You’ve seen dogs asleep. They’re perfectly still. Suddenly, they’re galloping, barking faintly at things only they can see. We know they’re dreaming, but do they?
Do you ever ask yourself what happens in the dog’s mind when they stop barking and galloping and suddenly open their eyes, rear their heads? They look about, realize where they are and put their heads down. That’s how I’d react if I had a bad dream. But the thing is, our very understanding of what dreams are is informed by where we are in history. We live in a time when anatomy is taught in schools and so we freely assume everyone knows about the brain.
But the truth is, our understanding of dreams is very modern. There are likely people alive on this planet today who do not understand them as we do, whether due to their culture, or being one of the few pre-industrial societies left. Before the concepts of modern science, many people believed dreams were experiences the gods delivered to us in our sleep.
Even sex itself is not inherently understood. The role of sex in procreation actually has to be taught. It’s not information divinely imparted to us. It’s an instinct, but not one we naturally understand.
So now the dog is barking, and it’s claws are scratching the tile floor as its legs drag back and forth. Someone says, “Must be a dream about chasing something…”
Yeah, sure. Maybe. But when the dog opens its eyes and rears its head, what’s its explanation?
If you’re willing to assert like many people throughout history, the dog believes the dream is a gift from the gods, I’m listening. I would love to explore the concept of religion as being a part of genetic inheritance as central to survival, some metaphysical understanding of order that allows life to be more than just an opportunistic fuck-fight fest. But unless you’re willing to say right now that dogs have their own religion, that leaves one other option.
What if dogs believe in alternate dimensions? Or parallel realties? Multiple universes?
I’ve asked that question to a lot of people and had a lot of people laugh in my face. But what’s funny is how certain those people are they are superior because they believe in a magical after life evidenced by nothing constant-wishing and deep fears. Animals have a perception of the world around we don’t share. They can sense earthquakes, cancer, hormonal fluctuations. Mantis shrimp can see UV light. So why is it so ridiculous that an animal might have a greater understanding of how the universe works than we do?
You know what dogs also don’t have working against them? Culture.
Let’s say dogs do believe in multiple-dimensions and that’s how they explain our dreams. I think I’ve gone past that at this point, but let’s pin that one down. Now, let’s add to it the idea that they may inherently experience the multiverse, a hypothetical concept supported by many great thinkers, because they simply perceive things we don’t. Why would animals be able to do that and not us?
Perhaps we do. But since the beginning of recorded history, what we’ve had a lot of is culture. And what culture does is it shapes you, it pushes back when you deviate from it’s general guidelines of acceptability. Anything you do that pushes against it’s beliefs about how the world works risks dangerous reprisal. Perhaps humans inherently have this ability and it fades away in infancy, like our expansive ability to learn almost any human language before the age five.
Maybe dogs don’t believe in multiple dimensions. Maybe they don’t have religion.
But I want to know when that dog opens his eyes and rears his head, how does he explain where he is compared to where he’s been?