Sleep is a pretty peculiar thing about being alive. Science can’t fully explain yet why exactly all mammals (and likely all animals) put themselves to sleep a some point in the day or night.
Evolutionarily, it is a pretty huge liability: To completely disable oneself and be sedentary and dormant for any period of time exposes the sleeping animal to predators pretty easily. One would assume with the risk so high, the benefits could be easily be explained. Though science hasn’t been able to fully explain why we sleep, the word most often used instead of a full explanation is “recharging.” As in, sleep is a way to “recharge” the battery of being a human.
This idea of recharging brings a sense of renewal to each day and most humans look forward to resting each night. However, the notion of “recharging” during sleep is kind of challenged by one thing:
If body and mind needed to be “recharged,” then why wouldn’t the brain simply turn off all inputs for this recharging? The day is long and humans are constantly bombarded with sensory input signals at all waking hours.
If I were my brain, I’d need a break too, man.
But the brain doesn’t actually stop during sleep. It turns your body off (literally, releases chemicals to paralyse muscles) and takes your human experience into its own little mysterious playhouse that is still even further unexplained by science. Cue Metallica.
No one actually knows why we dream. But our bodies and minds NEED dreams just as much as they NEED sleep. According to this 1960 study by William Dement people who are allowed to sleep but are dream-deprived showed the same signs and symptoms of people who are sleep-deprived and their brains attempted to induce dreaming sooner in their sleep cycle.
It’s fascinating that we need to dream. If our brains need sleep to “recharge,” then why do they go to this next-level effort of making sure we have fantastical dreams every night?
Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with dreams. On one hand, what fun they are. And they’re so weird. I like weird and fun things. If I dream of a giant elephant, does it say anything about my mood or personality? There is so many weird questions that can follow after a dream… Does a giant elephant ever dream about me?
If you’ve ever been engulfed up in a lucid dream, you know what an incredible feeling that can be. You can pretty much do anything you want in your lucid dream. You can have everything you want in an instant; you can fly, and you don’t have a care in this lucid-dream-world. There is a sense of almightiness, godliness. If only you could stay dreaming forever, amirite?
If you haven’t yet put one of these headsets on and flown around, or simulated a boxing match, or swum in the ocean, I highly recommend it.
The experience is so real and vivid that it is a little scary. You can go anywhere and essentially do anything you want, and this VR device will get you as close to a feeling as you actually doing it as possible. At some point, one has to wonder what the difference even is.
But waking up after a lucid dream, or taking the VR headset off, I must say had me feeling a weird sense of depression. I found myself wondering, “Will I ever get to do these things? See these places? Now that I know what these things could feel like, will it be OK⏤will I be OK if I don’t?”
What if you could just dream for your whole life? If our bodies need to dream to “recharge,” why not a constant charge? We are seemingly always craving that feeling of a lucid dream to be brought into our “real lives.” Everybody seems to want more, to be there faster, “If I just get ‘this’ or ‘that’ everything would be okay…,” but then we get “that” and there’s another thing we need to get right after.
Yeah, THAT!! That’ll make life just a little bit better, wouldn’t it? New car, job, new city, bigger house, better this, bigger that.
We always want a little more. One of my favorite studies on reported “happiness” states that even when people make a butt-load of money, reported happiness tapers and plateaus above about $75,000 yearly salary. But we still want more.
You have a perfect body (in your own eyes), you have limitless resources, and you have developed a way to live for 100 years (but you have somehow maintained a sense of humility and haven’t told anyone about this. Hey, good on you!). You have also developed a machine that allows you dream all the time: your own VR headset-tank-gizmo-whatever…
Whatever you want to dream. It’s yours.
You get in the machine and take it for a spin. You dream wild, vivid, insane dreams—24/7/365 dreams, dreams, dreams. When fantasies about being famous, and powerful, and sexy, and athletic get boring, you decide to start embodying animals and climbing and swimming and hunting. You exhaust every single “Would you rather…” situation imaginable and you play years of “Marry, Fuck, Kill”—but for real.
When that gets dull, you decide that you are going to see every crevice on the whole planet, so you travel everywhere (flying of course), when you run out of places to go on Earth you explore the galaxy and the universe (because, fuck it, it’s your dream). You meet aliens and you befriend them. They love you too, because it’s your dream and everyone loves you. What’s alien sex like? You definitely find out.
From skills, power, fame, experiences. You’ve done it. Let’s say you dream these dreams for 50 years; you haven’t come out of this dream machine once. Fifty years of perpetual dreams and endless energy—you’ve done it all.
At what point do you get tired of that experience of having everything you ever wanted the same way you get tired in the real world on a daily basis? When do you start craving a little uncertainty and surprise in your life? At what point do you realize the journey of working for things and earning things is actually what we crave as humans. Even though dreams can fuel this gap of uncertainty, at what point to do you realize what you want isn’t really to be “over there” or to have “a little bit more,” but rather to feel a sense of desire for something new, better, or more?
How much time in the forever-perfect-dream-machine would you spend before you realize that the things you want are these things you have, and the place you want to be is here, and the only time to enjoy them both is right now?