Quote 74

I wonder, I wonder, what you would do if you had the power to dream at night any dream you wanted to dream? And you would, of course, be able to alter your time sense, and slip, say, 75 years of subjective time into 8 hours of sleep.

You would, I suppose, start out by fulfilling all your wishes. You could design for yourself what would be the most ecstatic life: love affairs, banquets, dancing girls, wonderful journeys, gardens, music beyond belief.

And then, after a couple of months of this sort of thing, at 75 years a night, you’d be getting a little taste for something different, and you would move over to an adventurous dimension, where there was sudden dangers involved, and the thrill of dealing with dangers. And you could rescue princesses from dragons, and go on dangerous journeys, make wonderful explosions and blow them up, eventually get into contest with enemies.

And after you’d done that for some time, you’d think up a new wrinkle: to forget that you were dreaming, so that you would think it was all for real, and to be anxious about it. Because it’d be so great when you woke up.

And then you’d say, well, like children who dare each other on things, how far out could you get? What could you take? What dimension of being lost, of abandonment of your power - what dimension of that could you stand? You could ask yourself this ‘cause you know you’d eventually wake up.

And after you’d gone on doing this, you see, for some time, you’d suddenly find yourself sitting around in this room, with all your personal involvements, problems, etc… talking with me.

How do you know that that’s not what you’re doing? Could be, because after all, what would you do if you were god? Because if you were, well, there is, the Self. In the Upanishads, the basic texts of Hinduism, one of them starts out saying, “In the beginning was the Self, and looking around, it said, ‘I am.'” And thus it is that everyone to this day, when asked, “Who is there?” says, “It is I.”

If you were god, and in this sense that you knew everything, you would be bored. Because, if looking at it from another way, we pushed technology to its furthest possible development, and we had, instead of a dial telephone on one’s desk, a more complex system of buttons, and one touch would give you anything you wanted; Aladdin’s lamp. You would eventually have to introduce a button, labeled, “Surprise.” Because all perfectly known futures, as I pointed out, are past; they have happened, virtually. It is only the true future is a surprise.

-Alan Watts