Welcome … to the Real World

In which The Author wishes he’d taken the blue pill

A while ago I recommended watching Michel Gondry’s film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind before reading the accompanying entry. I’m going to recommend another of his films this time: The Science of Sleep (2006). Written and directed by Gondry, it received mixed reviews on its release. Jonathan Ross hated it. I loved it.
Wossy used to be the BBC’s film critic. He sees hundreds of films every year. I go to the pictures when I can afford it and the Coliseum shows something I fancy (not very often, these days!) Of necessity, I bow to his superior judgement. However, I think it’s a charming, bittersweet, surreal piece of invention which wouldn’t have been picked up by one of the major studios. In my opinion, Gondry’s Participant Observation research into the human mind peaked with this underrated little gem.
The basic premise of the film – that its hero Stéphane literally can’t distinguish between his dreams and his waking life – intrigued me immediately. That was why I made a special trip to Cardiff to see it on its release. For several years I’ve been blurring the lines in a similar way. If you look through my previous entries on the topic of dreams (and there are several of them), at least twice I was aware that I was dreaming. In other words, I’d been lucidly dreaming by any accepted definition of the term (Green and McCreery, 1994).
It doesn’t happen all the time, of course. But the boundary between the Real World and my Dream World seems to be increasingly blurred. The latest incident occurred this very morning. I dreamt that I was listening to Ken Bruce’s Radio 2 show, complete with music, a trailer for a forthcoming documentary, and Ken’s banter with Lynne Bowles either side of the traffic news. But to all intents and purposes I was asleep. Maybe my life is so routine that I can literally do it with my eyes shut.
It’s not the first time it’s happened. Some years ago I dreamed that I was listening to a complete edition of Radio 4’s Today, complete with short-tempered John Humphrys interviews, racing tips, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer live in the radio car after the 8.00 news bulletin. Perhaps that says more about the predictability of broadcast news than about my life. It was my day off, so fortunately this imaginary two-hour block of my life didn’t inconvenience me in any way.
Another semi-lucid episode was seriously weird, though. If it hadn’t been for my many years’ standing as a science fiction fan, I’d have doubted whether if it had actually happened at all. It’s best illustrated by a song by the Legendary Pink Dots called ‘Nine Shades to the Circles’, from their LP 9 Lives to Wonder.

Anyway, some years ago, for no apparent reason, first thing in the morning, this happened:
I woke up, looked at the alarm clock …
And woke up.
Then I looked at the alarm clock, threw the duvet to one side …
And woke up.
Then I looked at the alarm clock, threw the duvet to one side, swung my legs out of bed …
And woke up.
Then I looked at the alarm clock, threw the duvet to one side, swung my legs out of bed, put my slippers on …
And woke up.
Then I looked at the alarm clock, threw the duvet to one side, swung my legs out of bed, put my slippers on, opened the bedroom door …
And woke up.
After about another six stages of this weirdness, I eventually made it to the spare bedroom, where the PC lived at the time. I logged on to Aberdare Online and started a new discussion thread called I knew I should have taken the Blue Pill! I figured that if the posting was still there later in the day, then at least I had evidence that I was really awake at that point.
When I arrived home from work, I checked the forum straight away. Not only was my posting still there, but a couple of the regulars had replied to it as well. It proved that I’d been conscious at some point during the morning. That was reassuring. In theory, this multi-layered emergence from sleep could have gone on for hours. I could imagine Laurie’s reply if I’d phoned work to say I was running late because I’d dreamt that I was already sitting on the train …

REFERENCES

GREEN, C. & McCREERY, C. (1994) Lucid Dreaming: the paradox of consciousness during sleep. London: Routledge.
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