Tag: dreams

Up From Dragons

Those of you who announced your dislike of City of Quartz were right. Reading on the train home last night, I grew increasingly annoyed with what I felt was Davis’ pretentious literary style and by the time I got home, I was annoyed enough to give up the book.

So I picked up another book from my dusty shelves, Up From Dragons by John R. Skoyles and Dorian Sagan (son of Carl Sagan). I originally got this book five years ago and began reading it just after I moved to the D.C. area, but was sidetracked with too many other things at the time and gave it up after only a few pages. Yet those few pages always fascinated me. That, coupled with the fact that the book was really written as a kind of sequel to Carl Sagan’s brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning The Dragons of Eden (which is on my list of all-time favorite books), convinced me I needed to give it another try. So far, I’m glad I have.

The first two chapters develop a fascinating theory of consciousness and dreams which, unlike Freudian theory, are based on concrete experiments and studies. The argument made is that human consciousness evolved from reptilian consciousness, but that because evolution must build on what already exists, we still have that “reptilian” consciousness buried within our brain stems. Studies and experiments show that brain wave patterns of conscious (awake) reptiles are strikingly similar to that of mammals in slow-wave sleep. Furthermore, the brain wave pattern of sleeping reptiles is strikingly similar to that of mammals in R.E.M. sleep. Thus, slow-wave sleep (which we almost never remember) is what consciousness “feels like” to a lizard. As if that wasn’t enough, reptiles don’t control their body temperatures except by their environment. When sleeping, therefore, their temperatures tend to drop. The same is true in mammals. When in R.E.M. sleep, we become poikilothermic. For some reason, I find this just fascinating.

There is also confirmation (and cited studies) that the evolutionary value of dreams is primarily for learning new things: skills or memories. A person who is constantly woken during R.E.M. sleep has difficulty learning new skills. A person constantly woken during slow-wave sleep has difficulty with memory. The brain does not appear to care in what order this learning takes place which is often why dreams can seem random. I love this kind of stuff. When the brain processes these events, it takes a lot of juice. In fact, we tend not to remember our dreams because the bulk of the brain’s processing power is required for learning the skills and processing memories and can’t be spent on recursive activities like remembering the dreams generated in order to remember the events of the day.

The randomness of it, I feel, is yet another blow to Freudian theory. It seems to me that for Freudian theory to work, there has to be subconscious meaning to the particular thoughts that trigger dreams with all their alleged symbolism. Yet if the triggers are entirely random, if the brain does not care about the order in which the thoughts are processed, then the “meaning” given to the thought being process seems greatly devalued. It becomes no less random than picking a card from a Tarot deck at random and being told that there is significance to what you randomly picked. The significance may be there, but if so, it is nothing more than coincidence.

In any event, so far, this is a great book, and after I finish it, I may have to go back and re-read The Dragons of Eden, which I read for the first and only time in late December 1996.

The commuting nightmare

I had a nightmare last night. I suppose that most people have nightmares about their biggest fears. For some, it’s speaking in public or being buried alive. For me, apparently, it’s the disruption of the even tenor of my commute.

I dreamed that I had gotten to the metro station to go to work and that there was an unusually large crowd of people for that early in the morning. When I got down to the platform, I discovered that the tracks had been partially ripped up one one side and busses were being used instead. The metro signs that indicate outages said something like, “Due to poor budgeting, and last minute planning, this line will experience major disruptions over the next six months…” I couldn’t believe it. The even tenor of my commute was going to be disrupted for 6 months! Furthermore, no one could tell me how to get down to Arlington. No one seemed to know anything. I went back up to where the station manager’s office is and tried to get answers from them, but they didn’t have any. I went back down to the platform: still no answers.

Then I noticed a bunch of people hurrying upstairs because apparently, you needed a special ticket to ride the new line. I dropped my backpack and laptop case and ran upstairs with everyone else to get my ticket. At this point, a train entered that was going all the way down to Arlington so I raced back downstairs, picked up my backpack and laptop case and pushed my way into the train.

Something still told me things were not right. I opened my backpack and laptop case to discover that in the short time I’d been upstairs, my laptop and iPod had been stolen. This I took with a grain of salt. My laptop was password protected, and I’ve been wanting to get a new one anyway. My iPod I could replace. I was annoyed by the fact that I’d have to file a claim with my insurance company, but at least I was on the train into the office.

Except that we seemed to be heading in the wrong direction. And then it dawned on me that I’d have to be doing this every day for six months!

At that point I woke up and I was never so glad to get to the train station this morning to find the trains running as smoothly as ever.

Talk about a bad dream!

Unsettled dreams

I was in bed just before 8 PM last night. It was still light out, but I am trying desperately to get onto a consistent schedule and I figured if I got into bed, I wouldn’t be distracted by TV; I could sit quietly and read for 30 minutes or so, which is exactly what I did.

It has been getting pretty cool at night–the temperature last night dipped to 37 degrees. I had the central heat turned off in the house, but turned on my trusty space-heater in the bedroom. I woke up at about 2:30 AM and it was cold in the room. My trusty space-heater of nearly 5 years had apparently died. (Fortunately, I have a newer space-heater that I keep as a backup in the closet and was able to pull it out on a moments notice and before long, the room had warmed up again.)

Thereafter, my night was thrown into unsettled dreams. Not nightmares, you understand, just short, strange dreams:

Earlier in the day, I sent mabfan an email asking him for some advice on author bios. I had a dream last night that he wrote me back an email message which I was certain contained the key to the perfect author bio, but whose letters were so garbled that no matter how I tried, I couldn’t read the message. (Fortunately, this morning, while brushing my teeth, I found a reply from mabfan with simple and excellent advice on this subject.

I turned on the Yankee game at 7 PM, having discovered it was on ESPN and watched the first three innings before deciding to call it quits and head off to bed. Shortly before or after (I can’t remember), I caught a few minutes of Mr. & Mrs Smith on HBO. I had another dream last night that Angelina Jolie and I had some kind of fight in a parking garage stairwell. I have no idea what the fight was about, or why we were in the parking garage stairwell in the first place (though I’m sure that strausmouse will have ideas enough for both of us). The dream lasted five minutes and was unusual in the sense that I almost never dream about movie stars.

When I turned out the light to go to sleep last night, I knew only that the Yankees and Mariners were tied. Just before going to bed, however, I got a text message from jkashlock telling me he was attending his first Yankees game (he’s a Mariner’s fan). I had a short dream last night that both jkashlock and strausmouse were spamming me with email about how “their team” won, neener-neener-nee-ner. When I woke up this morning I had no idea whether or not the Yanks had won or lost. I forgot to check before leaving the house, but discovered a short time ago that they lost 3-2 in a blown save by Kyle Farnsworth.

Those are the unsettled dreams that I remember. There may have been more that I don’t. Needless to say, I got 8 hours of sleep and when my alarm went off at 4:25 AM, I decided to take another hour or so, and skip the gym. It was a bad decision on my part, but something that I’ve been doing all too frequently. Sigh!

Weird afternoon

I’ve had a weird afternoon. I read this morning until just about noon at which point I was feeling sleepy. I decided to take a nap. Heck, it’s the weekend, right, and I’ve been working hard. So I climbed into bed, put on some music, and proceeded to fall asleep. For three hours! I can’t recall the last time I decided to doze off in the early afternoon, and then proceed to sleep half of the afternoon away!

While sleeping, I had a dream that I had a son. He must have been about three or four years old in my dream and he kind of looked like me. At one point, I caught him staring at me in an innocent, three-year old kind of way and when I looked back at him, and realized that he was my son, I got this eerie feeling, as if I suddenly knew what all parents know about their kids, all of the pride and joy and frustration and disappointment, the hope and the fear all rolled up into one fraction of a second–and then it passed. There were other parts to the dream, but I don’t remember them clearly. Needless to say I was relieved when I woke up.

No gym again today. I’ve only been to the gym 3 times in the last 8 days and so this week was more or less a wash because of being sick (and lazy). I’m starting up the routine and again on Monday, continuing from where I left off. And I’m getting back on the wagon with respect to eating well, which I having been doing so much of lately.

The Starwood Elevator Dream

I’ve talked about my recurring dreams about elevators in the past. I’ve also talked about how in my dreams, I tend to be afraid of heights while in real life, I have no fear of height or elevators. Last night I had what I consider to be an “anxiety” dream. Again, it’s probably nothing more than my brain committing short term memory to long term memory, but with anxiety involved, it evolves a bit more dramatically.

The dream involved the dinner this weekend and a W hotel in NYC. In the first part of the dream, I found out that my brother and his family’s flight was delayed and they wouldn’t make the dinner. I was really upset and I hung up on whoever I was talking to on the phone. (I rarely get very angry so clearly this was a dream.) Norm had reserved rooms for several of us at a W hotel in NYC (something he was actually kind enough to do). Me and someone else headed to the hotel and found that it was still under construction. A foreman had to take us up to our room in one of those temporary construction elevators. Turns out our hotel room was on the 98th floor and we had a long ride up in a rickety elevator, while the foreman explained just how rickety it was.

