I went to see the movie Inception with my buddy Khalid Bey, a veritable master of Memetics. The movie itself can be looked at from a memetic perspective, these are some idle unordered thoughts and musings on the matter.
Often, true felicity lies in knowing what is important, when, and where, and to what degree.
On that note, do not make the mistake of assuming this is all fru fru, “woo woo” (how often inarticulate syllables substitute for speech today) incoherent New Age flakage. Some things are better spoken if using metaphor, or similitudes. Other things are clearly not. Do not confuse levels of meaning.
Dreams are important, in that the inner dynamics of your mind are important. Focus too much on them and you fall into a subtle type of escapism and an evasion from the real circumstances of your life, but ignore them and you place yourself in a situation of ignorance.
Evasion. Escape. So often from ourselves.
How often do we slap ourselves on the forehead and say “I should have seen that coming”?
The words we use often illustrates our perception of things we may not consciously be aware of.
In our dreams, the emotions we repress, the knowledge we hide, the reasons we evade, can haunt us, and our ignoring these things can cause us great suffering.
But a tangent, before we return to Inception:
Some people are fond of pointing out the low IQ of the gypsies, irrespective of the horrifying historical circumstances that often befall them. Many Europeans have tremendous bigotry towards the Roma, it’s often forgotten, and almost impossible to dig up without considerable research, the fact the Roma discovered, or somehow learned, certain metallurgical crafts kept secret, including a way of welding copper on a large scale basis.
This secret craft of theirs kept them busy in the 18h and 19th century with a monopoly on working on large scale industrial copper vats. Roma “Travelers” in England basically helped enable the industrial revolution by a jealously guarded science, or rather craft and art. Later developments in western metallurgy rendered them and their techniques obsolete, and later generations of gypsies forgot this skill. It wasn’t marketable any more, they had no monopoly.
Speaking a spell around our perception:
There is an extremely difficult book to obtain, written in the early 20th century (and ironically enough, re-printed in the 1970s by Idries Shah’s own press, Octagon Books) that covers seemingly hypnotic techniques in old poetry. Whitman, it seems, is full of such techniques. Now, when you call something by a name, you condition how your listener perceives it. If you call poetry “enchanting” this is perceived differently than calling it “hypnotic”
The point of course is that in ordinary conversation, one who knows how can be remarkably suggestive, and it is entirely possible to trigger visionary states while awake, or while near sleep.
But knowing the mechanics of how something may be done, of course, does not guarantee that you know how something is done in every case. You can’t always take apart a fly and discover it’s secrets of flight. Reductionism is a technique, hence it is a tool. Techniques are multifold, and of course:
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy..”
So, back to Inception.
The process the movie labels as “inception” and given some Hollywood flash is actually performed on a daily basis by PR firms, propaganda departments, and even our peers and co-workers. The idea of incubating the seed of an idea in someone and letting in sprout is something that is actually a finely refined science, and a bit of an art.
Albeit one highly morally dubious.
Much of what people think of as Spiritual development really isn’t, it often is simply development, hyper-development at times, of various aspects of the ego and psyche. Sometimes in our sincere attempts to arrive, we wander in confusion and end up in a deeper, though prettier, web than what we initially sought to escape.
Another aspect of the movie that was interesting was the “is life a dream” aspect.
Basically how do you know if you are sleeping, or awake.
The “theater” in which the movie unveils are a set of intense lucid dreams. This aspect – of multiple imaginal worlds within imaginal worlds – was interesting, but nowhere near as interesting as the memetic engineering aspect.
The character has an intense existential crisis, brought on by his wife’s perception that the world they shared was nothing but an illusion, a dream from which they needed to wake up.
And his intense guilt at having perpetuated this state. A guilt that led both of them to terrible destruction.
One of the themes of the movie was self-forgiveness and redemption, and the terrible toil that our own psyches can extract from us if we hold on to certain things.
Lucid dreams are interesting, our dreams can certainly say many things relevant to us, and expose things about ourselves that we would rather have buried, but in the act of burying them we may do damage to our own lives.
I have experienced very interesting waking visionary, and lucid dreaming states, off and on at various times in my life.
The most interesting ones occur during Ramadan, the first was a highly symbolic and somewhat disturbing dream of the Prophet Muhammad as a young man, I had as an undergrad. I shared it with Seyyed Hossein Nasr and he gave me an interesting interpretation of it. But on reflection years later, I could see his interpretation but also some additional things that I should have been aware of myself.
Sometimes a dream is like a letter and a large sum cheque sitting unopened in a stack of mail. The recipient not deserving it, by his own inactivity..
I’ve experienced intense “dreams within dreams” – with each level intensely realistic and solid, but always with something unusual going on. At times I have panicked trying to wake up from one dream, only to find myself in another, and so on constantly. it is difficult to describe the utterly real, or at least solid, intensity of these types of dreams
Some intense dreams may come unsought, or in strange circumstances (sleeping in a friend’s strange house or apartment, or sleeping in close proximity to someone with an unusually high, and often chaotic, degree of activity and psychic disturbances.)
