Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969 (well actually, 1973)

Over the weekend I had an intense, remarkable, and troubling dream. Here’s the background, and then the dream:

The dream occurred during an approximately 36 hour period where I was immersed in a fairly powerful LSD-like experience. I did not choose to enter into this experience, it was often anxiety-inducing, and it remains unexplained, or unconvincingly explained. There is the possibility that it was caused by eating a particular kind of blue cheese. I ate an ounce or 2 of the cheese before the experience came on, and another ounce or 2 during the experience, not realizing it might cause such a reaction.

Naturally, it is very hard to describe the experience since it was outside of what we call “normal consciousness.” Here’s an attempt.

Primarily, my thoughts were being elevated so that I was experiencing them like they were, somehow, independent threads of reality, threads that didn’t “bubble up” from my brain, but rather, my “brain” was tapping into these threads that were brief segments of a full reality independent of me. I would melt back and forth between these semi-parallel realities. If we use the metaphor of a bubble to describe a brief thought, we might describe it as 1) momentary, 2) brain-centered, and 3) stimulus generated, and like a bubble that emerges and then dissipates-bursts and is gone, so our normal thoughts seem to emerge and disappear (although, of course we know that they do have some kind of subconscious continuity and independence).

These thoughts seemed very different. They were not momentary but seemed to be enduring; not brain-centered but seemingly independently created beyond the brain; and not stimulus-generated, but rather, somehow, embedded in the stimulus, whatever that stimulus might be; which is to say, released/exposed as a part of the stimulus-experience. The stimuli could be a sensory impression, an emotion, a related thought, a biological need expressing itself (like hunger, etc). I would find myself emerging from these threads back to my physical-centered awareness (say, sitting in a room reading), and it would be unclear how long I had been diverted into these thoughts, though generally it was not long, measured by a clock.

There was a strange but distinctly “effervescent” quality to consciousness, something between bubbles bursting and bubbles dissolving, as I moved from one state of awareness to the next. Normally consciousness is smooth, textureless, fluid, and continuous. In this state, however, there were thin “membranes” that distinguished between passing states/thoughts/moments, and as I crossed through these membranes, it would be almost like waking up to a new reality, with the awareness of crossing a “border”.

That is at least an attempt at an accurate phenomenological description.

Now here’s the dream, or rather, the thin fragment, much stripped down and reduced to knowable images, that I remember:

I was down on the national mall. Much activity. People were playing sports. Professionals? I got some document and had to separate it into pieces along perforations. But as I began, the perforations began to disappear, causing the document to tear unevenly. And then it merged into a kind of plastic, layered, rectangular, thin box, maybe 1'x2'. Hard to describe and unlike any object I’m familiar with. But the realization was that it was multi-layered and that my document was now submerged into this object, and now the surface was becoming sealed and the layers inaccessible. I could still feel them. The surface was thin and malleable, and as I ran my fingers across the surface, I felt a lumpy interior. Then it became like the mall, or it was the mall all along, and all this activity was also submerging and disappearing. Then almost nothing was left but a smooth surface, as people disappeared; a smooth brown plastic surface.

As I woke, or perhaps while still in the dream, the plastic rectangle/mall became the symbol/image of my life, and then all human life, emerging and disappearing, leaving no trace in the end. And I saw that all my ambitions were in vain, and even meaningless or useless. Even the great names -- I thought of Milton, the poet, and biblical Abraham and Moses -- even they were but momentary bubbles, eruptions that re-shaped the surface momentarily, and then were gone with no trace. Even the whole human species was such: a momentary phenomenon. I was torn in agony at this.

Thus, on one level, this dream represented my thoughts that had become distinct and independent entities, one emerging from the next, and then submerging into each other and becoming indistinguishable and buried beneath a surface of continuity and “uniformity” when, for a moment, my consciousness would once again feel semi-normal; and then ultimately when the altered experience, finally, slowly dissipated over the course of about 4 hours.

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