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Dreamed 94/2/19 by Chris Wayan

I'm at a small symposium called "Nuclear Medicine: Do The Dangers Outweigh The Benefits?" The hall has only a dozen people or so, all doctors and radiation scientists... except me. I sit in the back, wearing a rain cape with a hood shadowing my face. I feel like Death in a bad Bergman film. Maybe I am a spirit: no one seems to see me.

A European researcher reports something fascinating at the end of his presentation: one of the pioneers of nuclear medicine was into lucid dreaming. He tried to have a lucid dream in which he'd project himself into the future and find out what dangers if any had been discovered since his time. Of course this implied a paradox, since he'd then use any revised radiation standards, so the bad effects of the lax early standards might not BE discovered. But it might save lives, so he felt it was worth risking. Maybe the universe could resolve the paradox somehow.

But a subtler problem stopped him cold: the ethical dilemma of lucid dreaming. If he commanded himself to find such a seminar as this one, in the future, if he sought out information on unknown dangers of radiation, how did he know he wasn't CREATING that future, or STEERING his time toward a future that had been in a state of quantum uncertainty before that, a future willing to be dangerous or not, depending on the questions researchers asked? To what extent does looking for danger summon it, select it, even create it?

I think this is a brave issue to bring up in a mainstream symposium like this, since the same ethical problem confronts such doctors daily. Do professionals kill their patients by defining their symptoms so there's no way out? Fran Peavey has a good example of this in her book A SHALLOW POOL OF TIME. Sick in India, she consulted a local doctor who said "You have a serious blood problem, but it may clear up in time," and suggested ways to work on her general health; back in the States, her Western doctor ran blood tests and told her she had HIV. And that was that. Doomed. Except that, after trying a lot of alternative therapies (visualization, nutrition, you name it) she tested negative! It caused her Western doctors no end of frustration! But the positive and negative tests were repeated and unmistakable--and you just DON'T get rid of HIV!

Well, usually. She's one of the dozen or so recorded cases who have done it.

Would they RATHER have her sick and the virus's record remain perfect? Maybe not, but doctors really are under pressure to characterize problems in the worst possible way--to prevent malpractice suits. But what if this has worse effects on patients than vagueness, uncertainty, or plain ignorance? This researcher is the first I've heard discuss the problem openly.

His presentation was the last before the lunch break. I go up to the front to congratulate him, but on the way, I listen in to what the other experts thought of his ethical point. Pass clump after clump--and they're all laughing. Laughing at that idiot. Dreams, superstition, New Age babble. Utterly unscientific.

They didn't hear a word.

They'll go right on defining their patients in the most pessimistic, precise way possible, to cover themselves against malpractice--and nailing the coffin lid shut.


I couldn't shrug this dream off. Lately, I've had no lucid dreams at all; I don't even try, any more. Maybe, now, I see why. But I was trying affirmations yesterday: I pictured having a lover, being happy with her. I think the dream warns me not to do too much lucid dreaming or affirmations: they both let the conscious limit the outcome dangerously clearly, stripping off the future's protective blur!

I feel angry about this though: "Then what can I do? Is it so bad, picturing myself being loved? I could feel it working last night, choosing a future instead of drifting felt like stretching a muscle, lifting a weight." Maybe I could vary my image of lover or relationship, only repeating the general idea--leaving elbow room for God. Or is the dream warning that any visualization is unhealthy, limiting? But the lecturer was concerned about constant worst-case worries, and precautions against catastrophe--not small, positive wishes.

Or maybe the point is that I can wrestle with mystical ethics all I like--what good will it do, if my voice is drowned by a mighty chorus of jerks?

Of course, I don't share any of their Western attitudes--prematurely defining problems, declaring things impossible, ignoring awkward and inconvenient warnings...


LISTS AND LINKS: lucid dreams - time travel - collapsing probability states - dreams on dreams - dreams on healing - prayers and wishes - scientific method and culture - ethics - visualization - the real-life lecture that probably inspired this: Laing - an even weirder dream-symposium: Sleipnir

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