Preamble: There are things in the realm of experience that are astonishing yet understandable. For example the diameter of the moon is the exact diameter of the sun relative to its distance from the earth so that during a solar eclipse the moon perfectly covers the sun leaving only its fiery corona blazing at the circumference. As the kids say; “How cool is that?” Then there are things that are astonishing and not understandable. Like dreams. I suppose there are different kinds of dreams just like there are different kinds of Campbell Soups. I mean they’re all called soups, but the difference between Bean with Bacon and Cream of Celery is fairly significant. Similarly, they’re all called dreams, but the difference between a dream where you’re an Otter Pop being slurped on by Anne Hathaway and a dream where you’re an alligator floating in a glade with other alligators, is fairly significant. It’s like my daddy once told me, he said, “Son, the difference between 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. is like night and day.”
Amble: This essay will eventually be about 2 revelatory dreams I’ve had. However, at the outset we’ll go down a few rabbit holes in search of entertaining fluff on the topic of dreams. Now I suppose I should put the word dream in quotes since one man’s “dream” can be another man’s nightmare. And now I suppose I should put the word “quotes” in quotes, but please, “Don’t quote me on it.” This is strictly off the record. Either way I should definitely take my dentist’s advice and stop grinding my teeth at night. It’s more sensible to grind them during the day when I can see what I’m doing. The difference will be like night and day.
We’ve all had one of those life-changing dreams that imbues us with a renewed sense of purpose – at least until the alarm clock goes off and the dream’s essence fades away into our 300-thread count sheets. How can such awe inspiring dreams be so instantly eclipsed by our waking state just like the moon sometimes blots out the majesty of the sun? Stated more prosaically, why do these dreams lose their power when we awaken and are once again remanded to the confines of earth’s reality? The evanescent quality of a glorious dream is very frustrating and yet we tolerate it because we have to. That’s the operating system here on earth. Oh sure I can write about dreams, but I can’t truly explain dreams. Just like clerics can talk about God, but they can’t truly explain God. To fully understand anything you have to experience it for yourself. Or you can choose to live the unexamined life whereby you let others define your place in the universe by simply subscribing to their ideas. This is why wars are sometimes fought. On the other hand it’s also why churches get new roofs. And who doesn’t want a little roofie now and again.
(Purple Prose alert!) Oh how I yearn to reside languidly in the sweet bosom of my august dreams and gently float up the lazy river on an inflatable s’more. John Lennon described this scene similarly in the song Lucy in the Skies with Diamonds:Picture yourself on a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Dreams can provide indescribable satisfaction – think Fantasy Island, but without the commercials. There’s not one toxic waste dump in all the dream worlds. It’s a place where Goldie Hawn remains forever young and Bruce Jenner no longer frightens people. It’s a place where you never forget your passwords because you never need to know them. In this discussion of dreams, I’ll blissfully ignore nightmares and focus on the sunny side of dreaming because sometimes ignorance is bliss.
I’ve had dreams where I’m walking on the ceiling and realize that I’m dreaming. I love that. Lucid dreaming. I’ll examine myself in a mirror to see what I really look like or maybe I’ll do slow motion somersaults in midair and wonder, “Why I don’t do this more often?” When I wake up from this dream I’ll catch my breath and feel so grateful I had that experience. And here’s the really cool part: I’ll then wake up from my breathless gratefulness, not realizing I was dreaming that too. A dream within a dream and I was none the wiser. This inexplicability goes back to what I prefaced in the Preamble where I said some things are astonishing yet not understandable. What does that say about any rational system of understanding. Just as I thought – it’s beyond mental comprehension. Reassuring really.
We’ll Start with Dessert: Can You Say Dream Whip?
So it’s now time to go down a few more rabbit holes before we arrive at some kind of conclusion. And to facilitate this I present my Dream Diary and have excerpted a selection for your lagomorphic (pertaining to rabbits) pleasure. See how I tie it all in. If I was referencing werewolves, this selection would be for your lycanthropic pleasure. Do you feel like you’re down a rabbit hole now? You should. Let’s continue tunneling.
