Monday, January 13, 2014


I think about dreams a lot. I love dreaming, and I often dream in vivid detail or with intense emotion. 

Often, I experience the fantastical, incongruous, or incomprehensible situations that are among the hallmarks of dreams. I've seen and done things while sleeping that make Finnegan's Wake seem almost coherent. I've never tried psychedelic drugs, and I don't have to, because my mind naturally takes itself to bizarre, otherworldly places. Put the painting below into a blender along with some M.C. Escher drawings and David Lynch films. Mix them up, then turn the result inside out, and accompany the whole thing with a mix of Grateful Dead and Danny Elfman songs. This is an approximation of where my mind goes many nights. 

Dreamscape, by Romanian artist Liviu Mihai. Hosted at CoolVibe:

In dreams, I have ridden my motorcycle along the edge of a vast, spectacular canyon to a hotel room where my children greeted me. I have bought jewelry for my wife in a Mexican village. I've wandered into a nightclub where beautiful people were dancing with large casts on their arms and legs. I've flown high above the Earth, ridden on the backs of strange beasts, and held conversations with newborn infants and with my dog. I've often participated in scenes from movies I like.

Many of my dreams reflect unfulfilled lifelong wishes. For example, I've never been a good swimmer. In fact, I could not swim at all until I was a teenager, and this often troubled me. But in dreams, I am a graceful, fearless swimmer. There are other examples that I will not share here.

I've had some horrible nightmares. Occasionally, these involve a tangible threat, like a monster chasing me. The most frightening ones, however, which came when I was very young and recurred many times, were quite different. They consisted of vague but powerful emotions, with no characters or plot, and no specific visual or auditory details. There was merely an overwhelming sensation that I was completely alone and being overcome by a tremendous, evil force. This was usually accompanied by a scene which I can best describe as follows: I hold between my fingers a tiny crumb of matter, like Play-doh, perhaps. In an instant, it grows to the size of a building, or a mountain, or even the entire Earth, and I am trapped beneath it, being crushed and suffocated, unable to move, and unable to shout for help. It is a very real and utterly desperate sensation. I would wake up screaming, confused, and bawling for comfort from my mother.

To this day, if I concentrate, I can intentionally recall the emotional state of those nightmares. I will not take myself deep into it, especially not at night, but I occasionally experiment with it in my mind--sort of like sampling something bitter just to remember what it tastes like. Even as I formulate this description right now, if I think too much about it I can bring myself to tears. (That could be a useful tool if I were acting in a dramatic movie, eh?)

Putting the intense nightmares aside, I hold with those theorists who believe dreaming is the mind's way of sorting the clutter of what we experience in real life; it's part of a mental tidying-up process. Several nights ago I had a very long, detailed dream that was confusing to me when I first awoke and recalled it. As I pondered it throughout the day, it became clear to me that various elements of the dream reflected things I had seen and done recently, or that I'd heard about from friends. If I told you what I did in my dream, you'd be shocked and frightened. I plead innocence by virtue of the fact that I don't control my dreams; they come spontaneously, and I would sooner surrender my life than commit the atrocities that took place in this one. As our world is a place where ugly, senseless things often happen, it is no wonder my brain has much to sort out.

Hamlet thought the dreams that may come when we have "shrugged off this mortal coil" must give us pause. I don't have to wait until death for this to happen. The dreams I have now often give me pause. Now and then they frighten me. Sometimes, they open new worlds to me, reveal things about my self, or delight and entertain me. Usually, they leave me guessing, wondering, thinking. I love to dream.


  1. I'm a little envious of your ability to remember your dreams. I can recall some of them, but usually, I'm just left with a feeling when I wake up that slowly fades against my wakefulness.

    1. Well, Guap, I don't always remember them. Most nights I do, though.