My car kisses the curb of a not too familiar street. Something catches my attention. My eyes drop to the space between the driver’s chair and the center console. A black hole of coins and receipts of things I don’t remember buying. This driver reaches into the space and pulls.
A black Blackberry.
It is mine. It belongs to me. Where most people had Bolds and Curves, I had the Pearl. Not the popular choice but one that I never regretted making. This phone was stolen not by me but from me. It was on a desk in a room in a house in Ayala Heights, where I saw it last. In my hand though is where I see it now. First comes happiness then comes relief. I thought I would never see it again. I was half right.
I am not sitting but lying down on a bed in my room in my house. My long gone phone remains to be as is. First comes sadness then comes acceptance. It was the third time in a week I dreamt of finding that phone.
This dream may not share the same shock value of films like Nolan’s Inception or Crowe’s Vanilla Sky but it has the formula. You experience the world of the dream but what do you bring back to the world of those awake?
A student in DLSU whose real name is not John had a nightmare. John recounts a dream with a girl, a hallway and a clock. He stands at the end of a hallway opposite a stranger. John thought he knew her. At that moment the face of a clock flashes in front of him. Not to argue with the physics of a dream, he sees the arms pointing up and right.
The clock passes and the girl is now in front of him. He was wrong. He did not know her. “She wasn’t scary,” John says. At that moment he bolted up, now awake sitting upright on his bed. He looks for his clock out of curiosity and sees a familiar sight.
Eerie, later in the day, he tells this story to his mother. His mother then tells him of the dreams his tito had when he would sleep in the room John now occupies. Different person, different dream but the same girl, eerie.
Robert Stickgold, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, explained in a talk how dreams work. They take things you experience during the day, or the night for owls, and try to understand it. It takes the gist of it and then factors in our insights subconsciously. This all comes from Stickgold’s studies dedicated to understanding the relationship of sleep and learning.
Nightmares would then come from something we experienced and fear while awake. But the story of John seems to do the opposite. It seemed as if the fear was created during the dream and was brought back to the world of the conscious and the awake. Maybe fear goes both ways.
We all know that there is a fine line between sleep and awareness. Some more than others pay closer attention to it. So people just gave it a name, with people like Dr. Andreas Mavromatis, naming the experience – hypnagogia. Although at times the line that divides the two states of sleep and awareness tends to get blurry. Hazy would be the optimal word. It is during this wherein people experience phenomena such as sleep paralysis and lucid dreaming. Hypnagogia begins to sound like purgatory.
Does that make heaven the dream, or waking up?
Sleep paralysis is the inability to move as a person falls asleep or wakes up. It is like when you are the first one to wake up when sleeping over with friends, except it was your brain that jumped the gun while your body remains asleep. During this, people experience a number of sinister sensations. The most devilish, probably, is the combination of a stinging vibration that begins in your chest and a noise that begins to shape into voices.
A student from Ateneo, whose real name is Jelo, experienced sleep paralysis. It was only until this article was made that he was made known of the condition. Until then, he just remembered it as the time he thought he was being possessed, maybe. He tried to shout but couldn’t. He tried to move but couldn’t. He thought he was going to die. He was half right.
Nocturnal death is what they call it. Basically it is dying in your sleep; these are not ninety year old men and women who have lived a good life whose death we explain to the children with the line “It was their time.” These deaths were and are happening to the young. Jelo didn’t die though, goes without saying.
Ever watch The Matrix? That was a rhetorical question. You die in the matrix; you die in the real world.
It is this gamification of real life that is most daunting. With this aspect of sleep coupled with the fear of simple dreaming, monsters in our closets are nothing compared to the monsters within our heads. All these nightmares represent the negative. A negative is usually shown as a villain or a problem, but since nightmares come from our minds then it is we who make up this evil. We may not be much of a villain but more of an unreliable narrator. At a certain point maybe we can’t even trust ourselves.
John, Jelo and the writer of this article share one thing in common: We went to sleep without a problem but woke up with one. Science hasn’t been able to explain it. We don’t really know why we need to sleep or why we dream. It’s not like we have a choice though, a bad dream is almost the risk we take in sleeping. This though is a concern only for some, as I asked people about any dreams they had, they replied with “I haven’t been dreaming lately.” With the amount of dreams this writer has been having, I should tell them:
“I haven’t been awake lately.”