The Dreaming Life: Exploring an Unknown State of Mind

Words by Gabbie Lynch

Art by Danielle Noel [ IG: @starchildtarot]

When John Lennon famously sang “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one” in his hit song Imagine he was definitely onto something. It is true that Lennon wasn’t isolated in his ability to dream. We are all both blessed and cursed such powers. In fact, scientists believe that the average person spends six years of their life dreaming – that’s 2,100 days in a different realm.


So where do our minds take us when enter this state of dreaming? Well, scientists still aren’t quite sure. We know that our most active period of dreaming is during the rapid-eye movement (REM) stage of sleep when the brain activity is high and resembles that of being awake. Whilst our brains may be very close to reality, our consciousness is far from the realm of actuality, entering untouched territory of imaginative lucidity. When we enter this realm, nothing could feel more real. We are present, perhaps more present then we are in our everyday life which is consumed by distractions; phones, traffic, mindless conversations.


It seems strange then, when one considers that we spend an average of six years in this state of mind, that we have not kept a closer record of our dreams. Is this because our western society only values experiences that can be supported by facts and witnesses? Who can argue that the experience of a dream is any less real then an experience that occurred during the realms of reality? And where do the lines between the state of reality and the state of dreaming meet? Or are they blurred?


Shakespeare examined this idea in his play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I hate to bore you with another Shakespeare example but the guy came up with a lot of good ideas and expressed them with perfect clarity so I need his support for this philosophical query. The whole play slides between the realms of reality (or supposed reality) into the fantastical or dream realm. The space of the theatre is the perfect place (and perhaps the only place) where this kind of transitioning between realms can occur. When we enter the theatre, we believe in what we see because we are in a space of imagination. In the world of reality, the realm of theatre is perhaps the closest thing to the dream state. Shakespeare plays on this idea at the end of Midsummer when the character Puck addresses the audience stating, “If we shadows have offended, Think but this…this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream” (V.i.425-431). By shadows Shakespeare means actors and so essentially he is telling us that the play is no more real than a dream. However, what is really clever about this point of the play is that Puck’s actions, whereby he physically steps out of the realm of the play and into the real world undercuts the meaning in his words. By transcending through the realms of reality and imagination Puck becomes a symbol of the harmony that exists between the state of dreams and the state of reality. So basically, the experience of dreaming is no less real then the experience of living the physical world. Shakespeare was a pretty clever guy hey?


The other night I dreamt I was kayaking up a forbidden river. The water flowing with great speed, only interrupted by the tips of large boulders that sat on the rivers floor. The paddling was easy at first and then gradually became more difficult. The forestry grew dense and the wet air hugged by body. Suddenly my kayak flipped and I found myself in the rushing stream. Luckily, only a short distance ahead was a conveyor belt. I latched on and was lifted up through the stream until I was protected by the hanging tree branches. With some caution, I peered over the side of the conveyor belt and was shocked to see a large industrial style factory. There were people walking around in full suit of protective gear and the skull stickers with the words toxic, in capital letters, were stuck on all the pieces of equipment. I had just discovered an enormous industrial site that was polluting all of our waterways. As I was trying to hide amongst the tree branches, one of the people involved in this strange operation spotted me and began to run after me. Luckily for me, I found an inflatable ring, flew down the conveyor belt and back into the rushing river. My heart felt as if it would pound out of my chest until I eventually reached a pool of calm water in the river. At this point I awoke from my dream, only to find the morning light streaming through the window and hitting the bright yellow walls of my bedroom.


It was all just a dream, something that happened in an unknown world, far from reality. But I experienced it. I touched what there was to touch, smelt was what there was to smell and felt what there was to feel. In that moment, nothing felt more real. And since I’ll spend roughly six years of my life dreaming, why should I undervalue the experiences I have during my dreaming state as any less real then what happens in my day to day life. Dreams cannot be experienced in words or even in art. They can only be believed. And if people like Lennon believed in their dreams, well then that’s good enough for me.

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