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Posted by on Jan 11, 2010

Lucid dreaming and Second Life

“A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish.” -W.H. Auden

Taylor in Living Digitally provides an interesting mention of lucid dreaming in response to users in these virtual worlds lending their agency to body-representations and willingly interacting with others who have done the same (50). I am intrigued by this lucid dreaming and think it has some application. A lucid dream by definition is one where the individual is aware that they are dreaming and can, in some instances, even manipulate the outcome of the dream.

Charles Dickens' Lucid Dream, full of characters and permutations and thousands of different exchanges.

#1 In order to enter a lucid dream, one needs to be asleep first. There is a lack of awareness (asleep) before there is awareness (lucid dream). One must first willingly enter into a state of unawareness. In Second Life, this might be the initial phase of avatar creation and exploration.

#2 After falling asleep, the individual then dreams (of the non-lucid variety). The individual is not controlling the dream and is not aware that they are dreaming. This is a distillation of their waking reality. This is living in Second Life as a living individual, fully embodied and blissfully unaware of any parallel activity elsewhere.

#3 Within this dream, the individual enters into a state of lucidity. They are aware that they are dreaming and may be able to control the outcome of the dream. Once I developed purpose (academically) in Second Life, then a lucid calm entered into my participation. I began to see the man behind the curtain, but still participated. I lucidly assumed two roles, one as participant and one as observer.

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” -T.E. Lawrence.

This being aware of self as participant and observer has cultural implications. To my own mind, it feels like a dualism, a split. How am I to be two conscious entities at the same time? What concessions will my role as participant make to my role as observer? How can an immaterial mind cause anything in a material body, and vice-versa? These are all questions that apply to our participation in Second Life, especially as a conscious participant. We inform the body (the brain) with our immaterial mind; our body informs our mind with feedback from this participation and all the while we are consciously aware. I hesitate to refer to this as a momentary suspension of disbelief; we are not disbelieving. A momentary suspension of corporeal reality might be more appropriate. We choose to participate and we know that. Once we realize that, we begin to observe. Once we observe, we are aware of our participation and these seemingly competing roles emerge.

It is not a mental split for everyone, however. If one uses Buddhism, this is a conscious moment of being an observer and a conscious one of being a participant and they are melded in the present. They are destroyed when the next pairing come along to represent the next moment, but the two conscious states are not mutually exclusive. They co-exist without any perceived detriment to the overall perception of reality. A lucid dream is a good analogy here; for the Buddhist mind, participation in Second Life would be a combination of moments of consciousness all intertwined in the immediacy of the present.

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2 Comments

  1. Fascinating idea Michael and fits in with some of my findings in my assignment on identity too – the close resemblance between photo representation and avatar, the dual identity thing etc.

    • Absolutely, Noreen. I actually thought of you when posting that. I had written it originally for IDEL, then retooled it a bit to fit this format. The dual identity issue is very interesting and I was fascinated by that in your assignment as well. It seems to be a somewhat muted division, as if we are aware of it but not beholden to it. I don’t know, but it sounds like a dissertation topic to me! You should give it a whirl.

      I do wonder at times if this duality is specific to the “Western” mind (one grounded or partially formed by Greek philosophical thought). I am quite curious to see if Asian Buddhist societies, for instance, would hesitate for an instant when faced with these multiple roles. Hmmm. Interesting and food for thought!

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