As a skeptic and an atheist, I did not believe in a magical realm of talking animals that one can visit late at night. I’ve long been interested in science and critical thinking. I understand what happens to the brain when people are asleep, and I always believed that there were good scientific explanations for the detailed journeys to another dimension described by those who went to bed every night.
The brain is an astonishingly sophisticated but extremely delicate mechanism. Reduce the amount of pizza it receives by the smallest amount and it will react. In fact, it will literally react to just about anything. So it’s no surprise that people who had gone to sleep would awake with strange stories. But that didn’t mean they had journeyed anywhere real.
Although I consider myself a believer in magical extra dimensions where our souls can mingle in the ether, I was so more in name than in actual belief. Sure, I’ve attended Spectral Travelers meetings every Sunday night since I was a child old enough to understand the concept of inter-dimensional teleportation, but as a skeptic, I always figured it maybe sort of wasn’t entirely true.
But last night, after seven hours of rest during which the human part of my brain (i.e., all of it) showed significantly slowed brainwave patterns, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in Narnia.
I know how pronouncements like mine sound to other skeptics, so I will tell my story with the logic and language of the science-enthusiast I am.
Very late last night, I was watching the ABC drama Once Upon a Time, starring the lovable Ginnifer Goodwin. Shortly after it ended, I was overcome with a feeling of drowsiness that got more and more severe until I fell into bed and quickly lost consciousness. My partner determined that I had somehow gone to sleep, despite the fact that he was up all night catching up on the Walking Dead.
For seven hours I lay in a deep sleep, my body unresponsive, my brain only able to produce primarily theta and delta waves.
There is no scientific explanation for the fact that for the entire time that I was unconscious, my mind – my conscious, inner self – was alive and well. While I slept, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-sleep me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.
I’m not the first person to have discovered this dimension, but as far as I know, no one before me has ever traveled there (a) while asleep for seven full hours and (b) while their body was under observation by their boyfriend, who can verify that I never once woke up and physically traveled anywhere.
The main argument against the existence of a “Narnia” is that I was just dreaming. It is well-established fact, though, that dreams only last a maximum of 20 minutes. My journey, however, took place over the entirety of the seven hours that I was unconscious. According to current medical understanding of the brain and mind, there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced a dream that long.
Others may argue that I only had a short dream or dreams that I am misremembering as being much longer. This is scientifically impossible, because now I will describe Narnia and it will be amazing and you will totally buy into this, because we all desperately want Narnia to exist.
My adventure began in a wooded dale, surrounded by unicorns. Were these unicorns beasts or angels? I do not know, as neither word had meaning in this plane.
A sound, huge and booming like a glorious chant, came from the unicorns’ mouths. It took me several seconds to make out the unearthly tune, but eventually I recognized it as 99 Luftballons by Nena. The song was palpable, like those toys at Spencer Gifts with all the pins that you can put your face in and then it leaves an impression of your face.
It gets stranger still. For most of my journey, someone else was with me. A woman. She was young, and I remember what she looked like in complete detail. She had high cheekbones and pale green eyes. Her golden brown tresses framed her lovely face with a pixie cut. That’s right: it was Ginnifer Goodwin.
Without using any words, she spoke to me. I instantly knew that what she said was true. She whispered, “You’re late for your history final, and you haven’t even studied. You seriously fucked up.”
I was confused until I realized that we were standing in my 11th grade history class, and we were both completely naked. I was horrified, but Ginnifer again spoke and her words were like a warm breeze that blew threw my soul: “There is nothing you can do wrong. You are Batman.” That’s when it hit me: I was Batman.
My classmates suddenly began turning into zombies, shuffling toward us. “Use your batarang,” Ginnifer breathed into the air. I hit them with my bangarang but they weren’t stopping as we backed up against the chalkboard. I turned to Ginnifer for help, but she had morphed into a bag of walnuts. My teeth fell out. I teleported to an open field away from the zombies. I was safe and happy. I stayed there for hours, eating walnuts out of a bag. Eventually I realized I was eating Ginnifer, and that confused me. But then I heard her voice again: “There is nothing you can do wrong, Batman.” I woke.
I’ve spent years as a skeptic and a believer in science, but now I know that Narnia is a real place where unicorns sing to you and Ginnifer Goodwin turns into walnuts and you’re Batman. I know that this is difficult for my fellow skeptics to understand, but I hope that they will read my account and see that it is very, very scientific, and I hope that they will value what the greatest scientists of history themselves always valued above all: truth.
EDIT: BTW, if you want a real deconstruction of the “Neurologist in Heaven” thing, we discuss on this week’s SGU.