These dream synopses are from June 1-10, 2014:
1. I’m fired from my job at the New York State Unemployment Agency. In an ironic twist, in order to collect unemployment, I must report back to the same agency, to a new guy who’s now got my former job. Times are tough. In order to make ends meet, I shorten the beginnings. Very funny I think and I start laughing till milk comes running out my nose, even though I wasn’t drinking milk at the time.
2. I form a band called Pelvic Essence. Our big hit is The Gist of My Thrust which peaks at almost 32 downloads (29 to be exact, but that is almost 32). More significantly 8 of these downloads are from people outside the immediate group. With this level of success, dissension was bound to arise. In an acrimonious break-up of Pelvic Essence, air guitarist Paul Shintz gets a hip bone, lead zitherist George Trender gets the other hip bone and his brother, rhythm zitherist John Trender, gets the coccyx. I wind up with the bullet-riddled skull of our manager Brian Dyspepsia; which I need like a hole in the head. The whole tenor of the dream takes on an ominous tone when Governor Christie shows up with a barbecue.
3. Dreamt I was writing a tidy little story about Lucid Dreaming featuring numerous humorous references whereby we go down various rabbit holes and arrive at some kind of conclusion. When I awoke, that’s exactly what I was doing. (♫ queue eerie music ♫)
4. The setting is in prehistoric times. It was probably BC, but Christ, how would I know when Jesus was coming? On a romantic moonlit night, my girlfriend Bathsheba and I are sumptuously dining on a wooly mammoth I’ve slain and some wild elderberries she’s picked. I tackle her and propose marriage. “Hey Bathsheba. Y’know how I’m a really good hunter and you’re a really good gatherer.”
“Yeah,” she says wiping some Mammoth blood from her cheek.
“Well I was thinkin’…maybe you and me should get a little cave of our own someplace and make a go of it,” I stammer.
She says, “Oh yes Og. If you hunt for me, I’ll gather for you.”
And I respond, “Who’s Og? I’m David.” Then I club her on the head and drag her across the threshold of our new cave where I hang a sign saying, “Home of the Hunters and Gatherers
5. Salvador Dali is rapidly pulling a string of meerkats out of his mouth just like a magician does with colored cloths. For some reason I am not amused. Then I’m briefly distracted by an Amazon food cart selling e-hot dogs. When I look back at Salvador Dali, the tables have been turned and a meerkat is now pulling a string of Salvador Dalis out of its mouth. I encourage the meerkats to undertake more sophisticated projects instead of these hackneyed parlor tricks. Then I pause to remember that meerkats are limited. After all, they’re mere cats. Moral of the dream – Kids, stay in school.
6. An equation appears before me on a cosmic chalkboard that reconciles the microscopicity of Quantum Mechanics with the macronificence of Relativity (you don’t get it now, but you easily understand it all in the dream). In elegant splendor the Theory of Everything equation reveals that love is all and love is everyone. My body is humming and is both everywhere and nowhere at once. I’ll never have to make ends meet again. They’ve all met and are inextricably connected. I memorize the equation and vow to share it with humanity thereby breeching the dam of illusory conflict and watching the infernal dichotomy of duality drain peaceably away into a cistern of serenity. But once again I’m distracted by an Amazon food cart selling e-hot dogs and the equation recedes from my consciousness. All I remember from the equation is that there’s a plus sign in it somewhere.
7. My sister is huge. She’s so large she can’t shop at the Dress Barn or the Dress Barn for Big and Beautiful Women or Earl Scheib’s RV covers. She doesn’t even fit into a moo-moo. In fact the only thing she can wear is a Coleman camping tent. It’s sad. Except when we go camping. Then it’s kind of handy. As we set up camp and gather around the fire, I start looking at her very intently and she becomes almost transparent. As I observe her skeletal system I notice that it’s not very boney. I’m stunned to discover the woman has no bones at all. My God, she’s shock-corded! I take another toke and then I remember I don’t have a sister and that this isn’t a dream. I’m just sittin’ in the backyard toking away. Moral of the story – Kids, don’t take drugs.
