This will never become a book.

2014 February 19 Wednesday

Escapism

Filed under: dreams — Tags: — kdefg @ 14:09

I saw a wise tweet today and wanted to share it with you:

Maybe that’s why movies feel so normal to us – because we dream at night.
== tweet by ‏Amber Benson

I love to dream.  I also enjoy movies, but not as much as I enjoy dreaming, and the movies I enjoy the most are the ones with the most dream-like qualities.  I want to be entertained, and although I can appreciate a well-crafted documentary or realistic drama in movie form, I get more enjoyment from a story which is unbelievable. I want heightened realism and witty dialog, the stuff that is too perfect and too clever to ever happen in real life.  Waking life is just not that entertaining.

Does this say something about how I am living my life? I avoid risk and the kinds of behavior that others describe as “living life to the fullest”.  I don’t keep a running “bucket list” of things I hope to do before I die, because I live my life more in my head than in my body.  I can experience plenty by reading and visualizing, and I can use my memories and imagination to generate the same emotional response as my body’s senses would. Great dreams and great movies may seem like mere simulations to others, but they stimulate me.

That doesn’t make all escapist movies worth seeing.  I’ve enjoyed some recent blockbusters in RealD and IMAX 3D but have avoided many of them as well. Sometimes it’s a matter of technology (as in “Is it real or fake?” per this list of 3D movies) but more often it’s the content that just doesn’t draw me in.  The latest movie trailer for “Guardians of the Galaxy” is an example where I just don’t see the appeal.  I can’t see putting myself into that story, so it doesn’t work for me as an escape.  It looks more silly than fun to me.

Ideally I would just dream more if I could, or dream better.  I find myself with more time lately to drift back to sleep in the morning.  That gives me an extra dream cycle, but the dreams are not of a consistent quality.  I also have more time for watching trashy movies on cable TV, but I remain detached from most of them as I pay attention to the details of their narrative techniques and analyze them for story structure.  I’m using movies as homework instead of escape.  I think this is affecting my dreams as well.

I signed up at a website which aims to run a monthly experiment in lucid dreaming.  The Mutual Dream Experiment has a lofty goal, but I believe it is based on faulty logic.  (That is a discussion for another time.)  I don’t believe my dreams will ever intersect with anyone else’s dreams, but I’m willing to participate if only to add to the pile of negative data.  Dreams need more research, simply to expand our knowledge of what it means to be human.  Perhaps we can improve our dreams in the same way that the studies of story structure and writing techniques have improved cinema.

But if you do want to send me a message in your next lucid dream, please write it down.  Show me something on paper, as a drawing or as text, and point to it.  I process information visually, and I remember the things I’ve seen, both in movies and in dreams as much as in real life.

2013 January 7 Monday

Random Richness

Filed under: dreams — kdefg @ 10:46

I awoke from the dream disoriented. What time is it? I can usually sense how early it is by the amount of pre-dawn sunlight breaking through beyond the curtains.  Is there a glow?  Or is that the Christmas lights outside the window?  Did I leave them on all night again?

Wait. What day is this?   Oh, right, now I remember.  I took the lights down last week. It’s a work day, but it’s not time to wake up just yet.  What was I dreaming?

I was in a large room, filled with armchairs and end tables.  It looks like a living room, with dark wallpaper and plush carpeting, but it seems to be the waiting area at a fancy business.  On the coffee table is a catalog.  I think I recognize one of the models on the cover.  Maybe her name is Chelsea?  Maybe we are friends and I am here to meet up with her?  This seems to be a place where fashions are designed and sold.  There is a lounging sofa next to where I am sitting, the kind with a curled side arm and no back.  On it is a tailored man’s shirt made of a luxurious pink fabric, neatly folded, with a receipt on top.  It seems to have cost $50. Is that a good price? I know someone who likes tailored shirts.  Maybe I should surprise him with a gift, but how would I get his measurements?

I pick up the catalog and flip through its pages.  It is more like a magazine, featuring a different designer profile on each double-page spread.  The fashions are outlandish, ridiculous, extravagant. Each turn of the page shows me something entirely new, from bizarre to Lady Gaga crazy. But the glossy pictures imply that someone is proud of these designs, and the existence of the catalog says that people buy these clothes, maybe even wear them.  On a deeper subconscious level, I must realize I am dreaming and that these images were created by my own mind.  I try to look at the magazine again, to memorize the details, but the images are now blurry.

