“How can you prove whether at this moment we are sleeping, and all our thoughts are a dream; or whether we are awake, and talking to one another in the waking state?”
-Plato, 428 – 348 BC
I was told by my father once that if you write down your dreams immediately after waking two nights in a row, you will start remembering them in their entirety. This is both a blessing and a curse. Something is unlocked in your head once you do that. You send a message to the man behind the curtain to open the floodgates to that which is hidden. After that, you won’t need the pencil and paper anymore. Dreams, nightmares, funny stories and horrific imagery will all be yours to lavish in, that is until you start forgetting again.
There came a time somewhere back in my mid-twenties when I started to pay attention to certain things around me again. Whether it was my long nights spent in light-pollution-free solitude back in Momence, IL, population 3,180, or it was the constant and varied Photoshop corrections I made to my digital photography, once I started paying attention to color, it was like I couldn’t stop. I have since discovered that color and light quality are some of the most ignored aspects of human vision. For most people, it’s something that they can feel if not describe. For good reason, most people enter a room and think the lights are on or they are off. It’s not an effient use of brain power to constantly think, “This room is slightly green,” or, “This bare lighbulb in the center of the room is making everyone look sick.” But it is difficult for me to go back to seeing a room as simply bright or dark. Now I look at all rooms as orange or green, warm or cool toned, hard or soft shadowed. I look at the orange glow on the clouds above Chicago and wonder why other people don’t see the same thing. I took a photo once of an ad on a bus stop for American Express Blue Card and almost everyone who saw it accused me of photoshopping the colors. But like me, my camera is similarly cursed and blessed with seeing true color where others see white in their minds.
You see, it’s a trick of the mind, a way of filtering out unnecessary information so that you can concentrate on finding food and mating. A constant smell, a constant pain, a constant noise all will end up as ignored background. But once you start paying attention again, like a child, everything starts to look new and fresh and interesting, and sometimes bad. Sometimes, after a long day of fixing blemishes on portraits in Lightroom, I find myself looking at people in the real world with the same critical eye. But rather than see a scar or a wrinkle as something to be bothered by or critical of, I find myself thinking, “Healing Brush would erase that.” Sometimes when I’m driving into an overcast Chicago evening, the orangeness of the city can be a bit overwhelming, supersaturating.
Of course, this new found observation is something that I could one day turn off in my mind. I’ve gone back to forgetting my dreams most mornings. And I’m sure that if I give up photography that I will go back to seeing things the way most people see them. But a part of me wants to always have access to that part of my self that is more awake to the stimuli entering my mind. A part of me wants to stay in that dream world for better or worse for a while longer.