Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Real Life Inception-like

I am sure most of you, if not all, would have seen the movie Inception. If not, you really have missed something. In short it is a science fiction film where Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a specialized spy or corporate espionage thief whose work consists of secretly extracting valuable commercial information from the unconscious mind of his targets while they are asleep and dreaming. Cobb is approached by the wealthy Mr. Saito (Ken Watanabe) asking them to perform the act of "inception", planting an idea within the person's subconscious mind. It involves a whole team with people playing different roles like a  Cobb's partner who takes "point" during jobs and is responsible for researching the team's targets, a graduate student who is recruited to construct the various dreamscapes, which are described as mazes, an associate who uses his ability to take the form of others inside the dream world, and a  chemist who formulates the drugs needed to sustain the dream states.

As you can see, it is a detailed and complex thing and to understand the movie and everything that happens in there, you would probably need to see it many, many times.The work for this started a lot earlier- In 2001, Nolan wrote an 80-page treatment about dream-stealers, presenting the idea to Warner Bros.Christopher Nolan himself had an interest in this phenomenon- Nolan had thought about these ideas on and off since he was sixteen years old, intrigued by how he would wake up and then, while falling back into a lighter sleep, hold on to the awareness that he was dreaming, a lucid dream. He also became aware of the feeling that he could study the place and alter the events of the dream. 

This movie has raised the questions- Is something like this really possible? Is dream sharing a reality or will it be in the future. The answer is, as of now, it isn't....not proven at least. Although we have things like lucid dreaming and dream incubation which is what has happened to me on previous occasions and which does happen to almost all of us though we might not remember it. 

Just 2 days back, this is what happened to me. I was sleeping and dreaming. It was quite an elaborate dream and was progressing like the story in a movie and after some time, I realized it was a dream. I thought to myself that it was indeed an interesting dream and the story of the dream is wonderful and worth writing down to maybe use somewhere in the future. I have an interest for writing- mainly articles on my blog, poems but I have written a story once- 10 years ago. Anyway, I started recalling the dream and I remembered it and started writing it down. Now here's the part- I wrote it down, but again this wasn't in real life, I was still sleeping in my bed and this was still a dream- another one because I had come out of the first one! And I was writing the story of my first dream in the second. There is also a term for this called- False Awakening! In the morning when I actually woke up ( No I did not require a totem to confirm whether this was actually the reality!) I remembered both my dreams. The first one, but the second one even more clearly. I remember the exact process where I was recalling the dream, how and what I recalled, the names of people and I could almost see what I had written down on the paper. 

What an interesting experience I thought. It happens to us many times that while in a dream, we realize it is a dream and that is a "Lucid Dream". Thus, A lucid dream, in simplest terms, is a dream in which one is aware that one is dreaming and can begin in one of two ways. A dream-initiated lucid dream (DILD) starts as a normal dream, and the dreamer eventually concludes it is a dream, while a wake-initiated lucid dream (WILD) occurs when the dreamer goes from a normal waking state directly into a dream state, with no apparent lapse in consciousness. This is possible if you practice it and try regularly. You can go into sleep and still be aware the same.

I don't know if you can remember such things happening to you, but I have previous experiences like once in a dream, I was like an actor in a movie- the hero, as if in the middle of an action sequence, running and hiding, on the lookout for other people who were after me, to survive and get the better of them. After lot of running around and surviving I actually became tired. (Note-  I really liked some of the concepts and statements of Inception movie, which are so very true like - "Well dreams, they feel real while we are in them, right? It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange". For more, see below for dialogues from this movie) Thus, in my dream after I was tired running around, I suddenly thought and said to myself- "This is a dream. Even if somebody kills you, you won't die. It is a dream". Though I feel it was not a full realization of this being a dream, because like the dialogue, it felt so real, I was only trying to convince myself but was still afraid, but tired. The strange part is I did wake up but when I went back to sleep again, the dream again resumed right there and I was there like thinking what is happening! And this happened at least 3 times!

Another thing so true, shown in the movie is A "Kick" wakes you up- "It's that feeling of falling that jolts you awake, that snaps you out of the dream", associated with the inner ear function. As you might have experienced while dozing off, we never fall, we always wake up. I have experienced that when I felt I was falling, in the dream, I actually woke up with a jolt.

Another concept is the Dream incubation which is a practiced technique of learning to "plant a seed" in the mind, in order for a specific dream topic to occur, either for recreation or to attempt to solve a problem. For example, a person might go to bed repeating to themselves that they will dream about a presentation they have coming up, or a vacation they recently took. While somewhat similar to lucid dreaming, dream incubation is simply focusing attention on a specific issue when going to sleep. Several studies have shown this method to be successful over a period of time. It has actually happened that many people, scientists etc have found solutions to the problems troubling them, in a dream.

