy department, and ask Miss G, the department secretary, what time my course meets today, how many courses I am teaching this semester, and what days and times they meet (Gosh! Why don't I know all this? Disturbing...). For some reason, she seems totally unfazed by my total lack of organization and preparedness for the first day of class. She pulls out the course catalog, and shows me my course schedule at this little college in Florida. So I'm in Florida... Wait a second. What on earth am I doing in Florida? Am I not supposed to be teaching in Minnesota? And isn't Miss G supposed to the department secretary at my college in Minnesota as well? What's going on? 

Anyway, she shows me the course schedule, and I realize that I am teaching 3 courses this semester. Not a bad course-load, I think to myself. And they all meet in the afternoon, so there is no need to rush out of the house in the morning after practice. And then I realize something else that is strange. This college has courses that meet at 11 p.m.! Hmm... Who would want to enroll in a course that meets at 11 p.m.? Some night owls? Weird... 

Weird.... And then, from some far off corner of space-time, I hear this shrill, persistent ring-tone. A sound that is totally out of place, yet somehow familiar. Gee, isn't that... my cell-phone? 

And then I suddenly found myself lying in bed in my apartment in Minnesota. I reached over and pushed the "off" button on my cell-phone alarm. It is 4:30 a.m. on Thursday December 23rd, my cell-phone tells me. Hmm... so this whole thing was a dream.

I got out of bed, got myself a drink of water, and walked around my apartment. I thought a little more about my dream. In particular, I kept thinking about that one thing in the dream that should have cued me in to the fact that I was dreaming: 1:69 p.m. Why didn't I notice that obvious disconnect with reality there? Why wasn't I more.... lucid?

Well, maybe from now on, my watch will be my totem (like in the movie Inception). Whenever I am in doubt as to whether I am awake or dreaming, I'll look at my watch, and see if it says something irregular, such as 1:69 p.m. But wait a second. There are a couple of problems with this strategy. First, I don't own a watch in real life. Well, this should be easy to solve: Looking at the time on my cell-phone should do the trick too (duh!). But secondly (and more importantly), what if my mind fails to register the disconnect with reality in dreams, just as it did in this dream? What if my mind operates according to a different logic and subscribes to a totally different conception of reality while dreaming, so that 1:69 p.m. appears to be a perfectly normal time to my dreaming mind? What then?

I have no answer to this problem. Oh well. Time to start doing my morning Buddhist prayers, and then on to my asana practice. Let's just hope that I'm not dreaming that I am doing my practice as well... Wait, am I actually writing this, or am I only dreaming that I am writing this? Uh oh...



  1. You can try pinching yourself, HARD. That always worked for me (it's never painful when you're in a dream). But I only pinch if I dislike the dream and want to wake up. If I'm enjoying the dream, I actually try NOT to wake up. Doesn't really work though... all things are impermanent, whether it's a pleasant dream or a joyful moment of reality.

  2. You know, it's never occurred to me to pinch myself during a dream, not because I don't think it's effective, but because I rarely have enough lucidity to even ask myself if I am dreaming while in a dream! So I think I have to work on the lucidity part first...

  3. In my experience there is a lot of creativity to be found in lucid dreaming. The BuddhistGeeks have a podcast on this very topic.

    One of my art professors described lucid dreaming as being similar to listening to the space between your ears and one's favorite piece of [classical] music.

    Think you're closer to the lucidity than you might think - especially because it seems as though you have a really good sensory memory of the dream.

  4. Thanks for your insight, Portside. Definitely much food for thought here.

    I would like to seek some clarification about what you said. Do you mean that lucid dreaming is similar to listening to the space between my ears WHILE I'm listening to classical music, or do you mean that lucid dreaming is similar to both the experience of listening to classical music and the experience of listening to the space between my ears?

  5. Apologies for the lack of clarity but it's a subtle nuance (I guess it could possibly be likened to those Zen kōans).

    Simply that lucid dreaming is similar to listening between the space between your ears and the sound of the music.

    Bare with me as I attempt to deconstruct.

    You have the sound you hear at the point of external auditory canal on the ear.
    You have the sound from the speakers (which are putting forth the music).

    The lucid dream is like the space that is between your ear and the origin of the sound waves.

    [I don't know if this makes any more sense now.]

  6. Looking back at your posts, maybe it can be described as similar to the sound of snow - from your 12/16 post.

    "the white sound of blackness on light"

  7. Yes, Portside, I get it now. Very interesting. The space between the point of origin of the sound and the point at which my body (ear) receives the sound... Very nice material to meditate on. Thanks!