1 With no malicious intent on my part, dear reader, I ask you to pinch yourself. Hard.
2 Given the right mixture of curiosity, gullibility, and to some extent boredom, you'd have dedicated two seconds of your life to granting my request. Proportional to this infinitesimal fraction (two seconds of your life is even less than one-millionths) is the profoundness of its effect on you: unbelievably small, almost unnoticeable except for the momentary shockwave of pain that wasn't even traumatic enough for you to cry out. In a half-hour this minor self-harm will have faded away into your mind. You will immerse yourself in the details of your life, the story you have lived out since birth, so plain when face-to-face with great dramatic epics. Eat, drink, sleep, meet friends, surf the net: a routine you've walked through since forever, an involuntary schedule that defines your world.
3 I'm a crappy horror story writer, but let me give you a brilliant plot that depends heavily on this forgetfulness mechanism. Lewis Carroll, who brings to mind Cheshire cats and Alice in Wonderland and chaos and fantasy, teams up with Edgar Allen Poe, who came up with the shocking concept of a severed heart that still beats. Their common thread is the reluctance with which they fell through the daily workings of life; they questioned existence, wondered if all this wasn't merely a dream we'd never wake up from.
4 What if, instead of being great writers whose voices have persisted throughout the centuries, they were demons whose home was the Underworld? Humanity should shudder: they'd have been the perfect tag team, infiltrating our race at its most defenseless point—our subconscious. Victims would dream in torturous sequence of living happily then waking up to realize everything was a dream, followed by waking up again and realizing you were dreaming of dreaming. It's the perfect recipe for psychosis. By daybreak, you'll be screaming with a recently developed phobia-slash-insomnia.
5 If ever such an attack broke out, all we have to defend ourselves with is an old, trusted (wrongly) "weapon," the Pinch. An understated, uncreative name because this… um, technique really is mundane and ineffective—it's squeezing a patch of your skin between your index and middle fingers. Obedient readers out there would know how this barely sends a waking jolt to the nervous system, and yet it's a so-called guaranteed pass out of a dream. I can easily imagine Poe and Carroll laughing maniacally in the background, pointing fingers at you while you keep pinching yourself futilely, desperately not wanting to succumb to this psychologically scarring mindfuck.
6 In the war between humans and sleep demons, sleep demons would win by a hundred percent. Thank God they don't exist—this is a rational deduction based on the fact that anybody with a brain cell and a hatred for humans could easily have concocted this plan, and so far we haven't been exterminated yet. A textbook of Humanity 101 would devote an entire chapter to our delusional qualities and how easily we believe the "reality" shoved onto us. Like our fight or flight instincts, we deviate between these two trains of thought: when we're content with something we believe in it; when we're unhappy with something we abandon it and simply fantasize about what we want. Both are incredibly prone to catalyzing self-destruction—suicides, murders, drugs, lies we tell ourselves, religion, the list goes on and on and on.
7 "Cogito ergo sum," Rene Descartes said. This shunning of the senses and embracing of the intellect has been acted out by poets and philosophers alike, manifesting most commonly in an echo of this statement: We live in a dream, and how can anything be real, is there anything that truly exists? This speaks of the fundamental human tendency—or corruption, because I like being cynical—to be obsessed with dreams, to structure the world according to his/her perspective. In mainstream media, the brainwashing device (okay, now I sound paranoid) that reaches the ears of millions around the globe every day, has fine-tuned our brainwaves to dwell on shallow romances, slapstick humor, overdone tragedies, pointless gossip, and so our philosophical inclinations, our desire to think of the higher things in life, are buried under an overwhelming amount of pettiness. A good way of doing career suicide nobly (but idiotically) would be to establish a TV show in the local channel that centers around existentialism—wait for a week or less, and you'll be going bankrupt.
8 This virus of superficiality is terrifically crushed and spit upon by Inception, the apparent ultimate go-watch movie of 2010. Three hours. A complicated plot that revolves around the dichotomy of reality and unreality. A demand for more intellectual comprehension than the sum total required for an average week's worth of watching TV. Humanity 101 should add another chapter entitled "Humans are Hopelessly Contradictory," stating as example how the people waited excitedly for Inception and crowded the moviehouses, afterwards emerging not with a disappointed or bored look but with a fascinated gleam in their eyes and animated conversations about existence. Somehow Inception had, like a good dentist, drilled away the plaque and exposed the questioning dreamer in its viewers. It struck a familiar chord that's been gathering dust for a long time, illuminating what people subconsciously knew was always there but was never exposed to the light. In the stage of our consciousness, we pushed away our questions, refused it the spotlight, demoted the unrealist in us to the backstage where it eventually caused more mayhem and hype than the lead actor. Inception dragged that unrealist, aching for attention all along, to the center of the stage, and there, finally, under the scrutiny of your subconscious, he/she is given satisfaction.
9 This is what that unrealist has been screaming all along, what Inception forces us to listen to: happiness has become our currency. We would trade everything for happiness, we would even alter our conception of reality. Even if we know that we're in a dream and this isn't reality, that there's another world out there, if we're happy… we'll choose to go on sleeping forever. Pinch yourself hard, tell yourself this life is fake—beyond the intellectual fascination, would you really care? #