The existential homework excuse

 

We cannot know for certain the exact frequency, but most experts agree that the Queen of England probably shits once a day. Sometimes she sits on the toilet, screws up her face and the shit emerges slowly like a turtles head, and sometimes her shits are more liquidy and difficult to clean. Sometimes, she does little rabbit poos. Shitting… is the great leveler. Hannah Montana does it, the Dalai Lama does it, Barack Obama does it. Every man and woman no matter how powerful, wise or rich… has to go for a shit.

However, there is another great leveler of class and circumstances; a psychedelic activity which every person on the planet engages in. It fundamentally questions the nature of reality, mind and body, but incredibly, is an activity which people give little thought to. And it is also a phenomenon that has been ignored by the greatest minds. Except Freud and his brothers in psychoanalysis, but they don’t count, because there was absolutely no scientific basis for their theories.

Yes, I’m talking about Dreams.

To me, it is unbelievable that even the most rigid and conservative citizen – the Queen of England, goes to bed each night, closes their eyes, and embarks upon a hallucinogenic journey more tripped out than any drug experience known to man. Then wakes up and thinks nothing of it. Next time you’re in a meeting with a very formal person bear in mind that just a few hours a go they were lying on their back tripping in another dimension doing God knows what, to God knows who… but you can bet your last dollar it was something really fucked up. Because in dreams, you can touch your grandmother’s pussy, you can kill people, you can climb mountains, move freely in space and time, and trees can talk. In dreams, reality unfolds into a magical mystery tour that closely resembles a form of schizophrenia. And we think nothing of it.

And what really pushes the boundaries of reality even further is what they call – waking dreams.

For those of you that don’t know, the waking dream is distinguished from the normal dream by one simple criteria: the fact that you know that you are in the dimension of dreams, and that you can manipulate certain aspects of that dimension to your own ends. The most common occurrence being… to fly. And you really do fly. I know because I’ve been having waking dreams for many years.

These flying experiences began when I gave up smoking. I would wake up in the middle of the night, involve myself in some insomniac activity like cleaning the house, and then go back to bed. I’ve never understood why, but this series of activities seems to bring on waking dreams like clockwork.

Anyway, the point is that if someone can tell me how waking dreams are possible – that you have your waking consciousness but are still in a dream – I would be very interested to know their answer.

For me, the most interesting question about dreams is not the meaning of their content. Trying to understand the personal significance of a dream is a bit like trying to understand modern art. You’re looking at a swirl of images and narrative trying to impose meaning when, most likely, the artist just threw a load of random colours onto the canvass. No, for me, the interesting question is… how is it possible that an alternative reality is created simply by closing our eyes? And if it is so easy to create alternative realities… how do we verify that we are not dreaming at this very moment? How do you know that the podcast you are listening to now is not just part of a dream? Usually we assess the reality of something by the fact that we can touch and smell and see it, but all those things we do when we are dreaming.

This question is one of the first philosophical questions a human asks itself as a child. How do I know I’m not dreaming now? And the answer is… you don’t.

There is only one clue…. one indicator that you are probably not dreaming and that is consistency. Every night you go to sleep and travel to strange, shifting places and situations, whereas when you wake up the same alarm clock goes off, the same overweight spouse lies next to you, the same shower, the same hijo de puta of a boss asking for his report, same bank looking for the mortgage money, and it is highly unlikely that you’re gonna touch your grandmother’s pussy. It is the waking world’s consistency… that marks it as the waking world.

Doesn’t mean it’s real though!

Brains in bowls, do I really exist, does the exterior world really exist? This uncertainty used to disturb me when I was younger. But then I entered a subversive phase when the fact that nothing could be proven to be real became a source of delight. When my boss shouted and asked for his report and demanded to know why I hadn’t done it… I responded that I couldn’t be sure whether he was real or not, and therefore if his request was valid. When the bank wanted to know when I was going to pay my loan I replied … when I can be sure that the loan was actually real and not a creation of my mind. In fact, here’s a tip for my younger listeners: next time your teacher asks why you haven’t done your homework… or gives you too much homework, refuse to do it on the grounds that you can’t be sure that he or she, or in fact, the school, is real. Be careful, though, if the teacher does a Doctor Johnson and gives you a kick to refute the charge he’s not real.

In the end, though, as you get older, you normally arrive at a more pragmatic solution. Yes, in some philosophical sense, we don’t know if we’re dreaming or not or if the whole of reality is an invention, or if we’re microscopic organisms living on a giant chocolate éclair, but the fact is that, as I already mentioned, this waking world is remarkably consistent. One thing you know for fucking sure – whether this world’s real or not, is that BBVA will never forget to direct debit your car payment each month, and whether the world’s real or not… catching the bus to work will surely be a bitch.

 

Screws up her face: to squeeze your face into lots of lines usually through the pressure of pain or exertion.

Leveler: something that takes everybody to the same level.

No matter how: It’s not important ‘how’ or what you do… it’ll be the same. For example… no matter how you look at it – the temperature of the world is increasing and we’re all fucked.

Wise: extremely intelligent but in a sage way – like the Bhudda.

Engages in: does. For example… the thief was engaging in illegal activity.

Tripped out: really freaky, disturbing, and hallucinogenic. From the word ‘trip’ to describe an LSD Experience.

Embarks upon: starts. For example… tomorrow the company embarks upon a new adventure when we launch this product.

Bear in mind: think about this. Tener en cuenta.

Pussy: a slang word for the female vagina.

Resembles: looks like. Parecerse a.

Unfolds: occurs. From the verb ‘fold’ – doblar. The sense is that an event is being the opposite of folded – it’s opening up.

Pushes the boundaries: tests and pushes the limits.

To your own ends: for your own motives.

Like clockwork: with extreme regularity. Like a clock – always on time.

Swirl: gira. A circular, fast moving image or movement.

Canvass: what a painter uses to paint on (the surface).

Impose: imponer. To make someone take something whether they want it or not.

Marks: shows, exemplifies.

Shifting: changing.

Mortgage: the loan the bank gives you to buy a house.

Unlikely: poco probable.Not probable.

Assess: evaluar. To evaluate.

Request: an official way of asking for something. Peticion.

Refute the charge: to be very clear that you are against ‘en contra’ something. To deny an accusation or proposition.

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