Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Lathe of Heaven



Dreams. I have always had this fascination about dreams, so mysterious and powerful. I am not talking about aspirations or those things that people dream while they’re awake. I’m talking about dreams that people have when they are asleep.

Imagine having the power to make your dream come true, I mean literally come true. It would be fascinating and at the same time scary waking up to a different world every time you wake up.


Imagine having the power to change reality through dreams.

I read this interesting sci-fi classic (it was made into a movie according to the cover) by Ursula K. Le Guin (one of the best in the genre) titled “The Lathe of Heaven.” The story is about a man whose dream can change reality.

The novel was set in future, the year 2002, a time when there are tamed aliens roaming the earth.

George Orr realized that whatever he dreamed became reality. Not all his dreams could do it, only the “effective” ones; the ones that are produced in deep sleep. He was afraid of this power, so he avoided sleeping. He took prohibited drugs that gave him dreamless sleep.

Orr was caught using other people’s prescription. He was arrested and taken to counseling. He was given a choice, voluntary therapeutic treatment (VTT) or Obligatory therapeutic treatment (OTT), which is the nut house. George submitted himself to the VTT program. His therapist is Dr. William Haber, a psychiatrist and a researcher on dreams. Haber discovered Orr’s power. He used hypnosis and a device of his own design which he called “the Augmentor”…(hmmm…the Augmentor… an interesting name that sounds more like a plastic surgeon’s device) to manipulate Orr’s dreams to change the world, to make it a better world.

Haber, through hypnosis, asked Orr to solve the population problem and through this suggestion Orr dreamt of a less populated world. But when George woke up, he was shocked to find out that in this world that his dream created, billions of people died because of a plague, and that solved the overpopulation problem but the death of those billions of people was on his conscience. He kept the memory of the past realities, Dr. Haber kept them too, but the world has no idea that reality was being changed by Orr’s dreams. The change was so complete that if Orr dreamt of a pink dog, even evolution will produce a pink dog; the changes are untraceable except for Orr, Haber and a lady lawyer.

Haber made Orr solve wars. When Orr woke up to a new world, there was unity in the world, the only problem was there was an alien invasion and this is what made the warring countries unite—in defense of earth.

Haber made Orr solve racial discrimination. When Orr woke up, all the people in the world has one skin color. There was no racial discrimination, but people with sickness and diseases were arrested and euthenized.

Problems were solved by Orr’s dreams but the dreams have its own way of solving the problem; Orr has no control over it. Orr has no power over his dreams.

Orr only wants the dreams to stop.

The sessions stopped and Haber took away Orr’s powers by telling Orr that his dream does not have the power to change reality.

Orr woke up to a normal life. He was on his way home, together with his wife, the lady lawyer, when he suddenly realized that something was not right. He watched as reality was being changed. He ran back to the lab and he found Dr. Haber sleeping with a device attached to his head. Orr realized that Haber had somehow discovered a way to have dreams like his. Haber was changing the world in his own image of it. Orr realized what would happen and stopped Haber.

Haber went mad and Orr continued on with his normal life.

(There are turtle like aliens in the story that knew dreams, but they speak different language so Orr can’t understand what in the world these aliens are saying about his dreams.)



Why do we have this reality? Once in a while we have these questions. I don’t know but the novel by Le Guin made me think about reality. Like the question my Sunday school students asked: Why do we have this reality and not the other reality where it’s the man who ate the apple in the Garden of Eden? (My reply to that was, would it make a difference because if that was the case then we would be thinking of a reality where it was the woman who ate the apple in the Garden of Eden and where back here thinking about a reality where it was the woman who ate the apple in the garden of Eden and if that were so, then we would be thinking of a reality where it was the man who ate the apple in the Garden of Eden…)

It’s like a game, we can think of having reality according to our image of it and would it still be a better world? Or each one of us can have realities of one’s own where one can be in control. Maybe this is madness, maybe insane people have this world of their own, a universe of their own and its us whose outside it, that’s why we can’t understand them or them us…Or it may even be true that each person has his own perspective on things that in a way made each individual’s experience of reality different from the other people’s experience of reality that what they are actually experiencing is a different reality from what the other is experiencing as their own reality, so, there’s this difference of experiences of realities from other people’s experiences of realities. We all have experiences of realities that is unique to our own…it’s like we are all interconnected realities and universe….I just made a breakthrough here! I have come to the very deep realization of what reality is really all about and I suddenly realized, it’s like the “Eureka phenomenon” you know, hey Eureka there’s something I realized about reality! That is reality is reality….is the realization that I need to go to the comfort room. I had too much fish cooked in coconut milk and it’s making me…realized that I’m losing touch of reality.

Maybe Leibniz is right when he said that this reality is the best reality we have, the best of all possible worlds.

I can live with that.

Le Guin’s book is outstanding, a classic. There is humanity in the story (what ever that means).

(I am reading an old Robert Heinlein novel about twins, telepathy, interstellar travel and psychology. I’ll talk some nonsense about it when I’m done.)

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