I look for other things to read while I am waiting.  I find a small stack of coupons and advertising leaflets.  Shuffling through them, I also find cash intermingled with the slips of paper.  Hundreds of dollars are mixed in with cheap tourism mailers.  I try to read the blurbs on the coupons, but again I find it difficult to focus on the text.  I hear a noise which I believe means an elevator is arriving in the outer hall.  I feel guilty for handling the money, but now I cannot remember where it belongs.  Where had I found it?  Did it go with the shirt on the sofa? Why isn’t there a note with it, to say who left it or what it was for? I wake up, worried that someone will think I was stealing from them.

I want to remember this dream in the morning, but I also want to go back to sleep.  I should write it down, but turning on a light and looking for a pen takes me further across the line into wakefulness. I scribble some words down in my notebook, to use as memory triggers later, but it is too late.  I have only a single image remaining from the dozens in my fashion catalog. The rest of the dream is gone.

I check the time.  I won’t be able to go back to sleep now, the rest of the household will be getting up fairly soon. Maybe I’ll turn on the television.  Maybe I’ll see whether anyone on Project Runway has stolen my ideas.

 

2012 July 4 Wednesday

Order Up

Filed under: dreams — kdefg @ 23:26

I haven’t made many posts in my “Dreams” category so far, because I haven’t really had many interesting dreams over the past few months.  I’m wondering whether or not I could invoke a good night of dreams tonight simply by talking about what I would like to see.  I haven’t had much luck with this in the past.  Maybe I haven’t been specific enough.

I enjoy dreaming about new places, and it is hard to be specific about a place I haven’t yet seen.  I’m pleasantly surprised when I dream about a bookstore or library, because my brain fills in the most wonderful details for the books on the shelves.  I wouldn’t get the same thrill if I pictured the location before falling asleep.

I don’t do the kind of guided meditation that might help me to focus on a planned dream — I don’t do any sort of meditation at all, really.  I daydream while doing other things, like taking a walk or washing the dishes.  Maybe that is using up all of my visualization powers.

I’ve wanted to have more lucid dreams, too, but the recommended techniques have not been successful for me.  I know I am supposed to train myself during the day to question reality, to make it a habit to ask whether or not I am dreaming right now.  This has not carried over into my dream world.

I will know I am dreaming when I see something that I have not already seen in a movie or on television.  This rules out Bigfoot, unicorns, wildfires, the Queen, and all sorts of alien sightings.  What could I possibly imagine right now to look for in my dreams that I have never seen before?

Even notions like “when pigs fly” have been rendering into imagery.  A poem from my childhood talked about a purple cow as an impossibility, but with Photoshop it is now too easy to make it look plausible.  The only true impossibilities left are contradictions and paradoxes.

Tonight, I shall dream about a five-sided square.  The trick will be remembering it in the morning.

 

2012 June 29 Friday

Strangers on a Plane

Filed under: dreams — kdefg @ 09:02

Who are the people in our dreams?  If sleep was a way for our spirits to travel beyond our plane of existence, then we might be meeting the spirits of other people who have reached the same dimension with us.  All it would take to prove this hypothesis would be to have two separate people report having the same dream at the same time in which each saw the other.  As far as I know, we have no evidence that this has ever occurred.

The more mundane explanation is that our brains are creative machines.  Each night, they invent the setting and populate it with characters from our imagination.  This makes rational sense, but my emotional side feels like it isn’t the whole picture.  How can I be dreaming up these other people effortlessly and unconsciously, when I find it so difficult to do so when awake?

Another explanation is that these other people are not pure inventions, but are different facets of my own personality.  We all play different roles in real life, and present different faces to the world in various situations.  Dreams are a place where we can confront ourselves, or meet aspects of our selves which are kept hidden from the world.  The movie Inception tapped into this idea by saying that the client populated the shared dream with his subconscious, creating a cast of “movie extras” for crowd scenes and supporting characters.

In my dreams this week, I have encountered people in an elevator, a restaurant, a horse stable, and on public transportation.  They were an assortment of male and female, young and old, beautiful and ugly, and a few were even famous.  At no time did I recognize myself in any of them.  For that matter, I did not recognize any of the locations, either.  The transportation could have been a bus (with no windows) or an airplane (with no tray tables) or a passenger train; for the sake of the dream/story, it was a non-specific detail.  The other locations were places I have never been to in real life; they could exist in our world, or they could be in a parallel universe.

A few of these dreams also had an element of time travel in them.  I was talking with people for whom my present was their future, and I had to be discreet about what I said to them.  When I found someone else who was also from my time period, we could discuss the implications of being in the past.  At least those conversations make sense to me, in terms of being inside my own head and talking with myself.

There may never be a way to prove exactly what is going on inside our dreams or what the mechanisms are that generate them.  That doesn’t make it any less fun to travel there.

 

 

2012 June 13 Wednesday

Wormholes

Filed under: dreams — kdefg @ 23:20

It is fun to imagine that our dreams are a window into an alternate reality, one with real substance.  Perhaps we are tapping into knowledge of a hidden dimension or remotely viewing a parallel existence.  We see wonderous and terrible visions while we sleep, but also mundane things.  And sometimes dreams are just too bizarre to be coming simply from our own imagination.  At least that’s one theory.

Sometimes I fall asleep with the television on, and whatever dreams take place during that time are ones I choose to discount.  The images in those dreams are likely caused by the flickering of light on my eyelids, and the sounds I dream are probably the whispers from late-night infomercials.  My brain wants to make sense of the sensory input from the room, filling my mind with random nonsense.  I want my dreams to contain messages of wisdom from across the great void of space-time, but my cable provider does not have a channel for that.

When I have a compelling dream, I like to share it.  I’ve subjected my family to tales of UFO invasions and our sun going supernova, but those kinds of dramatic dreams are rare for me.  I’ve dreamt about looking for a new house, or driving around in our car, but I only bother to tell my family when they appear as characters in those kinds of dreams.

Of course I keep other dreams to myself.  Some are embarrassing (but perfectly normal, they say) and some are just boring.  I dream I’m in church or in a theater, but nothing much happens.  If these are also windows into another reality, then it’s pretty realistic to think that their world is just as mundane as our own sometimes.

Then there are the dreams that make no obvious sense, built with bizarre images and without logic.  I write them down when I can, when I have words to describe what I’ve seen or felt.  I don’t know whether to look for meaning in their symbolism, or accept that they have no purpose.  I am not comfortable with either option.

Last night, I dreamt about worms.  Specifically, I was donating worms to a scientist for research.  He cut the worms out of my belly.  They were not doing me any harm, and the extraction did not hurt me.  It was all rather ordinary, in that manner of dream logic.  I will describe the scene in great detail in my written dream journal, not here, and will eventually forget about it.  Whatever meaning or message was encoded there has missed its mark.

Tonight, I hope to travel across space and time, but perhaps via less-literal wormholes.

 

2012 June 11 Monday

Archival Retrieval

Filed under: dreams — kdefg @ 23:34

I have probably forgotten more dreams than I’ve remembered. I assume that is the way it is for most of us.  We don’t put a very high priority on our dreams, so they don’t take up storage space alongside our other memories.  We forget the insignificant details of dreams along with nuggets of information such as what we ate for breakfast three weeks ago, or what we wore to work on an average day four years ago.  The important memories stick with us, and outstanding dreams do too, but the rest fade with time.

Humans reinforce their memories with technology now, taking pictures and recording video of events that might not have been worthy of remembering before.  Those images might go into a scrapbook or take up digital space and never be looked at again. Or they might be found years later, after the real memories have faded. and no one will know who the faces in the pictures are.  Without someone to tell the stories they represent, they’re just static pictures not real memories.

Does the act of taking a photograph make the event itself more memorable?  When you look at a picture you’ve taken, do you remember the scene as it appeared outside the viewfinder?  Do parents remember watching their child’s stage performance, or do they remember the act of recording it on home video?

A few rare individuals do remember every detail of their waking lives, but none of the articles I’ve read about them mention whether or not they remember their dreams any more than the rest of us do (or don’t).  Several years ago, a researcher started to record every moment of his life (see this article from 2005), but there is no mention of him saving the content of his dreams.

What if we could record our dreams with technology?  First off, I can’t imagine ever finding the time to go back and rewatch all that content.  I barely rewatch most of the DVDs I buy!  Perhaps I would use a dream recorder to capture images that fade while waking up, and review them later for analysis.  Then I would probably delete them just to save storage space.  Just by thinking about a dream while I’m awake is enough for me to remember it, without the need of a visual record.  The dream journal I write in is something I rarely go back to reread, because it is only an intermediate tool.

Then again, I think about kinds of things we recorded when I was a kid and we had just gotten a tape recorder.  We taped snippets of conversation, told jokes and sang songs, and played them back just to hear how our own voices sounded to other people.  We weren’t trying to document anything for posterity.  Most of those tapes were recorded over later, being deemed unimportant at the time.  Now those are the moments most in need of retrieval, precisely because they were not archived, neither in our memories nor our technology.  When a tape like that is discovered in the back of a closet, it is a treasure.

