René Descartes was responsible for the phrase, “I think, therefore I am.” In his 1641 book Meditations on First Philosophy, he poses the question of how he can know with certainty that the world he experiences is not an illusion being forced upon him. He reasons that since he believes in what he sees and feels while dreaming, he cannot trust his senses to tell him that he is not still dreaming. His senses cannot provide him with proof that the world even exists and that, for all he knows, he and the rest of the world might be under the control of an evil demon.
Some say the scenario depicted in The Matrix is ridiculous: human beings kept in tanks by intelligent machines, experiencing an artificial reality that they believe is fact just to produce power for those machines. Like most people, I took the movie to be wholly symbollic, not literal, as many lovers of sci-fi philosophy did. In every sense we are kept as energy cells for the System, and we are kept opiated by television, religion, and consumerism so that we don't "wake up" and realize that we are its slaves from the moment our existence is filed with City Hall and we are given a Social Security number.
What got me thinking about this was the many dreams I had this morning. In them I encountered and dealt with a number of situations, scenarios, and people that, when I awoke, plunged me into thoughts about the unreliability of what we call our waking state, or Reality. Dreaming is a fascinating thing. Despite all science has discovered and unraveled about the nature of life on this planet, and the very origin of all that is, we still don't know what dreaming is. There are many theories, but we just don't know. Again, how can we?
“I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?” Chuang Tzu, 369 - 286 bce
As I've said in earlier entries, I've always had extremely detailed and lucid dreams. Very few are chaotic or nonsensical, and I've always regarded my time dreaming as an alternate reality of sorts. Even if dreaming is (as many experts believe) a mere "defragging" process the brain employs to clean our files and tidy our registry, it still must possess meaning, because the data is created in us. It's personal.
My philosophy is that I am the driver of my body-vehicle, not the vehicle itself. That's what has made aging easier for me than it was before I really grasped that idea. Like a car, my body ages, but I, the driver inside, am the same age I ever was. I am ageless. My dreams brought this home to me this morning because in my dreams I am never any younger or older than about 30. That means something to me and, as I step into the final phase of my time on this planet, it's a comfort. I've also learned some things about the psychological effect aging has on us, but that's for another entry.
How's that for a cliffhanger?