Friday, September 12, 2008

Rocking the Plank

I've read that good writers should never write about dreams because they are of no interest to anyone else. This bit of "advice" for being a good writer subscribes to the notion that you have to write for your audience rather than for yourself. As much as I appreciate that other people take the time to read my blog (and I really am grateful), I think that I have to write for myself first and foremost. Part of what paralyzes other people when they try to write is that they concern themselves too much with the audience and what they are interested in. This can be self-defeating as you start to question how interesting everything you have to say is. It also makes you surrender to the idea that everything you say has to be of paramount interest to your readers. Someone once said, "they can't all be gems," and that's really alright. So, I'm going to write about my dreams when the impulse strikes me and hope my readers will forgive my yawn-inducing posts.

I believe dreams are important for several reasons. Some people believe they're just what your mind does while you sleep to keep you from being bored. While that is possible, very few things our bodies do are random and pointless (except possibly having an appendix) so the chances are that dreaming has some value beyond keeping us occupied while we sleep. I believe dreams serve multiple purposes including the oft-cited psychological theory that we're working out things in our unconscious. I also believe they are a muddled connection to our "higher" selves (or what I have called "the connected self" previously).

Sometimes I know my dreams are a reflection of difficulties in my life, but sometimes I'm sure there is a message in one of them for me. This is rare, but when it's there, it is pretty obvious to me. A few days ago, like many people, I was fretting about the LHC experiments. This was mainly because I don't trust scientists to draw the line at the right place because they, like many other human beings, are driven by ambition and a thirst for getting into the history books. What scientist wouldn't want to be as well known as Stephen Hawking or even Robert Oppenheimer? It's better to go down in history as a master of destruction for the sake of science than to have your work lost in a sea of nondescript scientists. Having scientists police other scientists is like asking a 10-year-old to police another 10-year-old. They're going to approve of each others actions even when they are risky.

All that being said, I do believe my fears, like everyone else's, are irrational. I think history will see the hoopla surrounding the use of the Large Hadron Collider as yet another example of the ignorance of the masses attempting to interfere in progress and trying to hold it back much as was the case with fears that the world was flat and you could sail off the edge of it. This is a little more sophisticated than such old fears, but the principle is the same. We fear the unknown consequences of our actions, even when they are reasonably foreseeable based on available evidence.

A few nights ago, I had a dream, which I believe was one of those muddled communications with my connected self and relates to these fears. In the dream, several other people and I were trying to walk on some planks perched on top of pillars that were not secured. The pillars were high enough that one could get hurt if one fell off, but not so high that injury was certain (about the height of the first story of a house). If one person walked along it and struggled for balance, the plank wobbled a bit, but held in place. As the next person reached the plank and added his attempts to find balance, the plank started to rock more. By the time the 4th or 5th person got there, it rocked violent. In the end, it came crashing down from the combined force of each person's struggle to find balance and the excessive rocking they applied to the plank in their attempts to find it.

How does this relate to the situation at hand? I believe we collectively affect our world with our fears, desires, and wishes on a level we cannot yet detect. Our fears can move reality one undetectable particle at a time. One person's fear has no discernible effect because it is too small to have an impact. The fears of millions of people combined though can start to distort the otherwise unimpeded course of reality. Just as one person's unsteady movement in a mentally unbalanced state can "rock the plank" but not cause it to fall, many people's fearful rocking can cause it to plummet.

Our fears about the LHC can assist in bringing about the disaster we wish to avoid. In a game of odds (which is what I've heard is the case with anything really bad happening), we can effectively skew them against us. By focusing on the worst, we can contribute to bringing it about. I believe my dream was telling me not to add the weight of my fear to this collective influence and remind me of something I already feel is true about the individual and the nature of mass events.

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