Dissecting Dreams.

Dreams are easy to see; but difficult to understand. The most difficult part is perhaps in deciding where they start and to where they travel to. What do you get when you dissect a dream? What are they made up of? And most importantly, can we control them if we are to somehow fathom what they are made up of?

This simple but perplexing question has existed for a long time. But there are no real answers. As it is said, nobody knows how to demarcate the boundaries of a dream. So you stop and think about this - how do you define a dream? Is it the desire to achieve something? Or is it more about this ‘something’? Say, you are on a journey to get something done. What constitutes the dream here? The journey, your urge to get on with it, or the end result of your journey?

This might sound like a silly way of trying to define what a dream is. But if you think about the problems associated with having dreams and fulfilling them, these distinctions start making more sense. More often, people ask you about where you see yourself in the next ten years. What a preposterous question! Ten years ago in 2011, what were you thinking about the kind of life you’d lead ten years down the line? You lived in a different world. You had no clue of what the world of 2021 would be. We are not talking about the external conditions forcing you into something. The choices we make are a function of the ‘growth’ process that we undergo as well. We are not static, neither are our thought processes, considerations, value systems and objectives for the moment. So this question is fundamentally a meaningless one. Even then it makes perfect sense to have an answer for it! Even when any answer that you may give will be quite fatuous. You cannot answer how you will get there. You cannot even argue that you would want the same thing at that point of time. If you are unsure about what a ten year old self wants, how can you be making choices for them?

So this question of what you want to do ten years down the line is not a simple one by any means. But when I say that, my intention is not to prove that the question isn’t devoid of any value at all. In most cases, the question indeed has a practical value. That is, what are your priorities now. So when I am asking about what you want to be ten years down the line, I am actually trying to understand what you are now. I want to know about the clarity of your thought process. I wouldn’t agree with this right away, but I am interested in knowing how informed you are about the possibilities of change. Or if I may be allowed, I would like to know about how well you grasp the nature of change itself. I am not saying that everyone who poses this question thinks that much. But knowing more about this question is essential in understanding the very nature of dreams.

Every so often, we see ourselves charged with so much enthusiasm. To achieve something. But if we were to be asked how we are going to achieve something, we tend to have no direction. This problem is exacerbated by the very nature of the planning process as well. Planning by definition is possible only to the extent of information available to us. Sure, we can estimate and make assumptions. But there are always things that we will never fathom completely. There can be blackswan events. There can be the whole universe conspiring to prevent us from achieving our ideals. All these could be very overwhelming. They could easily convince you not to move at all. This could have the effect of a large rock being placed on your chest - not allowing you to move, to breathe. But this is not how we normally go about things. Whether we are optimistic or not, we always try to set things in motion. This is no great act of optimistic courage. Rather, it is an instinctive reaction to the fact we have always known. That inertia is the de-facto state and we are definitely not going to achieve our objectives if we sit there.

When we complain about procrastination and the like, and when we try to institute regimes to “beat” it, we seldom look into ourselves and see this. It is okay to be lost. It is okay to be unsure of how we are to achieve our “dreams”. It is all a fuzzy world and a mixture of hopeless uncertainties that lie between every little dream. Even if these are trivial little steps that we take in our journey, you will find it hard to prove how one thing leads to another. I understand how this logic is a bit convoluted. Here, I am trying to prove how we propel ourselves into action despite the scope for hopeless uncertainties. You only have to think about the distance between two small steps to understand how the logical flow between them is a complicated affair. You know that the next little step is where we are going. Like you are preparing for a unit test of five chapters. After chapter one, you should be reading chapter two, then three and so on. But is this logical sequence the path you should be taking? Can you do it in another order, or close the book altogether and go to youtube to learn? Or perhaps ask a friend who generally scores well in examinations? There are a thousand ‘routes’. And in every route, you will have a hard time explaining the steps you take in each one of them. Hence, the path you end up taking is an approximation and subject to a lot of chances. What if a pandemic breaks out and the examination gets postponed? A whole lot of chances, yet you instinctively end up choosing one.

It is from this vantage point that you should be looking at dreams. Dreams are basically a set of feelings that keeps you away from veering off a certain track. If the journey is a series of steps you take, it is imperative that you have a reason to do so. Irrespective of the end destination and the logical proof to the order of steps you take, the dream operates in such a way that you end up doing it. The nature of the journey is of no consequence. The reason why you take this said path is of no consequence. The dream operates independently of all these. It is not concerned with the results and the rationale why a certain path is taken. It is very important that we understand this. Then only we can make sense of the loss of direction we face every now and then. Dreams alone are no precondition to taking the right path. Dreams don’t guarantee you anything. It is perfectly okay to be clueless. Once we have separated these two, it becomes easier to grasp the realities we often find ourselves in.

I have written about how the journey is more important than the destination. For the destination may never come. Dreams act as an operating system of sorts in powering this journey forward. We instinctively understand this, but it is bewildering at times to consider the implications. Most importantly, in making them work for us. This is a complex system. But it is designed to do the seemingly most simple of tasks. It is here that we should reconcile the features of this system. And this system is not something that lies entirely within our physical selves. For example, dreams are often conceived elsewhere. They are created outside our biological selves. They permeate into us through the layers of cultural interaction. Language plays a role, the disposition of the culture group, the zeitgeist of the times, the general lack of information and wisdom in the society - they all contribute to this dream. It is not necessary that you are able to control these dreams. But understanding the inner working of this system, most importantly how the parts interact with each other will help you in the journey forward.

How all these are going to help you is something that even I don’t understand well. My aim here is to prove how normal it is to be confused. And that the fundamental nature of dreams are quite misunderstood. If this is coming in the way of you having a peaceful life, this article may be of some help. And if you are blown away by the intensity of your dream, but is helplessly staring at a bewildering lack of ‘direction’, this could help you come to terms with this situation. I have always maintained that I am not really good with self-help recipes. This is just a cursory study of the nature of dreams and this may or may not turn out to be helpful for the reader. I am writing this nevertheless. This is what I am here for.

[It is not clear why or when Sagar wrote this. I am publishing this anyways for people who may find it useful]

Written on August 22, 2021