Shadow frames the light

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Dave Cline of Virginia, Alaska, Colorado, California, Utah and Oregon

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dream persistence

I'm flying a magical toboggan swiftly through forests and rocky narrow canyons. Barely missing rooftops and high tension electric wires, I rise up and cruise alongside a Lear jet and see Tom Hanks in the window, I wave. I'm getting cold and I notice that I'm no longer on a toboggan but in a yellow raft and the jet next to me is floating in the Caribbean. I have a small TV plugged into the rubber walls of the raft and I'm watching "I Love Lucy" and Lucy is whining about a deflated soufflé. It start to rain and the TV sparks and dies. The jet plane is now a school bus and we're all in a field of blue green grass, I'm surrounded by kindergarteners picking flowers for their parents. I instruct them that the purple daisies are sacred to the local residents and that we all would have to pay $1.00 for each one we picked. As we get back on the bus I wake up.

Now, if I happen to remember the tail part of this dream, the bus perhaps, or the purple daisies, I might be able to work backwards remembering more and more of this odd dream. But if I immediately get distracted by the morning's rituals I'll instantly forget these synthetic events. And once forgotten, that dream will never be retrievable; it will have been like I'd never dreamed it.

But if I can recall just a portion I might be able to recreate some of it in my now conscious mind. Once there, in my thinking awake mind, I can persist it, I can write it down or I can talk about it or I can simply re-run it over again in my mind, what I remember at least.

So we may dream every night, numerous dreams in fact, and the mind is obviously working to some degree splicing these virtual video segments together in ours brains. But unless we remember them, when we wake, they will be forgotten. Seems like such a waste.

Sometimes I wish my dreams would automatically be persisted in my memory. They're incredible adventures, much more entertaining than real life. To sleep, perchance to dream. I wonder how the brain's functional storage facility can be switched off yet the thought process, the assembly and visualization machinery, can remain operational. And it's like that, like a switch to our PROM, programmable read only memory; once written (the programmable part), a memory cannot be erased (the read only part). But the switch is off while we dream. Nothing is saved in our memories.

But then I think, what if all of our dreams were mixed with all of our waking living thoughts and memories. If I dream, frequently enough, that I can fly, would I begin to believe it? How would I maintain the distinction of what was a dream and what was not? Was I once a ninja assassin? A frog? A stranded sailor? A neurosurgeon? Did I really walk around volcanic sea vents cooking hotdogs in the heated steam? Surreality might take over.

When dreams leak into our memories, when the PROM switch gets turned on sometimes while we're asleep, and our ability to know what is dream and what is not gets murky, maybe then we step over the threshold of sanity and into the realm of psychosis and mental illness.

I guess I'll just leave my dreams as wispy remnants of longings, discoveries and fanciful excursions I had while I slept. But boy I had a doosey last night! I dreamed I was ...

Leximize word of the day, dreamories: the memory of dreams.

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