« Introduction

Have you ever had a dream? If you’re a human being, I’m guessing you have. From the time you were a child, some things should have been readily apparent to you:

  1. Nothing you dream about actually happens. When you wake up you’re right back in the same bed you went to sleep in.
  2. You remember who you were before you went to sleep. You don’t go to sleep named Jim and having 10 fingers, and wake up named Sandra with 12 fingers.

Keep that in the back of your mind. Now have you ever thought to yourself that when you’re dreaming and interacting with a character, “What are they, really? What do they represent?”. Rather than get lost in those two questions, let’s go down a deeper rabbit hole.

A Grand Thought Experiment

When you say hello to a character in your dream, you do it the way you would in real life. You wave, maybe shake their hand, and introduce yourself. Of course you do it this way, because 90% of the time you’re not even aware you’re dreaming. Everything that happens seems like it’s real. It’s only when you wake up that you realize it was all “just a dream”.

Ready to get lost? Now imagine that you could look at yourself through the eyes of one of your dream characters. We’ll call her Eve. Pretend you’re a powerful telepath and you have the ability to “possess” Eve and look at the dream world (that your brain is generating) through her eyes. If you walk up and shake Eve’s hand, what does it look like to her? What does she see?

Well we can predict that it’d be a third person view of yourself. If you were looking through Eve’s eyes at yourself as you approached her, you’d see yourself. It’d be similar to looking at yourself in a mirror, except without the mirror. Now remember in reality, you’re still in your bed asleep. You’re not actually approaching Eve to shake her hand. You’re in bed, asleep, in whatever country you reside in, on the 3rd planet from the Sun called Earth in the Milky Way galaxy. That’s where “you” actually are.

Now ask yourself the question. “That thing you saw through Eve’s eyes – was that actually you?” Ok break time! Let’s come up for air and look at something relevant I dreamt about 2 weeks ago.

Dreams and Mirrors

I’ve had lucid dreams about once a week since I was about 8 years old. Sometimes I’ll walk by a mirror in my dream, and when I’m lucid, I actually stop to check myself out. I like to see how my mind “projects” myself into the dream. Do I have long hair, or short hair? Do I have any scars? Am I clean shaven, or bearded?

A few weeks ago, I had a dream that I was in a hotel lobby. There was a mirror there. As I was about to walk out of the lobby, I noticed the image of me in the mirror didn’t look right. I had short hair, and I remembered going to sleep with long hair (at least long hair compared to the standards of black men). That instantly caused me to realize that I was dreaming. So I decided this was a great time for another one of my science experiments, and I walked right up to the mirror and just stared at myself for about 10 minutes.

I recognized myself, but of course I had short hair, rather than long. I had a more trimmed beard than in real life. And I didn’t consider myself to be as good looking in the dream, as I am in real life (sue me, sometimes I don’t think I look that bad ok?). I also had a couple scars on my face that I didn’t have in real life. I marveled at the clarity of everything I was looking at. It wasn’t blurry at all (I wear glasses and contacts in real life because I’m nearsighted). I moved my extremities and saw them mirrored perfectly. I was a bit frustrated that I didn’t have access to this level of detail and graphical processing power when utilizing my imagination in real life.

I told that story for a purpose. Now let’s go back down that rabbit hole, and see how deep it goes…

What are you, when you’re in a dream?

I’ll just go ahead and answer this. You’re a projection. What you see in the mirror in a dream isn’t actually you. It’s just your minds best representation of the “real” you. This representation might change depending on how your day went. Are you feeling insecure? Then maybe you’ll look worse than usual. Are you feeling confident, then maybe you look way better than you do in real life. Who knows. All that matters is that the person in the dream is standing in front of a mirror, while the real you is lying down in a bed undergoing Rapid Eye Movement. Don’t believe me? Get a video camera and videotape yourself sleeping. Then watch it when you wake up. Whatever it is that you thought you were doing in your dream, you didn’t really do. You were knocked out asleep.

Remember Eve? Eve is just a character your brain created, but you can interact with her as if she’s a real person.

In the previous thought experiment, you were curious what Eve sees when she sees you, so you used your powers to look through her eyes. What you saw was most likely similar to what you’d see in a photograph of yourself in real life. You’d recognize yourself, but because it’s a dream a few things would be off. Maybe in real life you have short hair, but in the dream your hair is long. Or vice versa.

Pillar Number One

Are you ready? The thing Eve sees in the dream is not you. It is a projection of you, or an “image” of you. When I say “image” I mean the same type of “image” the Bible means when talking about idol worship. If you carve a statue out of wood and bow down to it, that’s not actually a god. You’re just bowing down to a wood statue. Likewise, the projection of yourself into the dream world is merely an “image” of the real you. An image of the invisible you that Eve will never be able to see. Eve can’t see the iPhone next to your bed or the city lights glowing through window.

You can see Eve, you can talk to Eve, you can shake her hand, and you can even kiss her. When you wake up, you see your iPhone and the city lights, or maybe the sunshine by that time. You have access to both “worlds” but Eve only has access to one.

Where she is, you can go. But where you are – where you “really” are – in bed, covered by a blanket, in the real world, she can never travel there, because she can’t exist in the real world. She can only exist in your dream. It’s her box, and she can’t leave it no matter how hard she tries. As soon as your brain decides it’s done using it’s processing power to create her, she and the entire dream world disappears, and you wake up.

Eve has never seen you. She cannot see you and live. Sound familiar? She cannot see you and exist. But if you ask her, “Can you see me?” while in your dream, she’ll say, “Yes, you’re right here.”

My Theory of Everything Part 2 – The Devil’s in the Details »