8. Over some sauerbraten, Leni Riefestahl confesses to me. “There’s never been a good war or a bad peace.” To which Kanye West rejoins, “Yo, I ain’t never had a bad piece in my life.” To which Winston Churchill adds, “Yes madam, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly.” I tell them to stop with all the aphorisms so I can get some sleep. They remind me that I am sleeping and that this is only a dream. Slightly miffed I decree, “Either that wallpaper goes or you do.” Collectively they all say to me, “Oh Oscar. You are such a Wilde man.” The dream ends when DW Griffith yells, “Cut.” When I awoke from this dream I discovered my dream catcher had a hole in it.
9. I’m on the planet Venus and everywhere I look, the place is crawling with women – literally on all fours. Yeah the place is completely crawling with chicks. Then suddenly it all makes sense because from my reading on Earth I remember that women are from Venus and men are from Mars. So there I am on Venus, but it’s not really me and it’s not really Venus. Dreams are like that. The oppressive atmosphere pins me against the surface and I’m gasping for more CO2. It’s like a being pressed between the pages of Mein Kampf. I gaze towards the heavens, up through the sulfuric clouds which begin to reform and spell out a message:
Don’t worry. Psychologists have a term for your condition. It’s called Ignorance.
The clouds are right and then I think yeah, but who are they to judge. If you can write messages in the clouds, you probably created us. If you want mankind to be smarter, create a more transparent paradigm or workable universe where we can more readily be at our best, otherwise keep your mystical bullsh*t to yourself. This truculent insight exhausts me and I start to laugh because the place is literally and figuratively crawling with women. Milk gushes from my nose (a recurring theme I note). I ask one lady where she’s from and she says, “Venus.” I ask another who is crawling by and she says, “Venus. Don’t you get it by now? We’re women. We’re all from Venus. What are you, ignorant?”
10. Had another crazy dream. I knew I was dreaming because in the dream the Cubs had won the World Series.
The Thing of it Is, is
As we emerge from our warren of rabbit holes, the landscape brightens as I attempt to make an esoteric distinction (stay with me). OK. On Earth you quite easily recognize when you’re with other people. Other people act with volition. That is, they’re independent in their behavior and movements. You quite obviously sense that their soul or consciousness is distinct from yours. We all inherently understand this. Not so with dreams. In a dream it all seems to take place on the stage of an elaborately acted play. People don’t step out of character in dreams. I refer to the fact that no one ever stops the play and says, “Whoa! Time out. Do you realize we’re all dreaming right now. Really. Go look at yourself in the mirror. It’s you but it’s not quite you and yet you’re here. You’re not in your body. You’re in this body. Don’t you see? I mean, not to freak you out, but do you even know what it is you’re breathing right now? Yeah. Don’t think about it. I don’t want you to start hyperventilating then I’ll have to fill out an Inter-dimensional Incident Report. My supervisor hates that. That’s why we just go along with dreams and never interfere with the daily runoff of our minds when we’re in sleep mode; which is a lot like being in airplane mode. And later, when you’re awake and in your regular body, if you tell anyone about this dreamy conversation, they’ll just do what humans typically do. They’ll show interest for an instant and then they’ll launch into a story about their dreams and their experiences.”
Someone might be in your dream one night, but if you spoke with them the next day to verify they were in your dream, they’d accuse you of using your medical marijuana for recreational purposes. They’ll maintain that they weren’t there in the dream. And this is what prompts me to write this little exercise in dreamology.
Dream Case Study #1: My Father Speaks from the Great Beyond. A true account based on my actual dream.
