Thursday, February 04, 2010

Illegal Dreams

Several days ago, I began reading Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books.

I've not gotten very far for several reasons.

A) I'm also reading Prometheus Rising
B) I lead an incredibly busy social life that keeps me out until all hours.
C) Overall gastrointestinal devastation that was food poisoning.

Regardless, there was a passage I read a couple of nights ago that struck me. It was a quote from Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading - a book to which Nafisi refers often and one I've admittedly never read. The quote is this:

It is desirable that the inmate should not have dreams at all, or if he does, should immediately himself suppress nocturnal dreams whose context might be incompatible with the condition and status of the prisoner, such as: resplendent landscapes, outings with friends, family dinners, as well as sexual intercourse with persons who in real life and in the waking state would not suffer said individual to come near, which individual will therefore be considered by the law to be guilty of rape.

Let me back up a bit. So remember when I talked about how I thought I would be a happy candidate for solitary confinement in prison?

And remember when I talked about how each of us lives in our own reality bubble?

In my mind, our respective reality bubbles are much like our own self-created prisons. Some are minimum security facilities whereby the inmates are allowed to roam freely about the yard and occasionally given dispensation to leave the grounds altogether. Others live in a much more tightly confined space - supermax, if you will - living their lives behind computer screens and having little contact with other people outside of the vast reaches of the internetz - living in a virtual world rather than a tactile experiential world.

The vast majority operate in a medium security facility. There is a sense of freedom to choose and to move about but there is also a vague, uncomfortable sense that stepping out of bounds will land them in solitary confinement.

It is not a conspiracy. It is not a government manufactured state of being. It is simply a byproduct of the human condition - mores, norms, values. There is no one to blame...except maybe ourselves. For we are responsible for the prisons we create for ourselves.

Certainly, the government and society1 prefer us to confine ourselves to limited information and experience. Knowledge is power. Experience is power. The powerless are much easier to control. And that is the ultimate goal of both government and control the masses into a compliant and complacent herd.

As discussed in Reading Lolita in Tehran, after the Iranian Revolution whereby the Ayatollah Khomeini rose to power and became the Supreme Leader, the government did create a social "prison" of sorts - particularly for women. Nafisi talks about how Khomeini attempted to make his vision of the world a reality by limiting information and experience. But it didn't really work. There was the outward appearance of compliance and complacence, but he did not have the ability to erase all choice from the Iranian people or the power to control the masses to his satisfaction.

And while he did attempt to restrict information and experience, he could not succeed fully and certainly not without the consent and aid of a large group of supporters.

Anyway, not the point.

The point is that not even Khomeini could control dreams.

Dreams are the outlet of subconciousness - a safe way to explore new ideas, new information, new experience. There is no such thing as an illegal dream.

Those of us living in minimum security reality bubbles are most comfortable with our dreams. There is no guilt for exploring desire within the realm of subconscious folds. Thus, those of us living in larger spaces, are much more comfortable exploring those desires outside of the subconscious as well. We still have ethical restraint (most of us) and are not likely to cause harm to others, but because we are not horrified by what the subconscious brings forth, we're much more apt to embrace possibilities others are not willing to even acknowledge within themselves.

Drug use, sexual exploration including homosexual or heterosexual or pansexual experiences, world travel, public governmental and/or religious dissent, and just knowing what makes each of us tick are all part of occasionally breaking free from a self-imposed prison.

The discomfort, the abhorrence of what the mind can think up, that is what controls the size and shape of our prisons. That is what makes dreams feel illegal.

And that is by choice.

1: If you think of "society" as a whole moving, breathing organism rather than a collection of individuals.

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