Freedom From Identity (Personal experiences with self awareness)

A brilliant secret green where the blue of sleep is neck and neck with the yellow of awake. Obviously the transition is a gradual process but it feels like there must be a perfect moment right in-between the two. Perhaps it’s the symmetry that is so attractive, the line down the middle of two perfectly balanced opposites seems profound. Not the separation of the two, but where the two become each other, where my waking self and my subconscious truce, look each other straight in the eye and tango. Unable to remember that pivot between two parts of me that usually did not coexist, every night part of my mind would stay alert watching the rest of me drift out of focus hoping to witness some great gateway or a changing of the guards ceremony where one me punched out and another punched in. This lead to a lifetime of insomnia and lucid dreaming.

Lucid dreaming is a state that many people seek because it gives them ultimate freedom to explore themselves without the constraints of reality. It can be exhausting because although you are dreaming you are also completely aware of your other self in bed and can open your eyes and see both worlds at the same time. It’s not really asleep, it’s more like your subconscious is a little more awake than usual.

Would you be you if you had been born just a moment sooner or later? Who would this other person have been? Would they have also met a crow in a dream when they were 6? Taught him to fly in exchange for teaching him to speak and flown around chatting all night looking down at the country side around your house? Would you have hit the floor as hard when you jumped out of your bunk bed that next morning? Why are you you? And are you always you? Maybe you just woke up here in this body, in this life, with these memories. Tomorrow you could be someone else. Could you stop trying to be you to see who you would become? No matter how unintentionally you live, you will still be you. A person can’t help it.

Once as a child I noticed a completely unimportant moment that I would forget it as soon as it was over. An imagined me 20 years from then was not able to recall it, she had no reason to. That moment seemed doomed to disappear and to take that me with it into nonexistence. Somehow, 20 years later I do remember. The recognition of the moment caused me to remember it. Perhaps I don’t really remember the first time, perhaps I just remember remembering remembering it. When I experience deja vue it is not just that I feel like I have done this before. It is usually a completely banal experience, nothing worth noticing, but I feel like I have done it a thousand times, and the last time it happened I was felling deja vue of another time just like this that I felt deja vue. It’s the sensation of an infinity mirror through time. A tunnel into forever.

Most nature documentaries about penguins don’t have much in the frame to indicate scale. I assumed for most of my life that penguins were as tall as humans, some over 6 feet, until that one show where the scientist couldn’t resist intervening and walked up to a penguin to help it out of a hole he had fallen into. The bird came only up to her knee, I was shocked. Epophany, akin to epiphany, is a massive realization that what you once believed is not true. I could not trust anything that I thought I knew and was suddenly aware of the plasticity of my mind and knowledge.

You can become lucid while dreaming by noticing that parts of your mind are not working normally. This can happen when you try to read something, but the text characters flip around and don’t make sense. While fast asleep and fully aware that I am dreaming I never fly. Instead I play a terrible game. Knowing that everything in my dream world comes from what I already know and so nothing truly new or unknown can happen here, I walk up to someone and ask them a question that I do not know the answer to. It could be as easy as saying “What is your name?” The prompt creates a feedback loop, but the harder I try to find something profound, the more I find the profane. The dream character is always eager to answer with a tidal wave of terrifyingly dark, grotesque stream of consciousness that I can never listen to for more than a few seconds. It always wakes me up shocked that such unfamiliar filth could come from inside me.

Sleep deprivation makes me see lights moving across my vision, like car headlights passing me through closed eyelids. Once I didn’t sleep for 14 nights in a row. Confused, I began to wonder if I was unconscious on the side of a road. Sounds like grocery cart wheels squeaking turned into my friends and family whistling to me through a coma in a hospital room trying to wake me up. My mind was rejecting reality, possibly because I recognized that it wasn’t working properly. At the time I worked as a bartender and I lived in a loft meant to be a music studio. My neighbor was a drummer and his band would come over in the evenings to practice. There were holes in the walls between my loft and his, so I got to know all their songs really well, and all their gossip. I knew them without having ever met them. One night during my bout of insomnia they played a show at my bar. They looked exactly as I imagined they would which proved to me, since I had never seen them before, that I was finally asleep listening to them play through the wall in the loft. I cursed myself for dreaming of being at work and sang along. After work I went home to bed. It turned out I had been awake and they actually had looked just as I imagined while they played at my work.

The natural response to not immediately recognizing where you are on waking is to look around, focus your eyes on the walls of the room, search for something you recognize. If you can’t tell where you are it’s hard to tell when you are. Remember yesterday, or the things you have planned for today, and suddenly you are you, here in this place and time. The moments spent in the freedom of hypnopompia, the transitional state between sleep and awake, your dream mind observing the real solid world where you don’t know how old you are or what is going on in your life can be very enjoyable. The state is naturally blank and open to suggestion, ready to attach to any kind of reality. Vow to never fall asleep in an unsafe place. Right now. This means that you are now free to resist your mind’s instinctive compulsion to orient yourself on waking. You can prolong this state of being nobody, nowhere, outside of time. It doesn’t make you not exist, it reveals a pure you, free of the influences of life.

I’ve always thought that my favorite part of life was my ability and freedom to change my mind. But it’s not true. My favorite part of life is and always has been liminality. I heard the word in a movie when I was 27 and looked it up: a state between states. I almost cried because no one had told me that this was a thing there was a word for. Everything beautiful: airplane rides, caterpillars in cocoons, the horizon, the beach, dusk, the moments after you stop being one person but before you start being someone else. The freedom found in the ambiguity of identity is exciting. The liminal moments in life, like after you’ve opened an acceptance/rejection letter but before you know which one it is, cause thrilling anticipation. Passed the point of no return. The sheer not knowing is as close to true nothingness you can experience.

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