A guest post by Lu from The Unwitting Traveller for Notes from Africa
Firstly, I’d like to thank Lisa for inviting me to guest blog here on Notes from Africa. I consider it to be a huge compliment to be putting forth words to be read by Lisa’s audience – so I hope I don’t fail her.
(Given the topic is about dreams and dreaming – I note, with some irony, as I begin writing for this post, that it is 3:30am. I wonder what kind of dream I was having last night…)
The Sandman is a mythical character in Western folklore who brings good dreams by sprinkling magical sand onto the eyes of children while they sleep at night. (Source: Wikipedia)
I dream. I dream a lot. I am aware that I am dreaming whilst I am dreaming, and can honestly say that I dream almost every night. The only times I wouldn’t know if I dreamt or not is when I have excessively over-imbibed. Luckily, those times are very, very rare…
I don’t attempt to decipher or interpret my dreams; it is often the case that I can’t really remember them by the time morning comes around, despite my best efforts to recall them. The few mornings where I can leisurely transfer from dream world to waking reality provide a much better chance for revelling in the subliminal and then actually forming a memory of the dream. The other mornings: the ones where the screech of an alarm clock dictates my departure from the nightly screenings – I can forget about even trying.
Neuroscientists at UC Berkeley are well on their way to creating a braincam of sorts, which can interpret brain activity into 3D pixel data and thus movie format.
Despite the scary applications that some folks presume government agencies might have in mind (ahem), I’d be interested to capture my own dreams. It would certainly resolve the issue of not always remembering the content of my dreams and given the amount of rubbish on TV these days, it might prove to be more interesting.
I broadly categorise my dreams into two types: Force-Fed and Free-Range. I really don’t enjoy Force-Fed dreams and I do my best to avoid setting myself up for them. I do, however, thoroughly enjoy Free-Range dreams and I would like to think they are more than just dreams.
These are the dreams of imagination: technicolour, HDR and surround-sound all combined with new and exciting places. I dream in textures, tastes and smells too. I NEVER dream of places I recognise: even though I may be quite certain that my dream is set in a specific city, it doesn’t look like any part of the city I have visited. I think that I could make a great Architect a là Inception. In some dreams I am interactive with the place and the people within, and in other dreams I feel as though I am watching a movie, albeit still on set.
I often dream of night-time settings, with bright, flashing neon lights and streaking tail-lights zipping past. I am sometimes with friends from school, at other times friends from university; family members also pop in, as you would expect. Interestingly, I have quite distinct groups of people that I know in real life, which are retained throughout my dreams. There are no cross-overs. We have all grown older; just because I last saw one school friend at age 15 doesn’t mean that they have remained young. No, we are ALL getting grey hairs these days… I also have dreams of people that I absolutely do not know. They are neither famous, nor are they people I have seen in photographs that I might recognise.
When I dream of the people I know, the dream is also usually contextually correct. The other night I dreamt of two university classmates who both now live in Australia; one in Perth, the other Sydney. I don’t know if they ever meet up, but in my dream we three were having a good old chat and I was leaving them my spare Aussie coins before heading back to the UK. Admittedly, they looked more like Euro coins, but that’s probably due to the influence of the current Eurozone crisis. 😉
Here’s where I (again) let my imagination get the better of me. Many of these dreams seem to be a way of visiting people and interacting with them despite living thousands of miles away. Perhaps it is just my mind’s way of making sure that I don’t forget about the people who are important to me, but I can’t help wondering if I am mentally tapping into a third party who is physically with the person I am dreaming about, or we’re both dreaming and actually “meeting” up somewhere in the ether. Neither of these interpretations is plausible – the first one might even come across as having the trademarks of being a virtual stalker. But, never fear – I certainly wouldn’t want to catch someone in a compromising situation. 😉
Force-Fed Dreams are those that I have at the end of a busy day. You know the days that go way beyond hectic? The ones that leave you feeling physically knackered and in need of a good night’s sleep, but when your head hits pillow and its lights out for the body – the brain does NOT want to stop?
Dreams like these almost always occur after a monotonous run of something really repetitive, like data entry. It can be analysing geochemical data or capturing recipes from a website. It can be scanning in slide film, ripping the cd collection or being tasked with resolving a family crisis, it doesn’t really matter what the topic, or task is, but if I don’t mix things up a little I run the risk of mentally continuing long into the wee small hours. Information, situations, conversations and emotions swirl about my mind in a veritable maelstrom of words, sounds and text all hoping to come to rest in some discernible order.
My “worst” experience was when I was writing up my MSc thesis. In my dreams my brain would be overlaying tables of data on top of graphs, on top of maps, on top of text etc. etc. as though viewing my study material all together on an overhead projector would somehow make ultimate sense. Alas, there were to be no Eureka! moments for me…
Despite being aware it was only a dream during the dreams, and trying to pry my obsessing mind away from this gibberish analytical technique, they would continue throughout the night until I would be forced to give up any chance of sleep.
There are still many days that I must stare at the computer screen and analyse data with evil deadlines lurking. Knowing fine well what restless nights await me, I try to limit the potential riot by relaxing in a hot bath. The longer I can spend in the bath, the better.
I’ve come to realise that these “analytical” dreams are my brain’s way of trying to process, filter and file all the information that I have absorbed during the day. Laying in a bath and allowing my thoughts to randomly flow appears to help my filing system cope with the onslaught of data and external stimulants so that I don’t spend fretful hours trying to convince my brain that if it would just get some rest, it’ll all be better in the morning…
Thankfully the Free-Range outnumber the Force-Fed dreams, but just to be sure:
…please turn on your magic beam
Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream…