I recently engaged in sexual congress with Shirley MacLaine and woke up mid-climax. This is not something I would normally share so publicly, but it’s something that I found too fascinating to keep to myself. I subsequently engaged in some googling with my computer regarding wet dreams and found out little except that they seem to be common in both men and women. One source I read claimed that there’s friction involved: you’re dreaming of a sex act while also stimulating yourself, unconsciously, out there in real-life.
But, hold on a second: is it not the case that our most dream-filled sleep occurs during the REM phase? And, is it not also the case that during REM sleep our bodies produce chemicals that paralyze us?
Now, I can’t be sure but I don’t think that there was any real-world friction involved in my tryst with Ms. MacLaine. This idea has prompted me to keep revisiting the experience and to wonder if it’s possible, generally, to achieve orgasm without external stimulation.
Now, consider a scene in the recently-released movie Her in which the main character, Theodore, has sex with Samantha (aka OS1), a manufactured, disembodied consciousness. Staring at the giant, black rectangle in the theater, fully engrossed in the story, I found this love scene perfectly convincing, especially in light of my recent dream. Save for skin-on-skin contact, the relationship between Theodore and Samantha is, of course, fully realized before the movie ends.
Skin-on-skin contact. Skin. Do we need either? I’ve read some comments on-line suggesting that at least some people were disturbed by Her’s unorthodox relationship. Among other things, they found Theodore pathetic for apparently being unable to connect deeply with flesh-and-blood people, echoing the sentiments of his ex-wife. I’m inclined to think that connecting with another consciousness is probably more important than connecting with another flesh-person. Theodore seems to genuinely do this. Because I bought their relationship (allowed myself to buy it?), I found myself both jealous of Theodore and of Samantha. Both the chance to fall in love in a new way and the chance to experience existence in a new way (and perhaps extend my life) are very appealing prospects to me.
I’ve read that Steven Soderbergh gave Her’s director, Spike Jonze, important editing suggestions which ultimately helped Jonze whittle his initially three-hour movie down to two. I’m not surprised that Jonze would turn to Soderbergh given the latter’s work on Solaris, a story that legendary Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky felt needed a nearly three-hour run-time to tell and that Soderbergh felt needed only about an hour and a half.
Actually, Her’s story and Solaris’s have at least one other connection: both deal with humans who, in some way, ultimately choose fantasy over reality. Theodore, I would argue, imagines a physical relationship with Samantha in Her; Chris imagines an entire reality in which his ex-wife is alive and healthy in Solaris. (Incidentally, I do heretically prefer Soderbergh’s version of Solaris to Tarkovsky’s coma-inducing version.)
To some extent, Theodore and Chris are both in love with aspects of their own respective conscious or unconscious minds.
This brings me back to Ms. MacLaine. Research exists — thanks primarily, it seems, to the work of Stephen LaBerge — suggesting that lucid, controllable dreaming is possible. So far, it doesn’t seem that many people have been successful in exploring the possibilities suggested by LaBerge’s research.
An interesting question might be, though, what would happen if it were easy for the average person to act out really convincing fantasies within the safety of his or her own mind? Has somebody out there gotten good enough at lucid dreaming to conjure up Dreamy MacLaine on a regular basis? If so, have they ever felt in danger of falling in love with her? I would guess that such unbridled access to one’s unconscious would be selected against. After all, what need would someone have of, for example, procreating if they could just dream, convincingly, satisfyingly, that they were doing these things?
And, what need would someone have of procreating if they had a devoted consciousness (such as OS1) to provide convincing, satisfying companionship?
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“We like to be in love because it allows us to feel idealistic about ourselves. The other person ennobles, inspires, redeems. Our lover deserves the most wonderful person alive, and that person is ourselves.”
–Roger Ebert, from his review of All the Real Girls