Dream: My father died in October of 1992. It was, of course, a significant event. Shortly after his death. I had a vivid dream. An uber-vivid dream. Some might call it a Lucid Dream. Others might call it hooey. In any event I was at our family-owned glass shop in Syracuse, NY where my father and I had spent so many years together running our little business. I was alone. The “private” phone in the office/kitchen rang and I picked it up. It was my father. By now I was completely self-aware and fully in charge of my faculties. I was ecstatic that he was on the other end of the line and I proceeded to ask him the questions which might unlock a lifetime of mystery. This was my chance. This was my portal to the other dimensions often referred to in scripture and sometimes by Morgan Freeman. I was on the precipice of a great discovery as I prepared to explode the myths of mysticism, religion and masonry in one direct conversation with someone I knew would give me straight answers. I was aglow, atwitter and utterly in the moment. This was not all my doing. I was gifted this moment. My dad was right there on the other end of the phone – out of reach, but nearby – just like he was when he was on Earth. I believe he called this number because he knew it was the only way to regain some semblance of normalcy. I could sense he was confused by his crossover and didn’t know how to operate in his new environment. There was a stunning difference between this dream and other dreams for my father was acting volitionally thereby shattering my argument that people didn’t act volitionally (independently) in dreams. Take it for what it’s worth but 2 entities were in this dream. My dad and me. This was not some hazy reconstruction from the runoff of my mind. I just knew this. It was self-evident. Well, enough convincing. The conversation proceeded thusly as I thrilled to ask the question (and get the answer) that had baffled mankind for ages.
Me: Dad, is that you?
Dad: (in a slightly confused tone) Yeah.
Me: Where are you?
Dad: I don’t know exactly.
Me: Dad. I’ve got to tell you something and listen closely. Do you know you’re dead?
Me: No. It’s true. You died about 2 months ago.
Dad: Get outta here.
Me: No. You did. Gary, Gail and I all buried you. You died.
Dad: I did?
ME: Yes. You did. I’m not kidding. (He understood)
Dad: I don’t feel dead.
Me: Well, but you are. Trust me. (The Question) I’ve got to know dad, now that you’re dead. What’s it like?
Dad: (He pauses to consider) Well…it’s like…it’s like a mirage.
Analysis: Wow! How apt. So that’s what it was like for him shuffling around in his astral body after the earthly body expired – a mirage. My dad always had a penchant for pinpoint expression even if his answer was rather nebulous, I knew exactly what he meant. I would’ve stayed on the phone with him, but the Verizon Gods cut me short; evidently my carryover minutes didn’t carry over to the next dimension. It didn’t matter. I’d gotten word from the hereafter however non-specific it may have been. As The Doors so fervently sang in the late 60’s, I’d broken on through to the other side. My father knew he was someplace else after his death, but was still fumbling to move on. So he called an anchor point he was familiar with – our glass shop. He thought he was still connected to the glass shop and his kids. It was up to me to tell him his body had deceased and he had to move on.
Some dreams feel like plays you’re dropped into their circumstances. They’re almost theatrical and seem scripted. Not so with this dream. My father was present in the dream. He was thoughtful and participatory. It was momentous occasion as I awaited my father’s description of the afterlife – “It’s like a mirage.” So telling, I suppose. What do I know of the afterlife. I’m currently in the “during life.” I know one thing when it comes to the afterlife. I’m not going to be hanging around looking back. I want to get beyond mirages and into the source code. I want. I want. Who cares what I want? Talk is cheap. The universe is a certain way and I need to accept it or suffer the pain of unmet expectations.
Dream Case Study #2: The Snow Monkeys of Loading Dock #6. A true account based on my actual dream.
