What’s the difference between 1) our memories of actually events and 2) our memories of old dreams? In theory, not a lot.
The events that have taken place in real life can actually change the course of history and can produce tangible souvenirs such as photographs which can be taken to prove them in the future, whereas the events that occur in a dream do not really have the ability to do those things (though sometimes dreams do predict the future or inspire a person to “be a better person”).
Whether it’s a remembered actual event or a remembered dream, either way, it’s in the past now and it’s just a memory.
If we could take away the two exceptions, that actual events change the course of history and can produce tangible souvenirs whereas dreams don’t, how is a six year-old memory different than a six year-old dream?
In the summer of 2004, my friend Josh and I rode “motorcycles” (they were more like mopeds) 40 miles outside of the mountain city of Chiang Mai in Thailand, in order to find an ancient cave where few tourists ever bothered to visit. There were no signs in English once we got there. No English-speaking guides. All we knew it that it cost non-Thai people $4 to go into the cave and another dollar for a lantern to actually see around inside the place.
As we got to the back of the cave, our guide pointed behind him to what appeared to be a bottomless pit. I picked up a rock on the cave floor and tossed it into the abyss and finally after about ten seconds, I faintly heard it hit the bottom. I immediately imagined that centuries ago, prisoners were thrown down to the bottom only to be met by hungry lions.
There’s no doubt, Josh and I are some of the few American people to have visited the forsaken Chiang Dao Cave in Thailand. Let’s assume that I don’t embed pictures of that event into this post and that nothing happened that day that changed the course of history (and it in deed, didn’t).
In theory, the events I told about in that Thai cave memory only actually happened because I said they did, a theory that I brought to life in Snail Trails. Especially if Josh forgot about us going to that cave. No souvenirs. No life-changing actions.
So what if I only dreamed that event happened? What if while I stayed in Chiang Mai I only drove by the signs for Chiang Dao Cave, but never took the time to visit it? What if all I did was just dream that Josh and I actually went there?
How would that dream be any different than it really happening?
For another related post, here’s The Interstate to Memory Lane