Last night, I had several layered dreams (as opposed to several-layered dreams, which would mean something similar but distinct). I had experiments with lucidity as I wandered about a mansion within my mind (not the mansion, one of). I saw a child's crayon drawing on the wall, perhaps inspired by Children's Letters to Christopher Walken. I stared at the drawing and changed it to the picture in my mind (they were both in my head, though, ha!). The crayon and marker squiggles changed to other squiggles; half sliding, half misting across the construction paper. I'd had a dream two weeks ago where it was my job to stop the Incredible Hulk (his ever-shifting gamma-metabolism had left him suceptible to water; I guess a way of "cooling him down"). In that dream, a throng of people were chasing me, demanding to know how I was going to stop the Hulk. I needed space to think, so I ducked down an alleyway and then erected with my mind a solid brick wall behind me, blocking them from following me. Last night, I did more of the same, changing the architecture of the building around me as I moved. But I changed too much; I was holding the door to a pub open for a gang of guys when my father shuffled past me. But he was the sickly, cancer-eaten version of my late father. Which was sad, because I'm sure he didn't like me seeing him like that. It was not unlike the Monkey's Paw, and I got the sensation that I had dragged him unnaturally from the grave. And then I awoke, crying for the horror I had wrought. For in my dream I'd been playing with space first, then time (the 4th or nth dimension), but I'd transgressed in so doing into the axis of probability (the fifth or n+1th dimension). Hubris; which is an Ancient Greek word for "too big for mah britches". But as I cried, I realized I was still in a dream; my real pillow had no tears on it because I was not really awake. I had merely dreamt my awakening.
I should probably explain the whole probability thing. In high school, we were fascinated with the concept of higher dimensions. If you can imagine zero dimensions, imagine a point. It has no length, no width, no depth, no height. It's not a dot; it has no surface you can walk around like Le Petit Prince. It cannot go anywhere, because there is nowhere that is not it. But introduce a dimension; a line, stretching to infinity in either direction like a single straight railroad track, and you may introduce a degree of motion. Our dot is free to slide up and down that line anywhere it chooses, but it may not move up off of that line, nor may it slide East to West if our imaginary line points North-South. It has no concept of anything but forwards and backwards, as it can no more move that way than these letters could come up off the page or screen onto which they are written. But a page is an excellent metaphor for a two-dimensional plane, but infinitely flat and endless in all directions (kind of like Nebraska). Now we have a dimension in which a line may move, and also the point on that line. The point may even move off the line, if it so chooses. But if it moves upward, it moves northward. It cannot seperate the two the way we can living on the surface of a three dimensional object. Take a flat, 2-D representation, and fold it in in such a way as to make it the surface of a three dimensional object, and now you have your world to stride about like The Little Prince.
And now, moving spatially, we have come to the point where, were this a story, I could say: "And that brings us to the present." We have now arrived at where we are in this narrative, three dimensional space. Here, we come to a trap. Because there is only the present moment, nothing can ever move in Space. But Space has a partner named Time. And so anything that moves in any dimension must also move in Time. Imagine our point again, moving on its line. Right now, it's occupying a point in space, which we can call zero. For it to move one unit in either direction in this line, it must also move one unit on the time axis. With a point and a line, it's possible to graph this in two dimensions. This is why mathematicians often explain it this way. If it's tough to visualize, you can also simply draw a grid on a piece of paper. Draw a cross, and label the horizontal arm x. Instead of labelling the vertical arm y, label it t. For every unit of x that your point moves, you should also move it one point in t. Similarly, it's convenient in three-dimensional calculations for mathematicians to simply position time as the fourth dimension, but it's possible to have infinite spatial dimensions, so physicists tend to refer to time as the nth dimension. A four-dimensional sphere would still need to move in time, so time is after all the other dimensions. But it's possible for any point on any one-dimensional line to choose to go forwards or backwards. The instant in time where that choice is presented creates a seperate axis I call Probability. And on each point of this axis there exists a different parallel Universe. There is a universe where the point moved forward, and one where it moved backward (while still moving forwards in time). After moving forward one space, the point could move back one space, but it would have moved two spaces in time. You could have it move backwards by simply reversing time, but that would also reverse causality and it would not represent true movement. Q.E.D. Probability! Right? Well, if you don't get it, I don't blame you. But this is how my head works, and that is why I dreamt what I did. I dreamt that in playing with two dimensions (the drawing), then three (changing walls and things about), then four (time), then five (whoops, one too far), I had wandered into an alternate universe where my father had not died. There is a reason the Gypsies have a curse (or so I hear, I've never actually heard a gypsy say this): "May you get exactly what you wish for."
And so I thought as I was leaving my apartment for work this morning that I'd like to keep a book of elegant glass works, which I would keep handy for my kids. When they asked me why people died, I could pull out the book and show it to them. And they would say that the glass was beautiful, and I would ask them why. And they might say because it is delicate. And there would be their answer.