Background: You don’t choose to dream. You just dream. It’s like breathing. Dreaming seems to be an autonomic function designed to refresh and defrag the mind during one’s sleep state. The venue and the topic of dreams vary like the weather. As I said earlier one man’s nightmare is another person’s dream. For example when a male dreams he’s lost his penis, he’s in a panic and when he awakens he checks immediately to see that everything is still intact. When a woman has this dream she’s happy to find it isn’t there and that everything is still intact. Then again maybe when women awake from this dream they check to see if their husband’s penis is still intact. Be that as it may, what I want to emphasize in bold print without actually using bold print, is that all dreams do not exist on the same plane. There are dreams where you awaken fortified and motivated to be a contributing member of society for the rest of your life. This feeling usually lasts until breakfast. Then there are the dreams that are indistinguishable from so-called reality where you wake up and sleepily explain to your partner, “I can’t believe we elected Simba President. We should never have let Disney appoint the Electoral College.” This belief usually lasts till your partner says, “Easy Dopey. Now go splash some water on your face.” There are, of course, numerous permutations to these, but the dream I’ll refer to today took place in a different sphere (from what I know of spheres). It was troubling, scary and symbolic of something I may never know.
More Different Background: Mr. Hardiman (me) had gotten ready for bed just like he had on so many other nights; ritualistically taking an inventory of his mostly naked body in the mirror while convincing himself he was still a player. He then fashioned his right hand into a gun by pointing his index finger at the mirror, winking his right eye and pulling his trigger thumb while almost inaudibly mouthing, “Still got it.” Climbing into bed, he then read a biography of an obscure hero of early American history (Stephen Girard). Having exhausted books on the forefathers (Washington, Jefferson and Franklin) and the lesser forefathers (John Jay, James Monroe and Betsy Ross [alright; technically she’s a foremother]) he was down to stems and seeds (Girard, Nicholas Biddle and George Bancroft). His reading list is not important and is included here only as testament to whom his imaginary friends are. Growing weary after a day of living life like someone had left the gate open, he snuffed out his candle, rolled over and went to sleep. Alright let’s not get too romantic here with the 3rd person prose and the candle-snuffing. What I really did was shut the light, place the book on the nightstand next to the iPhone (on vibrate), rolled over and went to sleep.
The Dream: On this particular night I had been dreaming a long, dull mini-series comprised of nothing more than mental runoff from the day’s events. All went healthily unnoticed until danger entered the picture. That’s when I became self-aware and began cataloguing these events more out of fear than casual observation. This dream was so vivid that if I didn’t wake up, I’d have gone on living my life in the dream as if I had no past recollection of my place here on Earth. A very believable atmosphere pervaded my consciousness.
As it happened in the dream, my lifelong friend Gary DeBaise and I were walking through a dilapidated concrete and asphalt industrial park amidst a rusty landscape of dumpsters, loading docks and ancient warehouses. We were teenagers just exploring the place as we might have done when we were kids growing up. We naïvely walked into one business after another with an insouciance bordering on trespassing. About 6 businesses into our merry delinquency we entered some kind of large anteroom or industrial vestibule which displayed all the hallmarks of a dispiriting “werk” from old Communist Bloc East Germany. I don’t know what they did there, but whatever it was I’m sure it was poorly made and polluted the atmosphere. There was a single angry desk in one corner and nearby an out of date calendar with a picture of a sparkling new tractor on the top half (note: When the Commies ruled, a tractor was considered a centerfold). All the concrete was uneven and the walls were the color of baby poop and smelled similarly. There was an officious functionary of sorts sitting behind the desk, happy to have a place in this dystopia. He was the Soviet version of a Wal*Mart greeter.
Gary and I were in our teenage, know-it-all, wise guy mode. We knew we were smarter than this colorless, Kafkaesque desk jockey and our Superiority Complex was evident as we gently laid into him with youthful impertinence. It was all a harmless mental charade that afforded us some satisfaction or at least something to talk about afterwards when we got back to our lackluster lives as young teens. So we peppered the poor man with questions about his business: “I bet you pretend to work and they pretend to pay you.” It was about this time when I took notice of 3 or 4 brachiating Snow Monkeys swinging about the cavernous room. No cause for alarm; in the dream they were just part of the scenery. In fact we thought it was kind of cool seeing them perched atop the dusty window sills, their furtive movements indicating they had something much more important to do, if only they could remember what it was. I was pleased to be witnessing this as now I’d have a good, if not great story to tell when I got back (Got back to where I’m not sure). One of the monkeys jumped down and side-winded over to me. Eventually he jumped atop my shoulders and attached himself to my head. Cool I thought. I can do this. He knows me. Y’know, it’s a primate to primate thing. We’re sharing in a universal knowingness. Damn straight.