However some such states can occur due to deliberate incubation and sometimes, but not always, precipitated by certain practices or “spiritual exercises” – for me, ones that I should not have been messing around with at the time.
One unfortunate condition today is that we are too prone to playing around with loaded guns, when all that we really need to do is cultivate some sincerity, hone our reason and logic, find the secret to prayer, and perform the fulfillment of ordinary duties life.
The psyche can be like a vast desert, or ocean, and it is possible to become trapped, and even to drown, in its depths.
It is unwise to cultivate certain sorts of intense lucid dream states and even classic “out of body” experiences. Because they lead to a preoccupation with the word of dreams, and pull us away from our waking reality here and now.
At best they cultivate an awareness of the somewhat dream like nature of the world in which we are in now, an awareness of its protean nature, but as the movie suggests – being lost in layers of perceived realities is in which I was jointly conscious of being physically asleep, the weight of the sheets around me, the position of my body, whilst also being conscious of being present at another location in the immediate vicinity of my sleeping body.
I had a “meeting” with someone quite unexpected, and somewhat unpleasant, that I am convinced was, in some way, “real” that is outside of juts my subjective experience, and reflecting something objective about the world.
That I truly encountered someone I knew, under unpleasant conditions, and that particular someone was, perhaps, more surprised than I was of meeting me..
The one thing I have taken home, from an awareness of dreams, is that as “real” as they seem, waking life has a coherence and order to it that even the most hyper-real dreams do not, because waking life deals with the physical hear and now, which is our normal order of being in life.
The dunya may, from a certain perspective, be an illusion, but from another perspective it is quite real. If you doubt me on this, touch a candle flame. You will quickly remember “what is real, and what isn’t”.
The main theme of inception is the tragic set of consequences that can result from forgetting what order of reality you happen to occupy. Life may be a dream from a perspective
“Man is asleep, and when he dies he awakens” – Ali bin Abi Talib
But this life, if it is a “dream” in some way, and if it is an “illusion” in some ways, is also utterly real..
And deadly in the terms of its rules.
It is the “dream” within which you are home, it is the “dream” that is real to you, and failure to realize the realness of what some see as a waking dream can have fatal consequences.
The coherence of waking life may seem to waver as we pay more attention to it and become more mindful, but this is a mistake. it is actually more coherent, we are simply just noticing the nuances that we previously filtered out.
Some “games” have incredible stakes, and this life is one such thing.
For once you leave, you never return. Our bodies do not blink out like a video game character, and we do not return to this level, no matter how much some may believe the case to be.
When we step off this mortal coil, you step off for good.
No second chance, no instant re-wind, like that interesting plot conceit in the Prince of Persia, the sands of time, the ability to return and undo the deaths of those you love..
We can choose to believe otherwise, just as we can choose to believe delusions..
Or we can cleanse our lens, and embrace perception of our situation here, and now.
Foresight and wisdom are our time machines, if you will. With foresight we can go forward, and trace things, those whose intellects and imaginations are able to virtually “travel forward in time” by putting together the pieces, connecting the dots, between traces of phenomena, in effect reading the negative space of life by perceiving the general context around the letters, the sensible.
This is using the seen as a support to induce a perception of the unseen, and seeing the consequences of actions through the their mind.
It is the ultimate use of reason and intellection.
Your intellect is the ultimate “time machine” – foresight is wisdom, the ability to see consequences from actions, to think a step or two ahead.
Lacking foresight is the fate of the vast majority of humanity, who see the words on the wall, so to speak. But are unable to “read” them.
This perhaps is a matter of dhawq, that is of taste. Experiential. It can be cultivated, and to some it is given naturally, but those of us who have to cultivate it have to struggle daily.
Dreams speak the language of emotion:
If we are divorced from our emotions we will not understand the language through which our dreams speak to us.
People are accustomed to making a division between emotion and reason, head and heart.
It is unwise to allow the way in which something is worded to influence you, and to sway you, without looking at the field broader.
It is wise to find a mastery of our emotions. Our emotions are important. And realize that your emotions are from your mind. So how can there be an opposition between our emotions and our mind?
Unless we are wording the situation the wrong way.
Those who are closed to their emotions are closed to a world of cognitive reactions. Emotions, like reason, are of our mind.
My buddy, Khalid Bey, once pointed out that Emotional thinking in itself is a form of reasoning.
A form of reason. Few people are capable to see that there is a reason within emotions. We are accustomed to thinking of emotions as irrational, I suggest a broader definition or “rational”.
Emotions occur in reaction to stimulus as perceived by our minds, and our mind is the seat of emotion.
We feel emotions in response to something we experience or learn or hear. This is a cognitive reaction.
Felicity lies in knowing what is important, when, and where, and to what degree.