If we could discover a recording of a long-forgotten dream, would it stir up similar feelings of nostalgia?  Would knowing now what my dreams were like decades ago feel at all familiar?  Or were they just as mundane as what I was having for lunch in kindergarten, or what jokes I told into that tape recorder?

 

 

2012 June 5 Tuesday

Extreme Dream Sensations

Filed under: dreams — kdefg @ 22:09

I had a restless night last night, waking frequently and abruptly.  It could have been too much caffeine during the day, or simply that shallow kind of sleep mothers maintain when a child is sick through the night.  Whatever the cause, I couldn’t have gotten more than four hours of sleep by the time the sun rose, and my dreams were scattered and short.

In the morning, I confirmed that my daughter was feeling better, and she let me return to bed (after I also fed the cat to quiet its demands).  I quickly drifted off into the deepest solid stretch of sleep I’ve had in a while.  In it, my dreams were especially vivid.  I have forgotten most of the details over the course of yet another busy day — we watched transit of Venus across the sun — but I do remember the feelings.

The last thing I remember dreaming involved being on top of a very tall mountain where an apartment building used to stand.  I was standing on a cement slab which was angled like ancient rubble.  I inched my way up the slope of the slab to look out over the edge, and what I saw was a shear drop down into a grassy valley which felt like more than a mile to the bottom.  I lay flat on the slab, and I could feel the warmth of the cement on the side of my face where the sun had been baking it all afternoon.  With my head sideways, I could look out at the rest of the rim of the valley, richly green and dense with trees.  If I lifted my head at all, the scene swam before my eyes as if using a fish-eye lens, and I could feel the fear of vertigo rising in my stomach.  I wanted to look out over the cliff edge again, to check for any remaining signs of the apartments which might have been built into the face of the mountain wall, but each time I tried to move I was frozen in fear.  I felt the rough edge of the cement slab cutting into my finger tips as I gripped the edge more tightly.

Upon waking, I marveled at how real it had all felt.  At no time during the experience did I question its reality.  This is completely opposite to how a lucid dream is supposed to be.  If this had been any other “normal” dream, I would not have been afraid of the heights because I would intuitively know that I could just invoke my flying levitation powers and head out over that valley.

I’m thinking that there was something else going on which enhanced the reality of the dream for me last night.  When I woke up, I was dizzy, and had a hard time getting my balance at first.  It could have been the onset of a head cold, or an inner ear problem.  It eventually went away as I roused myself and started my day.  My dream could have just been a visualization caused by that internal sensation, “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese…”

Or, did my dream reality cause me to wake up with vertigo?

 

 

2012 May 24 Thursday

Non Sense

Filed under: dreams — kdefg @ 23:53

Another night with very little to report; another morning when I did not write in my dream journal.

This is not to say I did not dream last night.  It’s just that what I did dream was so bizarre that I didn’t want to record it.  In it, my body had no arms or legs, no head either, just a torso, but it was hollow, more like the shell of a body, with the rubbery texture of those covers that slip over the Wii remote control.  And yet, it wasn’t my body either, because I was looking down at it, and in my hand was something like a lightsaber — so I still had a hand, and arms, and a head to be looking down from — and it was I who was cutting off the limbs of this body.  Total nonsense, right?

What am I to do with such imagery?  I started the journal as a way to practice storytelling, and to maybe keep ideas for future writing experiments.  This, however, is not a scene that I want to revisit in any kind of writing.

And how do I derive meaning from this?  I cannot think of anything I had seen recently which could have spawned this kind of symbolism.  This is not a repurposed scene from a movie, as sometimes happens with my dreams.

So I woke up and decided not to remember it by writing it down.  I didn’t take much time in bed sorting through the memory of it before getting up, which is usually a good way to let the details fade.  I had pretty much forgotten about it as my day became hectic with running errands and meeting deadlines.  And then after lunch, driving past a construction site, I see their civic banners for whatever new building was going up behind the fences, covered in slogans and inspirational phrases, and the one word which stood out in the biggest font was ‘DREAM’.

I continued my errands, which involved waiting in a line for six hours to pick up badges for a weekend event.  Exhausted from standing and shuffling and sitting on a hard floor when the line stalled, I was glad to come home to a late supper and a final hour of television.  What did I watch?  The season finale of “Awake” — actually the series finale since it was cancelled — that show in which a detective does not know in which reality he might be asleep, or whether he is caught between two equally-real dream worlds.

