Sunday, June 05, 2005

LIFE IS BUT A DREAM: HOW ACCESS HOLLYWOOD AND TUOL SLENG CONSPIRE TO KEEP OUR DREAM SELVES BEHIND LOCKED DOORS

I always get offended when somebody tells me: “Hey, you were in my dream last night!”

Why do I get ticked off?

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we like to think of ourselves as ourselves: autonomous and in control. When somebody else is dreaming about us, it’s as if our own independence has been taken away from us. Robbed from us.

Oh, but I think it’s more than that.

I think that when we appear in somebody else’s dreams, and they appear in ours, something’s going on. Something’s. Going. On.

Perhaps our spirits are crossing in the night. Perhaps ephemeral fragments of our personalities slip loose from their bearings and cross over psychic boundaries that remain dormant during the day. Elements of our consciousnesses get entangled with one another, intentionally or inadvertently, in the slip-stream of two a.m., when the dark is absolute, rationality is absent, the moon is full.

Then again.

Perhaps this is all a dream. My whole life. Especially the last little bit. And anyone claiming to have witnessed a piece of me, a part of me, in their own nocturnal wanderings has therefore blown my rational cover, and discovered, along with me, though I sometimes deny it, that life is but a dream.

I used to think that way as a kid. (And I guess I still do.) The end of the school year would finally arrive -- the last class, the last test -- and as my pencil dropped from my cold, feeble fingers my brain would instantly revert to of its slightly odd, eminently comfortable daydreams, in which I conceived, in vivid technicolor, the fantasy of my choosing. Said fantasy involved me, emerging from sleep; my mother, her hands shaking my sleep-luvin' shoulders; her voice, saying: "Get up Scott, or else you'll be late for your first day of (insert grade number here)!"

But maybe that childish nightmare was right on the money.

Maybe the whole shebang – my four years in Japan, my two years in Cambodia -- is nothing more than another element of fantasy, whimsy, nighttime, masturbatory magic dust in the sandbox of my (admittedly) skewed life.

When you read a lot as a kid, fiction and comics, and watch a lot of movies, narrative and documentary, the real world around you simultaneously folds in on itself. You notice how maddeningly ordinary and two-dimensional it is. And yet, if you’re lucky, if you allow yourself access to those corners of the brain that others neglect to investigate, you begin to suspect that there are layers beneath layers; that there are, hidden from sight, tucked away from reality, buried treasures of insight to be found at the local convenience store, or within the weary, middle-aged sigh of your science teacher, which audibly hints, even announces, a life derailed, a dream deferred.

Oh, and then if you fast-forward ten, twelve years, and you find yourself living for the better part of six years in ancient cultures on the far side of the world, amongst people uttering words that, even if you acquire the capability to comprehend, remain stubbornly foreign despite your best efforts, the world itself, not just your world but ‘the’ world, becomes a tragicomic funhouse of distortion, defeat and exaltation that bears little, okay no resemblance to the reality that your Grade 10 guidance counselor so diligently tried to prepare you for (with foldable brochures to boot).

Life is a tragedy to those who think and a comedy to those who feel, as the saying goes. (Or is it the other way around? And if it is, does it even matter? If I’ve screwed up the phrase, inverted its intent, couldn’t some semblance of meaning be found, regardless? I’d like to think so. Because if you believe in the potency of truisms, accept their somewhat cliché but transitory insight, then surely the tweaking of them could reveal another level of wisdom, unintended but ennobling nonetheless.) To think and to feel may be mutually exclusive domains that occasionally overlap, but I would like to think, would hope to think, that they are one and the same, not different sides of the same coin but the substance of the coin itself.

And the coin itself may be the stuff of which dreams are made.

When you think and feel, feel and think, allowing each to sway the other, the world does, indeed begin to seem like a dream. How else can one explain a world where Lindsey Lohan and legless land-mine victims continue to co-exist? Can you explain that? Would you deign to try? Dare to try?

I can’t.

I guess it’s no surprise that sometimes, on again, someone dreams about me. Or I dream about them. Perhaps all of us, in our (so-called) waking states are just at various levels of REM consciousness. Perhaps Lindsay Lohan and Dr.Phil and the anchors of Entertainment Tonight are just the actualizations of a legless Cambodian’s drunken night of dreams. They, the anchors, drift in and out of the depths of his unconsciousness; he, the Cambodian, occasionally flickers through Mary Hart’s mind after a night of tequilas-by-the-pool.

I’m not saying this is the way it is.

I’m just saying.

And tell me.

This world contains Access Hollywood. It also contains the Tuol Sleng museum -- a hop and a skip and a five minute moto ride away from me -- where people were held and tortured and slaughtered for years on end.

If you randomly came across the word ‘reality’ in your leatherbound, hardback copy of WEBSTER’S dictionary, would these examples of the definition suffice? Access Hollywood and Tuol Sleng? You’d laugh them off the page.

But there they are.

You may be in my dreams tonight. I may be in yours. I may think that I catch a glimpse of your face, lit by the faint but aqua glow of your computer screen. In the morning it will fade, this image, but I will feel sad, though I won’t be able to express why.

There will be nothing left for me to do but step out the door and into the day, confront ‘reality’, go to work and pay my bills.

But somewhere, inside my head, that dream-you will hide. Will lurk. When we cross paths in dreams, perhaps we get closer to finding the fundamental pathways that link us all. Perhaps our waking-selves that trip-wire these DreamDoors block access to the true selves that unleash themselves via our sleeping, sentient selves.

I hope, almost pray, that I will keep searching to find the key to that door -- the key that links the night to the day, the dreams to the reality, the 'me' to the 'you'.

Whether I find it is irrelevant.

The search is not.

1 comment:

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