It is possible for a dream to drive you insane. To see that this is true, you must understand three things.

  1. Your emotions are not under your direct control. You may be able to redirect your emotions, make it so that you will not feel in a few moments what you feel now, but your present emotions are absolute and immutable; further, emotions form a continuum – they cannot go directly to zero from a quantity that is not zero. They must travel.

  2. What is “real” and what is “not real” – these terms refer to emotions, not thoughts. Despite all our philosophical pretensions, believing that something is real means nothing unless you also feel that it is real. If you have a paralyzing fear that the bogey man will grab you if you get out of your bed, then you cannot get out of your bed, no matter how well your mind is convinced that there is no such thing as the bogey man. This every parent knows. Their child is not stupid, their child is merely afraid. Though the child can acknowledge verbally that the bogey man doesn’t exist – and mean it – they cannot get out of bed, and they become even more upset because they cannot explain to their parents why they cannot get out of bed. Because no one ever explained to them that people do not control their emotions.

    Emotions define reality for everyone, not just children. How many adults protect themselves against dangers they themselves agree have a microscopic probability of ever occurring? How many adults cannot fly? How many make sure to lock their doors while driving, to protect against the astronomically improbable car-jacking, while talking on their cellphone? More profoundly, how many cannot voice objections to Church doctrine out of fear that the Devil will take them because of it, even when those objections would negate that very belief? Though we can influence our future feelings through our present thoughts, it is nonetheless true that what feel, and not what we think, defines our reality.

  3. We do not choose or control the emotions we feel in a dream. Some people claim they can control their dreams, and I have no doubt that this is to some extent true, but do they not still experience the unbidden dream, the phantom with its own will?

So, it is indeed possible that not only our sleep but our very reality could be corrupted by a dream. What if, suddenly and through no choice of your own, you felt, embedded in your psyche, an irreproachable fear of logic – a terror at the first hint of reasoning. How would you contrive to undo this? Or, what if something were so frightening, that even the thought of confronting that fear was itself prohibitively fearful? You would stop thinking about it. Talk about “overcoming” fear all you like; we do this only by finding a new way to perceive the thing that scares us.

The scariest dream I ever had – the scariest thing that has ever happened to me – happened when I was 16. I was obviously no longer a child, and well understood the difference between dreams and reality. And it had been a very long time since I’d had a nightmare. Nevertheless, the next night I would have done almost anything not to sleep – to never sleep again, in fact. I spent much of the day trying to think of a way not to sleep until I could forget the dream I’d had. And this was after several waking hours. The moment I awoke, I wanted only to escape, wanted it like I have wanted nothing in my entire life, but knew that I could not go anywhere that I would be safe. The dream would be wherever I was, without exception. I wanted to dash from my bed, and I wanted to stay in my bed, both with untold urgency.

In the dream was a being, and that being was the thing that I feared. It was enormous – in my one cloudy memory of its image, it spanned countless city blocks. It was all black, metallic but also alive. (It’s strange, I’m afraid even now. I am on the verge of tears.) It had a bulbous body protruding several stories from the ground, and one grotesque, smooth tapering appendage; it was the appendage that reached across the city, though I did not see it move. I do not remember what the thing was supposed to be, nor in what way it was a threat, but I remember it could communicate to me in my thoughts. I heard its voice, a composed, direct voice, and that voice was a force of pure, unlimited terror. What was it? What could it represent? These questions cannot be answered, because dreams do not fit into the clockwork logic we use to organize reality. And that is precisely where the power dreams come from. It is why, in the final count, your dreams are more powerful than you. If there is a devil, then it would only make sense that he take a different form for each person. And I know exactly what mine looks like.