And all was fine till we’d run out of flippant remarks to say to our blockheaded East German friend and it was time to go. Not so conveyed the Snow Monkey, who would not vacate my shoulders. He was content to maintain his position atop my torso and no amount of friendly cajoling could convince him otherwise. And I wasn’t about to initiate any unfriendly cajoling since I knew that a Snow Monkey (or any monkey for that matter) has the proportional strength of an ant – if the ant was 3 feet tall. I felt threatened because, not speaking Snow Monkey, I couldn’t reason with him in a meaningful way, “Hey I’d like to stay, but I have to get back to the jungle now. Tarzan is expecting me.” But I had no leverage to extricate myself without risking having my jugular vein plucked out of my neck and presented to me like a bouquet of roses. The only leverage I had was an infinitesimally small feeling I could possibly wish the whole event away. I had an inkling it would evaporate and perhaps revert to some other reality if I focused intently on all things not Snow Monkey. This is similar to a child closing its eyes when he wants a scary situation to disappear. Sounder reasoning you couldn’t come by.
So I struggled mightily to dissolve my frightening situation through a shift in consciousness. And it started to work. I began to gradually become aware of my bedroom’s surrounding – particularly my boring curtains. Those boring curtains loomed like a Lord Protector to me and I had to get to them to get away from the Snow Monkey. It was a pitched battle as the scene shifted from the feral danger of being held captive by a menacing monkey to the benign and welcoming surety of my drapes. The dream was so vivid, so real, I was pulled back and forth between alternate realities. It required immense concentration to stare at my curtains in the bedroom and emerge back into my body and safely distanced from the Snow Monkeys of Loading Dock #6. Soon I was breathing heavily and never happier to see my Bed, Bath and Beyond curtains. If I didn’t see my curtains it might have been curtains for me.
Analysis: This discomfiting dream raises a number of interesting and unresolved questions.
1. I wonder if the Snow Monkey could have attacked or killed me if I protested too strenuously. In real life he could have. But in the dream, I’m not sure.
2. Can one die in a dream? Doubtful. You can die in your sleep, but not in your dream. Then again, if you did die in your sleep while you were dreaming and therefore couldn’t return to your body, where would you go? Some might say you’d continue in the dream with that as your new reality. Others might say the dream would fade to black as would your consciousness. While still others might feel something very mystical yet very ordinary happens to you; reasoning that since millions die every day there must be some natural protocol that occurs to the energies formerly resident in every body. But when all this speculation is said and done, no one knows for sure. People who’ve had Near Death Experiences (NDE) where they’re surrounded by an all-loving white light would have a loftier and more relaxed perspective on all this. I experienced an NDE recently. I tried to watch an entire Adam Sandler movie. It was a close call.
3. I did not challenge the monkey because I didn’t know if I had created him and thus he would back down, or if he was independently operating (as my father was in Dream #1). I had one question for the primate perched on my shoulders: “You haven’t seen Planet of the Apes have you?”
4. What if I was French and had to both dream and write in French? Would it be the same experience?
5. Could I have extricated myself from the precarious situation by doing the Wizard of Oz thing and transform these Snow Monkeys into becoming my little pretties?
6. What if the Snow Monkey was dreaming of me and I just happen to be intersecting his dream?
There are so many intriguing ideas, most of which have already been made into movies.
Astonishing yet Understandable Conclusion:
In the words of Shakespeare (from Hamlet)
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub, For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come.
Astonishing yet not Understandable Conclusion: I should probably do more research. I think I’ll start by going back to sleep. I mean the difference between dreaming and being awake is like night and day.