The moment of sleep is the moment of losing or voluntarily surrendering control; it can be either depending upon which way we imagine it, from the perspective of sleep overtaking us, or the perspective of our wakeful selves giving up the effort to cohere and allowing ourselves to deliquesce into sleep. My friend tells me that you can know you are dreaming if you try to use a clock or a smart phone and find it is impossible. I have no idea if this is true, or if anyone knows if it is true. I can’t remember if I am able to read in sleep, or if I can recognize myself in a mirror. Do mirrors work in sleep? Some people claim that they are able to control their dreams, noticing “I am dreaming!” and then building upon that realization further to think “I can control my dreams! I would like to fly!” and they fly.
But do they really? Or do they just dream that they are able to control their dream and wake up believing that they were? How could they know? If they were truly dreaming the dreamlife would be given to them, and so would the liquid immersion of self in dream, like yolk floating in egg.
I tried to remember the transition once as a child. I said to myself that I will remember the precise moment of falling asleep. I repeated to myself “I will remember my dream. I will remember my dream. I will remember my dream” and there I was standing alone on a beach facing a cliff that went up to the sky that was at the same time a book.
When I remembered the dream the next morning I remembered both sides of it — going in with the determination to remember the dream, and also facing the book with a sense of wonder, and new birth, but also, not deja vu precisely, but the tendrils of a dreampast clinging to the dream present, like jellyfish tentacles, or the gelatin around frog eggs, or the trail of a piece of sodium in water, but a consistent production of past time, and not the disjoint of a remembered dream being controlled by a waking moment eager to control.
Dreams, of course, are not the only moments in our lives when we give into the irrational. One could mention falling in love. I remember thinking “I should fall in love — if I fail to fall in love now, maybe I am one of those cold people who will never experience love” and I remember being completely in love with the beloved and willing to give up all for her. And yet just as I remember the moment of surrendering myself to sleep, and trying to surrender and at the same time not surrender, and I also remember the moment of dream which created its own dream reality, so was it with the love. I can now remember the decision to give myself up to love, but also the feeling once I was in love, that this was my whole life and I couldn’t give it up without losing my self, my soul.
A paradox. How can I both remember deciding to fall in love and remember having always been fated for this love? How can I remember both choosing to experience the dream and standing facing that book, feeling the excitement and the terror, and the irrational thought that reading the book was not up to me but was a challenge being issued by the colossal book itself?
Dimly visible behind both decisions — to dream and to love — was the deeper heading or direction of my life, like the momentum of a huge ferry. Before the relatively trivial issues of wake or sleep, love or not love, was the blind drive to go deeper out and deeper in, to risk myself in fascination with someone other, and to plumb myself in the realm of dreams. Vague and massive, a dark oceanic bulk obscured by thick dawn, was this blundering about-to-be me-ness, that surfaced in these clumsy movements of will and thought. For this drowsy behemoth there was no question of before or after, of willing the next moment or surrendering to its call. For this blind craving creature these were simply bubbles and waves and froth he threw up and backwards in his wake.