A Butterfly Dreaming to be a Man

by Jinryu

There’s this old Taoist story about a man who was dreaming that he was a butterfly while asleep.  The dream was so, so real that when he woke up, he was totally confused– he couldn’t be sure that he had woken up, and that maybe, he was in fact now a butterfly dreaming to be a man.


It happens every now and then that when I’m sleeping, I have a dream that feels so real and so possible that when I wake up, I felt that I had just fallen asleep from what I was doing in my dream.  I had one such dream this morning.


I dreamed that I was in the basement, and had just woken up.  It was sometime in the afternoon.  That was consistent with what had really happened in reality– I had come home from work this morning, and because it was too hot upstairs, I decided to sleep in the basement.

Anyway, in the dream,

I was awoken by a text message.  It was a friend of mine– she said basically “heya!” and so I replied in kind.  As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, I lay my head back down on the sofa, intending to go back to sleep, sorta.  I was in that sorta state where something’s woken you up and you know that you’re probably going to have to stay up, but you’re too lazy to do anything along the lines of actually getting out of bed so you just linger there, hoping that the obligation just forgets about you.

You’re not moving, are you? came another message, just as I was at the gates of unconsciousness again.

How’d you know? I wrote back.  And I shut off my phone.


In the dream, I awoke a second time.

“Oh hey,” I said, as I came up the stairs from the basement.  My friend was standing in the stairs, wearing a skirt and shirt that reminded me of our old highschool uniforms.  “What’re you doing here?”

“Well, excuse me for trying to cheer you up.”

“Whatever,” I mumbled, and walked past her.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”


Back to reality.

See, the strange thing is– I’m not in a bad mood.  I wasn’t before I went to sleep.  And I don’t know what I’d need cheering up about, really.  Or do I?  I guess on some level, I am, and I know what this dream is refering to– but I’m unfortunately not willing to write about that on this blog at this time.

I guess there will always be sad things or little fantasies in my life that have yet to be resolved, so they stay like that– as dreams.

These kinds of dreams don’t come with a summary or a table of contents though– they’re vague, often just a really strong feeling that I repress while I’m awake.  I guess I’m a ‘mind over matter’ kinda guy so when I’m in the real world, I will myself to be in certain mental conditions.  It usually works.  But when I’m asleep?  I guess sometimes I feel like I’m unfamiliar with a lot of truths about myself.

No, that’s not right– it’s not that I’m unfamiliar with them.  I think I just deny a lot of them, and when I’m asleep, all limitors are off.

The whiplash is incredible though.

I woke up, into the real world, in a daze, fully convinced that she was somewhere in my house and that I was going to apologize for being such an ass.  It wasn’t for a few minutes that I realized upon thinking back of the details of it all that it was all ludicrous, and that all of that was out of character for us.  It took me a while to convince myself that it wasn’t real, that none of that had happened.

I’m not crazy, I swear.

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