Saturday, March 01, 2008

Secret Identity

I had this crazy idea on the subway and wanted to write it down. Our conscious mind has a certain pattern of activity, with certain frequencies of firing that characterizes our personality and thought processes. Our brainwaves are unique - they are the physiological representation of our own personalized history and memories, that is to say, through our brain we see the way the world has shaped us to be who we are.

Yet every night, our brainwave pattern change dramatically, in a period of slumber known as rapid-eye movement or deltawave sleep. In this state of activity our brains consolidate our memories of the waking world while conducting basic molecular housekeeping and restoring everything to good working order for the next day's demands. Subjectively we experience this state as something between consciousness and unconsciousness, 'quasi-consciousness', that can be so vivid that the disorientation from regaining waking consciousness can be downright immobilizing.

But here's the thing, our brainwave pattern CHANGES and we experience it SUBJECTIVELY. If our brainwave pattern determines who we are when we are awake and aware, are we someone else entirely when we are asleep and aware? Do we become someone fundamentally different in dreams? Could someone live an entirely different life, as a different person, if they could maintain the dream state? Could you look at problems in a completely different way and not even realize that you were thinking differently, because you had no frame of reference to compare to your thought processes?

Effectively, one would no longer spend 33% of one's life unconscious. You'd spend some of your life in one subjective reality and the remainder in the other, vacillating between the two. Since time in a dream doesn't conform to time in the real world, saying you spent 3 hours in a dream would be meaningless, especially if you experience 3 days worth of memories in that span. You could live 85 years, being conscious for 57 years, and in the 28 years you spent sleeping you could have memories that similarly added up to 57 years of your second life. And as you spent more time in each reality, distinctions such as real/dream, awake/sleep would become nothing. Everything becomes real if you live it long enough. Everything that you remember becomes your reality. If every time you went into your dream it simply picked up where you left off, just as your life does when you wake up, how long would it take for someone to actively expect and depend on continuing the story tomorrow?


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