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The Problem of Dreaming

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It didn’t take a psychologist to pull apart the meaning of her dream, the meaning of her nightmare. It didn’t take one, but Kate was one, and even though she knew it, even though she knew so much, she couldn’t save herself. Even though she told herself she was dreaming, even though she could prick at the nightmare elements like a bad Freudian case-study, even though she could hear the voices of past professors in her head intoning dry, blended words about interpretations and dream scepticism, even though she could do all of that, she couldn’t stop the fear. It coursed through her like ice-hot blood; burning, pulsing, pounding, pressing against her innards. Awake to the danger and yet so incapable of battling it. Oh, physician heal thyself.

Dream scepticism? The ability to preform an effective waking-or-dreaming test is based upon the presupposition that you didn’t simply dream you carried it out. Does it follow that you know neither that you are dreaming nor any of these many things you think you know provided you are not awake?

She was screaming. She could hear it. There was nothing but the scream reverberating around her head, and yet it was silent. The whole city breathed, encircling her. Was this what it felt like then, to have the gene, to peer inside the walls' soul? She could hear the wind in it, battering and bending; hear the ocean beneath her against the pillars where she knew she would fall. Dreams, dreams, oh sweet familiar enemy… She’d fallen in dreams so many times before. She knew what it felt like to crash down and smash the pillars, though she never actually landed – always the breathless terror of the plunge, the lungless tumble of airlessness, and then the lurch of nothingness as her sleeping body wrenching upwards into consciousness.

Consciousness? Consciousness exists, but is almost impossible to define. Of course, there are some criteria for saying that one organism or other is conscious, since consciousness involves experience or awareness. Nevertheless, human mental life has a phenomenal, or subjective, side that the most sophisticated information-processing system might lack.

There was no consciousness waiting for her this time, though, she was sure of it now, sure of it, as sure of it as the fact that she knew she was going to fall, as sure as the fact that she knew she could never come down safely from the balcony upon which she stood. Because she wasn’t dreaming, was she, no, perhaps not, perhaps this time the analyst had made a false self-diagnosis, perhaps this time she had misunderstood. And so she screamed, and instead of screaming upwards into freedom she screamed further inwards, till the fear became like a metal ball lodged in her throat and though she screamed she could not breathe, and though she breathed she could not scream.

Freedom: The great problem of freedom and determinism is really two problems, one of them metaphysical and empirical in kind, the other ethical and in other ways attitudinal in kind. The first problem is that whether human choices and actions are causally determined or are in a way free. The second problem is that of the implications of determinism for our moral, personal, and social lives.

She gave up and screamed. Screamed for Teyla. Prayed for Teyla, prayed to Teyla.

Oh, God, save me, oh, Teyla, save me.

They were the one and the same.

Always Teyla.

Teyla who came and confided in her. Teyla who learnt with her. Teyla who taught her about herself. Teyla and her, and the warmth of blankets. Teyla who would save her, Teyla who always saved her; Teyla did, Teyla had never let her down, Teyla was the one who would.

Screamed for Teyla--

--and Teyla came.

But between them, John.

Always John between them.

Kate knew what it meant. She could pick it apart. It didn’t take a psychologist and she was one. But she couldn’t stop the fear. Forewarned is not forearmed. It coursed through her and bubbled out her brains. The fear and loss, the fear and loss of life, the fear and loss of freedom, the fear and loss of Teyla. Kate was awash in it.

She screamed.

She fell.