Dreams are not supposed to make sense — this is what we tell ourselves when a particularly weird dream makes no sense at all.  But perhaps those are the most important dreams of all, the ones which surpass the kind of sense we understand in our waking life.  It is the nonsense which challenges us to think, until it makes “non” sense.

 

2012 May 15 Tuesday

Close Your Eyes

Filed under: dreams — kdefg @ 23:46

I’m pondering reality again, but I haven’t posted in the ‘dreams’ category lately, so let’s begin with that.  I just watched another movie which fits well into a discussion about dreams versus reality, as well as a segue from the last topic: remakes or retellings of the same story.

The movie was “abre los ojos” which is Spanish for “open your eyes”.  It was later remade as “Vanilla Sky” — I saw this English version first, and rewatched it a few times over the years before getting around to seeking out the original tonight.  It really was the same movie (the same story!), just with different actors and a few changes to accommodate the cultural differences and technological advances.

In some ways, it was distracting to watch it with part of my mind playing “spot the difference”, while another part was having déjà vu from seeing the same actress playing her same role.  But it was also an enhanced experience, being able to (pretend to) question whether or not I was simply dreaming it all.  I paused the movie at key scenes so I could savor the plot twists.  At the moment when I had the screen frozen on the main character saying he *knew* he wasn’t dreaming, my housemate came in and wondered how I got the subtitles to stay visible.  We had a brief discussion about how the captioning mechanism worked and why subtitles disappear during rewind and fast-forward.  I then accused him of trying to trick me into thinking this was not reality, or that maybe he was just a figment of my imagination.

It’s cool.  We frequently have silly conversations like that.  I’m sure he knows I was only joking.  He did let me go back to watching my movie in peace.

Part of why I like movies like this (these?) is to see how they depict the dream state as reality, how we do not question reality while we are dreaming.  Yes, there are cases of lucid dreaming, in which you are somehow aware that you are dreaming but you continue to sleep.  But in general, we only realize that something was a dream after it is over, after we awaken to this reality.

One of the weirdest experiences I’ve had while dreaming was not what I would call a lucid dream, because of how strongly my mind resisted acknowledging it was a dream.  I felt like it was more real that anything, and in it I had a conversation about how this could not be a dream.  I would love to have that kind of dream again one day.  I even turned it into a writing exercise, using it to inspire the first chapter of my NaNoWriMo novel last year.

If I can’t force myself into a lucid dream, and cannot trigger another “undream” like that one, I may have to make do with pretending reality is the dream.  I’ve already gone through a phase of imaging that my world is a virtual reality projection, so it’s an easy leap to imagine that my mind is creating that projection.  My dreams have infinitely more variety than my waking life, so perhaps this is evidence that I reuse graphic assets and minimize render cycles  (by walking the same route to fetch coffee, for example) in the manner of a computer with small memory and weak processing power.

I’ll have to consider this in the morning, perhaps in a daydream.

 

2012 May 10 Thursday

Synchronized Sleeping

Filed under: dreams — kdefg @ 23:58

I have fifteen minutes to publish the post, to meet my self-imposed deadline of getting out an entry every day.  Then I need to get back to the business of dreaming.  That dream journal habit has been erratic lately, because my sleep cycle has been shifted as well.  The housemates are staying up later now, keeping me awake, and then they’re staying home during the day, distracting me from my meditations.  Hence, the almost-midnight writing sprint.

I haven’t taken the time to fully remember my dreams, which discourages me from jotting down the few details I do recall.  The only pattern I’ve seen this week is “hotels”, as I’ve had several dreams in which I’m either staying in a hotel room or action is taking place in a hotel lobby.  Last week it was water, as in rain and things getting wet.  I think at least one dream had me taking a shower in a hotel room.

If dreams are my subconscious trying to tell me something, I’m not getting the message, despite the redundancies.  If instead these are scenes from a parallel reality, I really need to pay attention.  I feel like there have been details that have slipped out of my grasp as I wake up, snippets of words and writing that had to be there in my mind for a reason.

It would be really cool if I could cross paths with someone who shared the same dream as me, so we could compare notes.  I don’t suppose anyone out there has dreamt of a hotel room this week.  Did you see me there, by any chance?  Did you find the suitcase I left behind?

I just did a quick search to find a website that I remember, something about getting people to agree to meet in a common location in their lucid dreams.  Now I can’t find it… In looking for that website, I also found the Global Lucid Dreaming Experiment

but my time is up for tonight!

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