For those who haven’t seen Chris Nolan’s epic thriller Inception (no spoilers), it tells the intriguing story of Dom Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio) who has the ability to enter and share people’s dreams to steal secrets or plant ideas in their subconscious using a shared dream technology that also allows him to create a dream within a dream. As dreams appear so real when we are in them, throughout the story Cobb heavily relies on a spinning top as his “totem”; an object to know if he is still in a dream or awake. If the spinning top doesn’t stop spinning, he knows he is still in a dream.
To celebrate my blog’s 1st Year anniversary, I’m sharing with you a video of me playing Inception’s Soundtrack on the piano, scored by my favourite film composer Hans Zimmer and the piano arrangement is by the incredibly talented Mark Fowler.
Along with the music, here are my own philosophical ponderings on dreams….
The unanswered questions of why we dream and the meaning of dreams have passed through all of our minds at some stage, leaving us baffled by their mystery. To try and understand dreams, I believe we should ask why we sleep. Sleep is something we normally never question, it is taken as a given and as a result we don’t recognise its importance. The fact that humans are not like robots that never need to rest, I see the act of sleeping as an unusual and a meaningful phenomenon.
Sleep is primarily a function of the brain and biologically we can not function without it. Even the world we live in shows us that sleep is a necessary system that governs all, and even the light must obey; as the sun sets and darkness falls the animal kingdom prepare for slumber, the plant kingdom changes its cycle and the moon and stars move like the slow ticking hand of time to signal the rising of the sun again.
I believe that sleep is the most important tool of our existence. It is needed not just for us to rest every night, but it is used as a transitional tool into this world through our birth and out of it through death. Sleep is how we enter the womb of this world and sleep is how we leave it, hence the phrase Rest in Peace. We are asleep when we are being formed in the womb, and even upon entering the world we spend the majority of our early months asleep. Newborns do not learn how to sleep, it is a skill we are all born with.
In a dream, we never remember the beginning of the dream or how we got there, we just gradually come to be in a dream. Likewise, in our early formative years we don’t realise one day “I am ME! I am here!”. No. We gradually awaken to “self”, gradually awaken in our new reality and gradually own our reflection in the mirror. We don’t remember the beginning of “self” or how we got there; it’s as if we slipped into a dream without realising. Or, it’s as if we have become awakened without knowing we were asleep. I believe that sleep is a tool in transitioning toddlers to gradually awaken to their new identity in their new reality.
It’s interesting how, to become unplugged and rest from the world, like a switch we close our eyes and flick them inwards like projectors to become plugged into our world within. Our consciousness is the protagonist of our external world and our subconscious is the protagonist of our internal dream-world. It seems that both the outer and internal worlds and our outer and internal voices need each other to balance each other out. Perhaps neither can exist without the other. Our life is one continuous reality, floating from an outwards worldly-reality to an inwards dream-reality.
Without sleep, there is no tomorrow. Without sleep, there is no new day. Without sleep, time would be a continuous journey in the present with no separated past and days would have neither name nor meaning. Sleep separates and makes each day its own day. Each day is accountable for its mistakes and its ups and downs and sleep allows the next day to be a new day and a blank slate. Sleep is transition. It is the transitional tool from every yesterday to every today to every tomorrow; it is the thread that sews every day of our life together.
Dreams are essential to the transition; they are the bedtime stories we tells ourselves where we are allowed to reflect on our mistakes, face our fears, to resolve and work out problems, to practise what we have learned, create ideas and discover our inner kingdom. Dreams are communication between your consciousness and subconsciousness; your subconsciousness communicates a feeling or a thought that you hadn’t realised yet, like a bubble rising to the surface. Dreams are also another means of communication as they can be a lifted veil into the spiritual realm as they can foresee events, receive prophecies, messages, words of wisdom, counsel and guidance from God.
While we need to rest every day for at least 7 hours, God rests on the 7th day, for all of the Sabbath day. Made in His image, it makes sense that our Creator needs to rest as well. Does He rest His mind in a sleep-like or dream-like state? It makes me wonder if us resting on the Sabbath would also mean we would be quiet enough to allow Him sleep, as if tip-toeing around the house to not wake our Father. Allowed to be the creators of our own dream-world, we live in a world that our Father has dreamed up and created for us.
What is living? It’s being awake in reality. What is reality? What appears real to us at the time. We can be awake whilst dreaming, and dreaming whilst awake. A dream feels so real as we float along oblivious to our subconscious building and creating our dream-reality. It is only when we ask the question “Am I dreaming?” does our brain then awaken partially in the dream, allowing our consciousness to take control and to lucid dream.
Likewise, our external world appears to be real as we float along oblivious while we get distracted in a dream-like state with work and daily routines and whisked away by our consciousness’ train of thoughts. It’s only when we stop and ask who’s driving the train, when we start questioning the questioner and thinking about the thinker that we awaken and realise that there is more to this “reality”. “Reality” appears real until you start questioning it or if you have something else to compare it to. When we awaken from a dream, we instantly know that it was a dream as we can compare it to our awakened state. Who’s to say, that when we awaken in the after-life, in our next reality, and feel how much more real being Home feels, perhaps we will look back at our earth-life as if it were one long continuous lucid dream in comparison.
We are born in a world within a world, a reality within reality, a dream within a dream, awakened state within awakened state. We are asleep for an infinite more time than we exist so make sure you are not dreaming when you are awake.
The sky is my “totem”. When I look up at the sky’s immense vastness, its white whispy brush strokes, the display cabinet of colours and the moving reel of ever-changing art, it instantly reminds me to stop and question my reality, appreciate the mystery and beauty of the world around me, be present in the moment, connect with my inner voice, and most importantly be truly awake.
What will be your “totem” ?