07 March, 2010

Waking Life

I am a big dreamer. In the sense I have a lot of dreams. Vivid. Colourful. Long. Musical. Real. Surreal. Ever since I remember, holiday mornings have meant narrating and hearing out dream sequences with Girl 1 (aka The Girl With the Intuitive Dreams). Her motto hovers around the If Sleep Will Dream Concept perfected by compulsive dreamers. We'd wake up, breathlessly narrating bizarre sequences of utterly improbable events or nodding knowingly at the pen-not-working-in-exam, being-smothered-to-death, running-but-never-reaching dreams.

Coming to what triggered this post. Waking Life, a Richard Linklater (Linklater! Crazy surname!)  movie that I began watching solely because it boasted of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reappearing as their Before Sunrise/Before Sunset characters and the visually stimulating concept of rotoscopy. Good old Wiki describes rotoscoping as an animation technique in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame, for use in animated films. In the movie, it creates an interesting unreal fabric, making innaminate objects like tables and glasses float about in gravity-defying ways. The constant movement and shifting shapes craft a dream-like quality to the entire movie, which beautifully fits into what Waking Life is all about.

The movie touches a wide range of esoteric topics from consciousness to the meaning of life, what reality really is and dream interpretation. It plays with various subjects from philosophy to politics, the arts to scientific discourses on the human brain and REM. Following the conversations and often seemingly disjointed scene sequences, the movie may seem preachy to some. It has that Sophie's World kind of layered quality which makes it engaging and yet you have to go over it several times before assimilating most of what is being said. (Sophie's World is a whole other discussion we must have sometime).

However, what I was particularly fascinated by was the concept of Lucid Dreaming. The Lucidity Institute (wow!) defines the concept as
dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming. The term was coined by Frederik van Eeden who used the word "lucid" in the sense of mental clarity. Lucidity usually begins in the midst of a dream when the dreamer realizes that the experience is not occurring in physical reality, but is a dream. Often this realization is triggered by the dreamer noticing some impossible or unlikely occurrence in the dream, such as flying or meeting the deceased. Sometimes people become lucid without noticing any particular clue in the dream; they just suddenly realize they are in a dream.
Have you (those of you who dream) felt as if you know that you are dreaming while in the dream? It happens to me often (and to other people too, I found out) where I will be running and running and running and though I am panting and almost dead, I know its a dream and that the race will end. What is more crucial is that in lucid dreaming, you are actually (as the word suggests) conscious while you dream. You know you are in the dream and can acknowledge your power to change the course of events. You can choose how the dream unravels. You can just stop running, or turn around. And no, this is not something I dreamt up. It is a well documented and researched phenomenon. It is also, a skill that can be developed! (Side question: Why would you want to control your dreams? They are the one place that you are unfettered, reason flies out the window, so why would you train your mind to channel your dreams?)

Dreams and their quality of amalgamating recent experiences (a horror movie you saw, a conversation you had yesterday, the cake you ate) with your feelings (subconscious or otherwise) have always fascinated me. Waking Life and its interesting discussions of an exhaustive(ing?) range of topics reignited that.


  1. Marvin3:02 pm

    people who can not or do not dream are also humans. i am trying to get someone to fight in favour of our human rights.

    also, the movie has been recommended off and on by several people. a guy in college swore by it (however, only when he had sworn by apocalypse now). tried watching a scanner darkly once. that one uses rotoscopy too. but gave up somewhere around the half way mark.

    and although the questions about life have already been answered, i do want to give it a try. (the answer's available on request).

  2. Marvin3:04 pm

    it's interesting to find someone actually trying to critically analyse and interpret a movie. usually we just like or dislike a movie without trying to find out the reasons for doing so. and also without trying to find out why what has been shown has been shown.

  3. Yes I know that people who don't dream are human. You, of course, are an entirely different matter, what with the planet-sized head and the melancholic marvinisms. I was planning on Slacker and Dazed and Confused by Linklater...later.

    Also, the answers? You can't pique curiousity and then just leave it. Baah.

  4. everyone dreams btw. just that some people don't remember their dreams while others do.

  5. No Nive, Marvin doesn't. Tab bhi he is SO touchy.

  6. I meant that is why he is so vehement about non-dreamers being human :P

  7. one of the most fascinating movies that i've ever seen. in trying to understand dreams and reality, it poses questions which have intrigued us for so long.
    a must watch for all those who have ever bothered to think about life...

  8. Good seeing you Pallav! After so so long :) Yes, Waking Life is so underrated. I plan to start on it again.

  9. hmmm.. found your blog hidden somewhere after so long... and an interesting post to top that... :)
    nice.. how've you been.. or should i rather be using one of the social networking tools for catching up??

  10. :) Glad you (re)found it. I've been good. You can get a better idea of 'how I've been' from here than those networking sites. Good to see you here!



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