“Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”
It’s interesting how that old children’s nursery rhyme reflects some very profound existential questions about our reality. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence. What if life really was like some sort of dream? And what if this dream of life could be a lucid dream; a dream in which you realise that you are dreaming?
In a dream we are at the mercy of our imagination as it runs wild, conjuring up experiences out of our subconscious mind that can range from the pleasant, to the horrifying, and even to the downright bizarre. However, every so often it’s possible to know that we are dreaming while asleep in our dreams.
It’s rare, but when this happens suddenly, in a flash of ecstatic liberation, we realise intuitively that we weren’t actually the perspective from which we were suffering powerlessly at the mercy of the dream, which after all was just another part of the dream like everything else, but that we are something beyond the dream that is perceiving it as adamantly not being the ultimate reality. This can happen in life too, but when this phenomenon happens in our dreams, it’s called lucid dreaming.
Lucid dreaming allows us to turn the tables on our imagination by making it serve us as it creates our ultimate playground, one in which we can experience absolutely whatever we can imagine, from flying, to breathing underwater.
Fundamentally, since the cognitive revolution approximately 70,000 years ago, the one difference between us and the other animals in nature, is our imagination. It has allowed us to develop complex language, technology and to organise ourselves with our collective myths and beliefs that form the basis of our culture.
It’s ironic, that our unique gift of imagination has allowed us to develop culture which now in many ways, such as through globalisation, increased interconnectedness, and the media, steps in to prevent us from using our own imagination by sweeping us up by our billions into a human swarm. In this case we are not much different from nature’s other swarms of bees, ants and termites.
Like all swarms, what is in the best interest of the human swarm is often at the expense of the individual. Our swarm culture imposes upon us a set of standardised cultural norms, which are implicitly instructions on how we should aim to live our lives.
These cultural instructions dictate to us exactly what we should work to buy, how we should aspire to live in the pursuit of what the swarm culture of global consumerism denotes as the ideal of happiness.
Our imagination, which is the heart of our individuality and the essence of what has made us human, is the price we pay for joining the human swarm of global consumer culture. By blindly accepting culture’s constant external influences on how to live our lives we forfeit the ability to look inward and imagine what we, as the unique expressions of the universe that we are, would really enjoy doing and creating.
Cultural instructions on how to live are for those who are incapable of dreaming up and creating their own reality. Each one of us reacts to the world in our own unique way, with our own particular set of gifts that allows for different things to come easily to each of us. What is enjoyable for me may not be enjoyable for you and vice versa. What would you enjoy doing if you could synthesise all of your passions and interests into one coherent idea?
If life is like a dream, then your life is your dream, and every step is on your path! Can you wake up inside this global consumer culture dream of a predictable, boring, and unfulfilling materialist life? Can you shrug off the constant external bombardment of what is defined as respectable, prestigious, and successful, and be free and bold enough to look within, to trust your own unique imagination, and allow it to express your individual humanity by creating for you the most interesting and enjoyable lucid dream of life possible?