This is indeed a very interesting topic and idea. In terms of spirituality too it is relevant. Enlightenment or nirvana or moksha whatever you call- the ultimate freedom, freedom from the cycles of birth and death is also actually an awakening- the real and final. That is why they call this world 'Maya' or illusion. Not because this world isn't real but because we are not yet awakened. We are still in a kind of a sleep and in the enlightenment or awakening, we wake up to the actual reality which is still the same, only we have awakened to it in a different way. Enlightenment is also being fully conscious and aware which is irreversible. That is why enlightened people are always aware or conscious, even in sleep and they never dream. Ordinary memories are stored out of conscious awareness in the subconscious. For something to be repressed into the unconscious the conscious mind must feel that there is something wrong with something natural. The subconscious controls the unconscious every moment and censors it. 

At birth, our minds have only one level; a "conscious" level. The other two levels do not develop until later in life, beginning with the development of subconscious, somewhere around age two, and then completing with the development of the unconscious, somewhere around age seven. Two years olds have no sense that time exists, other than as the present moment. Translation. They live life one moment at a time and so, can not sense that time unfolds, not even a little. Thus babies and enlightened people are in a way in a similar state. They only have a conscious level. They both have only this moment to live in. That's why they say you need to become child-like again. And the rest of us are in between having all 3 states conscious, sub conscious and unconscious.

From Inception movie, a few dialogues-

1. Cobb: What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient... highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed - fully understood - that sticks; right in there somewhere. 

2. Cobb: You create the world of the dream, you bring the subject into that dream, and they fill it with their subconscious. 
Ariadne: How could I ever acquire enough detail to make them think that its reality?
Cobb: Well dreams, they feel real while we're in them, right? It's only when we wake up that we realize how things are actually strange. Let me ask you a question, you, you never really remember the beginning of a dream do you? You always wind up right in the middle of what's going on.
Ariadne: I guess, yeah.
Cobb: So how did we end up here?
Ariadne: Well we just came from the a...
Cobb: Think about it Ariadne, how did you get here? Where are you right now?
Ariadne: We're dreaming?
Cobb: You're actually in the middle of the workshop right now, sleeping. This is your first lesson in shared dreaming. Stay calm. 

3. Cobb: What do you want? 
Saito: Inception. Is it possible? 
Arthur: Of course not. 
Saito: If you can steal an idea, why can't you plant one there instead? 
Arthur: Okay, this is me, planting an idea in your mind. I say: don't think about elephants. What are you thinking about? 
Saito: Elephants? 
Arthur: Right, but it's not your idea. The dreamer can always remember the genesis of the idea. True inspiration is impossible to fake. 
Cobb: No, it's not. 

4. Cobb: Eventually, She tells me the truth that she was possessed by an idea, just one simple idea that changed everything, that our world wasn't real and in order to get back to the reality, We'll have to kill ourselves. 

5. Arthur: So, a totem. It's a small object, potentially heavy, something you can have on you all the time...
Ariadne: What, like a coin?
Arthur: No, it has to be more unique than that, like - this is a loaded die.
[Ariadne reaches out to take the die]
Arthur: Nah, I can't let you touch it, that would defeat the purpose. See only I know the balance and weight of this particular loaded die. That way when you look at your totem, you know beyond a doubt you're not in someone else's dream. 

6. Cobb: I will split up my father's empire. Now this is obviously an idea that Robert Fischer will choose to reject - which is why we need to plant it deep in his subconscious. Subconscious is fueled by emotion, right? Not reason. We need a find a way to translate this into an emotional concept.
Arthur: How do you translate a business strategy into an emotion?
Cobb: Well, that's what we're here to figure out, right? Now Fischer's relationship with his father is stressed, to say the least...
Eames: Well, can we run with that? Suggest splitting up the empire as a "screw-you" to the old man?
Cobb: No, cause I think positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time. We all crave reconciliation - we're catharsis. We need Robert Fischer to have a positive emotional reaction to all this.
Eames: Alright, well try this. My father accepts that I want to create for myself, not follow in his footsteps.
Cobb: That might work. 

7. Eames: Do they come here to sleep?
Thin Man: [Looking at Cobb] No, They come here to be woken up. Dream has become their reality! Who are you to say, otherwise? 

8. Ariadne: [wakes up after being stabbed by Mal in a dream] Why... why wouldn't I wake up?
Arthur: 'Cause there was still some time on the clock and you can't wake up from within a dream unless you die. 

9. Ariadne: Won't you tell me anything about this first?
Cobb: Before I describe the job I have to know you can do it.
Ariadne: Why?
Cobb: It's not, strictly speaking, legal. 

10. Eames: Thank you. Now we're trapped in Fischer's mind battling his own private army and if we get killed we'll be lost in limbo till our brains turn into scrambled egg. 

11. Ariadne: Why are they all looking at me?
Cobb: Because my subconscious feels that someone else is creating this world. The more you change things, the quicker the projections start to converge on you.
Ariadne: Converge?
Cobb: It's the foreign nature of the dreamer. They attack like white blood cells fighting an infection.
Ariadne: They're going to attack us?
Cobb: No. Just you. 

12. Cobb: They say we only use a fraction of our brain's true potential. Now that's when we're awake. When we're asleep, we can do almost anything. 
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