Friday, November 24, 2006

Dreams, Memory and Interpretation.

Here's one for the "things to be thankful for case-file":

I rarely remember my dreams. That's not the thing that I am particularly thankful for today. No. Rather I am glad that the dreams I do remember don't turn out to be reality. Today I recall much of what I dreamed last night.

Relating dreams is always a tricky proposition. A lot of people simply tune out as soon as they figure out that you want to tell them about a dream you had. I understand that because I usually have a similar urge to think about something else (like bills I have to pay, or having to go to the bathroom) when someone starts relating a dream. It's not that dreams are not interesting... it's that they are rarely interesting to anyone who didn't have them. Because of the way dream logic seems to work, they are often arbitrary and irrationall... and what makes them fascinating while you are dreaming them... makes them deadly dull in the telling. But we seem to have a deep-seated (or is it seeded) need to attempt to understand this phenomena... even if we believe that dreams are merely the result of random firing in our brains. So even though we know that others' stories of them are rarely captivating, we continue to share them with each other.

Perhaps it's the fact that dreams are so visually-oriented that keeps them from being transferable. The only sensory data they contain is either visual or auditory. It's often futile to convey the wonder of the visions that our sleep offers us. They are constantly shifting and undulating. People change their identities... places fade abruptly and are replaced by others... and our potentialities become quite limitless... if we could only harness our intentions in service of that great possibility. Our emotions and relationships subtly affect the plotlines, in ways that are more symbolic than literal. How do we make sense out of such seemingly chaotic data?

Of course some love the challenge of interpretation. Jung and Freud made careers out of dream analysis. They certainly believed that dreams hold the keys to self-understanding. And who am I to doubt such luminaries of thought and mind? They've left such an indelible mark on our culture. So without further expository ramblings, I offer you my best recollection of last night's dream...

I was at some outdoor event, surrounded by friends. We were sitting uncovered along rows of picnic tables. I was playing chess against an anonymous opponent... on a board that rose from the table on layers of mechanized obscurity. The next thing I was aware of was the aftermath of an explosion... although I had no experience of any disruption. I began to examine myself and noticed strange protrusions on my arms. They were t-shaped heads of metal, about the width of a paper clip. I grabbed the top of one and pulled... there was a lot of painful resistance. As I extracted the first piece, I was amazed by it's length- at least three inches. It had a sheath of blood-tinged mucus, and when I reached its end, it exited with a slurping sound. A splattering of deep red blood followed. I continued to discover more of these skewers up and down both of my arms. I had a progressive sense of satisfaction in removing each one. Some resulted in little blood, and others yielded a thick glob that one could spoon like pudding. As if searching for fleas, I would gain confidence that I had gotten them all... only to find another one.

Having finally finished my task... I sought a place to wash out the small pin-hole wounds that were left. I remember being confounded by the risk of infection. At first my arms seemed only minimally effected by the stigmata. But in time-lapse fashion, the skin around the holes started to sag and turn gray in quarter-sized blemishes. I imagined that it was much the same as if I had been bitten by a nest of brown recluse spiders. I awoke with the hope that these unsightly scars would soon heal.

Dear readers... what meaning can we draw from this dream?

Note: If you are interested in dreams and their depictions... I have some recommendations for you:

Carl Jung's Memories, Dreams and Reflections is a memoir of the eminent psychologist's life, and is a great introduction to his thinking about archetypes, dreams and synchronicity.

Richard Linklater's film Waking Life is a compelling meditation on lucid dreaming and the effect of nocturnal wanderings. It uses rotoscope animation to create a unique ambience that effectively engages the viewer subconscious.

Jesse Reklaw is a comics artist whose work centers around an idea in the "Why-the-hell-didn't-I-think-of-that?" mode. He solicits dreams, and illustrates them in a daily comic strip. Check out his work at Slow Wave.


Anonymous jefg said...

Can't say that I've EVBR had a dream that weird. However, let me relate to you one very vivid dream I had last week, when I wanted to go back to sleep to have it continue. Then again, you probably wouldn't be interested.

Thanks for sharing your creepy dream. Happy Thanksgiving Holiday!

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could say the dream is your way of working out lifes trials & tribulations one wound after another coming at us relentlessly.But all wounds do heal or You're just wacthing to many crazy movies.
My dream was the observence of a flying turtle and in the dream it came on the news stating the sighting.Sounds like a good name for a band "The Flying Turtles" if it's not already taken.MP

2:34 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


C'mon... you NEVER had a dream that wierd?! What am I... a freak?

9:52 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


That's an interesting interpretation. I wonder what the flying turtle represents for you.

Maybe it's a reminder that even the methodical introvert has the potential to soar socially. Sounds like a success story.

9:55 PM  
Anonymous jefg said...


I never said I've not had a weird dream, I said never as weird as that one (at least that I could remember when I woke up...or remember now, which is another story altogether). That being said, I think one's dream-mind has a definite and direct link to one's waking-mind. For that reason alone, while I don't consider you a freak in any way (just responding to your question), I can fully understand why your dreams would be weirder than mine. Surely you must agree with that, no?

8:06 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


I don't know. It's hard to say. Why would my waking life contribute to wierd dreams?

4:26 PM  
Anonymous jefg said...

Merge, you're not serious are you? Do I have to explain the differences between your books, your movie collection, your music, your reading, and your life's experiences and those of one considerably more conservative (like mine)? Wouldn't you think, that to experience a dream, one would have to have some degree of knowledge (if not exposure) to the things portrayed in the dream? Is it any wonder yours might be a, alot..different than mine, or most anyone else I know? Are you surprised that I would consider some of it a tad weird? That's not to indicate good or bad, right or wrong, better or worse...just different on the (my) weirdness scale. Note: I didn't imply that you were weird, simply that you enjoy some weird things and places. Hence, the base is planted for weird(er) dreams. Rebuttal?

5:33 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


I guess it's all a matter of perspective. I would probably find dreaming of an office environment exceedingly weird, whereas you may find a dream in which you played the role of a teacher, or a fireman, strange. My dreams are only really "weird" relative to the difference between them and my reality. Certainly you and I have different definitions for "weirdness".

9:33 PM  

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