A river was coming from the sky over Baltimore, and all I could do about it was stand arm bent with my thumb out, hold in my other hand a cardboard sign that was being rapidly devoured, and hunch against the downfall with my face twisted into a constant wince. The traffic light changed behind me, and the cars all started moving again. The exit where I stood was a major nexus connecting downtown to everything outside it. It was a wonder I wasn’t arrested. But then, what police officer would get out in that wet and that midday dark – the clouds were black as coal – just to shoo away a vagrant who was already clearly intent on taking his leave of the place? So I might have thanked the rain, but obviously I had no such thought. The only salvation I could understand at the time was a car stopping and letting me in. I would drop the sign, hoist my pack from the ground, just pick it up as-is with the garbage bags covering it, dash to wherever my savior was and say, “Thanks, where ya headed?” I imagined it over and over; just one car out of the dozens passing every minute, that was all I needed. I thought it impossible that not one would stop, the odds being what they were. What are the odds? A big number, a big number. Big. I thought about the flux, this enormous flux of people out of the city. It covered such space – one side of the road to the other for every road leading out, as well as the whole interior of downtown Baltimore, and outward to countless suburbs, and even to places beyond that, places in “just Maryland.” How, then, could I be left out while standing only a few feet away?

The constant wet cold had advanced an inch into my flesh, and the persistent pelting sound of drops hitting my poncho, often right next to my ear, was all I could hear. I began to talk to myself. “I’m so cold, I’m so cold … God, I’m cold. I’m cold … fucking rain, why won’t the rain fucking stop … why won’t the rain fucking stop … why won’t the rain fucking stop … I’m so cold … come on, pull over … just pull over, come on pull over, pull over …” Suddenly I was thinking about God, and at the same time my voice was getting louder, as though his whole problem was that he couldn’t hear me. Deaf God. “God, please make a car pull over, please make a car pull over. At least just make the rain stop, God please just make the rain stop. God please make the rain stop.” I was yelling at this point, and I believe I cried, but the rain – and God, so help me – balked at my demands.

After an hour in that cruel storm I was having spells where i thought of nothing at all. I would also shiver uncontrollably for minutes on end. “Fuck, fuck … fuck.” I passed an entire hour more in this way, my consciousness moving in and out, never reaching the point of true lucidity. The cold had possessed my body whole, and my voice was rolling on under its own momentum like a juggernaut. In a moment of grace I realized I was ranting, and I stepped away from myself and saw the scene as though I were driving one of those cars leaving town. I saw a man, young or old I couldn’t tell, hunching over ina cheap, transparent plastic poncho, holding out his thumb and screaming wildly to no one, a large lump on the ground next to him covered in garbage bags. I realized that all the suffering could stop if I found somewhere else to be. So I picked up my pack – garbage bags and all – and wandered until I found the Greyhound station. Then, without hesitation, I went inside to be a bum.

There once was a boy who looked like a bird,
when he dressed, when he spoke,
when he picked at his teeth;

when he sat up, and when he lay down,
when he put up his Christmas wreath;

when he looked out the window, to see something he heard;
when he opened up Webster’s, to look up a word;

he could look at a bug that crawled on a leaf,
or put on a hat, and call himself “Chief,”
but no matter what, I’m sure you’re assured,
all that he did, he did like a bird.

The boy’d been alone every day of his life,
he had no one but himself to play with.
The boy had no name because, being alone,
there was nobody there to give it.

Today, a quote from the Found Book of Truths:

Pride is the poison of our present society. Think you of the power one can gain by a show of submission. Allow the enemy to indulge his pride, and you shift his focus onto his own reflection, and away from the reality of his circumstances. What then might you accomplish?

Concerning this passage, the Considerative Commentaries has this to say:

Our movements for what is called “equality” – what have they gained? Where was their focus? Pride, of course. Through the ages, women have maintained control over the course of human societies through their authority over the creation and upbringing of children. How have they done this? By a simple superficial acquiescence; yet, look how quickly that power has been surrendered. Not men, but politics and institutions control our lives – the individual has lost all control. How has this occurred? By the deemphasis of individual empowerment.

I think we could also gain something by considering the following, from elsewhere in the Commentaries:

Consider that reason is the single greatest servant of individual empowerment. An individual who obtains both reason and a belief that he can learn needs for no knowledge; all necessary information will be his, as easily as a whale consumes plankton. In all attempts to educate, train, or instruct, make this the center of your efforts, and remember: reason is not achieved through knowledge, but always the other way around.

The quickest path to knowledge is
not a gentle curve, like a road
up Midwestern hills one might stroll
up on a spring day; the fastest
path to knowledge is a jagged
path, infested with sharp corners
and double backs, where for the most
part you have no idea where
you will be next.

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