Escape from PBS!
Dreamed 1992/9/17 by Chris Wayan
TV is less fun when you're trapped inside.
I'm in a PBS show, a remake of "The War Game," that brutal documentary from the sixties on the effects of an H-Bomb, first at thirty miles, then twenty, and on down to ground zero.
So I find myself in an alley, in a nameless doomed city, thirty miles from zero, when the flash lights up the gloom. After the shockwave passes, I emerge and stumble through the streets of the flash-damaged city as the fires spread, looking for a way out of this life--this show. Damn them for being so socially responsible! I never even wanted to see the original documentary, let alone be forced to live through the remake, which no doubt will be even more graphic and grisly than the original, with special effects to die for.
And die we will: I may well survive this scene, but soon we'll be placed twenty miles away to endure the detonation again... and again at fifteen... on down to the fire. No escape in this life! Only outside this life is there any hope. There are other shows, other lives. If I can change channels somehow, get out of PBS...
And I know I can--all I need is a working TV. If I change the channel and jump through the screen to a commercial network, I'll be much better off. Any sitcom will do. Lowbrow humor, flat characters, escapist sexual innuendo, product placement--a lot better than this prestigious apocalypse. If I hate where I land, I can change the channel again from there, and have some time to think about it, too, during the ads.
I peer through windows till I find a ground floor flat with a light on--wow, the city's power plant survived?--and a TV visible in the corner. I pry open the window and climb in. Turn on the TV and huddle before it, flipping channels, looking for a safe haven. Don't want to drop into a war movie, or some violent cop show. Comedy or romance! But hurry--even a blah network show is still better than this.
A woman walks in and gapes. Colette, that hot dancer I met in class at City College today... with the two Blake angels tatooed on her thighs.
"What are you doing?" she asks blankly. She's not scared or angry: I must look too ridiculous to be a looter--breaking into her house to watch TV sitcoms as the bombs fall! I decide to tell her the truth. "We can escape this reality by changing channels. If we don't learn to change the channel to something better, we'll die here." I think she half believes me: the TV is acting funny, you can stick your hand right into the screen already. I've adjusted it to display the world as I perceive it shamanically, in dreams: simultaneously on a particle scale, where uncertainty is the principle and the wild quantum leaps... and on a cosmic scale, with many reality planes, like book pages, so close, so different. And we can choose!
Her boyfriend walks in. He bristles and snaps "Don't listen to him, he's a liar! This is reality. You can't change the channel to escape!" I try to explain to him "I've done this all my life, the other channels are real", but his mind seems closed. It's almost as if he thinks I broke into his house to abduct his lover, not borrow his TV! I am attracted to her, but my main goal is to escape this horrible place, not to lure her away. I hope they both follow me. I don't want to abandon anyone here.
Funny--he keeps arguing, and he knows a lot about physics and cosmology. So why is he calling me a liar when I'm already doing things to his TV that a scientist should recognize are miraculous? He tries relentlessly to paint me evil or crazy in her view. Why?
Finally I get it. He's an agent for whoever cast me into this show! A casting agent! He's not suspicious or obtuse: he knows I told the truth. He wants me to focus on Colette, try to convince her I can save her, because he knows a Lady in Distress is the best way to slow me down! I need to get on my way. STOP DEBATING HIM!
I turn the jade ring--is it a Mood Ring?--on my finger, nervously. His eyes widen, then laser in hungrily on the plain green band. He wants my ring! That's why he's here. It's all a plot to get the ring! He thinks it lets me jump between realities.
He's wrong, but I won't tell him that. Even the TV is just a handy visualization tool. You change reality channels by changing your assumptions, not your moods. Emotions follow convictions. And physics trails after.
I run out of their flat, leaving Colette to decide for herself. He chases me. I take off the ring and crush it in my fist, as easily as eggshells. Outside, by a fountain, I fling the pieces, some in the water, some onto the plaza. Each tiny shard, on impact, embeds in the side of a larger stone, like a bright pimento in a drab green olive. I look at one--a rainbow spatter of color like a tiny opal. The shards of my shattered mood ring have become gems!
He starts crawling around picking them up. This'll take him a while! Good luck, buddy. The reassembled ring may even work for him, since he believes it's what made me a shaman.
I meet another agent--one on my side, this time. Walk off with him... He and I go through our wallets. We have driver's licenses, passports, draft cards... valid only for this show, of course, this role. We'll have new ID on the next channel. So one by one I pull the cards out and tear them up and throw them away... toss them like the ring-shards onto the plaza...
Littering as the H-bombs fall! What a slob!
Good-bye, identity, goodbye.
In the old debate over what shapes our lives, physical laws or our own expectations--the world as a clock, the world as a dream--my own dreams take it for granted physical reality is just a big shared dream. What my dreams find debatable is whether (to change our lives) we must transform our moods and passions (the stereotypic New Age agenda), or change our intellectual assumptions.
My dreams, at least, advise changing one's assumptions, trusting that your feelings (and world) will follow.
I grew up seeing science as a light dispelling the shadows of religion, so it's been hard for me to concede that scientific skepticism, at least about dream-psychology (especially parapsychology) can be bad faith: a covert determination to ignore evidence--a will not to know.
This dream goes further. It warns that even my OWN rationalism is often sneaky as a spoon bender. Secretly wants to keep me in some rotten reality! Why? Does it get kickbacks from the status quo? A corrupt senator of the soul.
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