But it gets worse. The elevator only went to the 97th floor. To get to our room on the 98th floor, we had to use a hook to pull ourselves up onto the roof of the elevator and then climb into the room. Unbelievably, I did this, with all of Manhattan spread out below me. The person who I was with got half way up and got stuff. I went to grab her hand and she was basically dangling 98 floors above the ground with no one but me keeping her from falling. I finally got her into the room.

We had to stay on the west side of the room because if we moved to the east side, the building started to tilt in that direction and we were afraid it would tip over. What’s worse, there was no easy way to get back into the elevator car without making a dangerous climb 98 floors above the ground, so we were essentially stuck.

Anyway, that was the dream–maybe a low grade fever was involved in it’s manifestation, I don’t know. But I hate dreams like that.

The talking Zeke dream

I have had dreams about my cat, Zeke (short for Ezekiel) in the past, but never one in which he could talk. Until last night. The dream was odd for several reasons. Aside from the fact that Zeke could talk in plain, clear English, it took place on the floor of my reading room, which is just outside my bedroom. Normally, when I have dreams about places I am familiar with, the places are strangely different, but this time, it was not. It was a perfect replica of the way the room really is.

Zeke was sitting on the floor, and in his voice (I don’t remember seeing his jaws move, just being able to hear his words), he was telling me how he had just finished up his taxes, or reviewing his finances, or something like that, and that his net worth had fallen this year down to $4 million. It was a shock to me, because I had no idea he had that much money. I remember thinking: so that’s what he must do during the day while I am gone! It was the kind of thing that would have made me laugh if it wasn’t so oddly realistic.

I’m certain that the dream was triggered by the fact that I had read Harlan Ellison’s wonderful essay “Toiling in the Dreamtime” just before going to sleep last night. Still, it was one of the more bizarre dreams I’ve had in quite some time.

The Grandpa Dream #4

The other day I was thinking to myself that I hadn’t had a dream about Grandpa in a long time. In fact, the last time I dreamed about Grandpa was on April 21 of last year. So it really has been a while.

Well, last night I had a dream about Grandpa, but he played only a supporting role. In the dream, I met Grandpa, and my cousins, Mitch and Jon at a community swimming pool in order to go swimming. Though it is cold here in Maryland, it was a hot summer day at the pool. In fact, while waiting to use the diving board, I can clearly remember the feel of hot cement on my feet. There was to be some kind of swimming contest and Grandpa was there to supply an audience. For some reason, however, the contest never happened. I waited in line for my chance to dive into the pool, but it never came. Eventually my alarm went off.

The dream within a dream dream

It’s been a busy day and I haven’t yet had a chance to write about this dream that I had last night. But for it to make sense, I have to explain that when I was in high school, I would get up for school, eat breakfast, and then fall asleep on the couch listening to the news until it was time to leave for school. I often had weird dreams on that couch because I could hear the news in the background and it would make its way into my dreams. I would be very disoriented when I woke up.

Last night I had a dream that I woke up on that couch. I was 17 years old. It was time to go to school. I was dressed and ready. Everything was eerily routine and I was very disoriented. I had been having a dream there on the couch, and as the cobwebs cleared away, I realized suddenly that what I dreamt was my life up until now. I dreamt that I went to UCR, got my job after I graduated, married Tawnya, got my pilot’s license, moved to Washington, got divorced, etc., etc., up to and including selling my story. As I collected my backpack, I realized it had all been a dream, the good and the bad. And you know what, I was disappointed; I didn’t want it to be a dream. I wanted it to be real. I had felt so real. I got goosebumps.

At that point my alarm went off and I woke up back in the real world. I was a little disoriented but I looked around and I was in my bedroom in Riverdale, Maryland and everything that had happened had still happened. It was a kind of Wizard of Oz moment.

I don’t put stock in dreams, as you all know. But I have to admit that this one pushed the limits of my skepticism. I suspect I had the dream because my recent achievement (selling a story) was in my memory and that achievement was a big enough deal to evoke strong reactions to the synapses firing in my brain. And yet it got me thinking: imagine waking up to find out that you dreamed the last 15 years of your life, and that here you are back in high school having to do it all over again.

Cogito ergo sum

The pregnancy dream

I had a dream last night that I was pregnant and I already have a good idea as to why I had the dream. I don’t buy into dream analysis of any kind, as I’ve said in the past. To me, dreams are triggered by a function in the brain that commits short term memory to long term memory. Just before going to bed last night I was reading Son of Man and wrapped up with a scene in which a human descendant, billions of years in the future can change genders at will, literally alter their physical appearance and internal body structure and chemistry and switch from male to female and vice versa. I am almost certain that is was triggered my dream.

Regardless, it was a stressful dream. I kept wondering how it was possible that I was pregnant. I was “due” the next day and people kept telling me how painful it was going to be. (Jerks!) All I wanted to do was play softball. At one point, I woke up from the dream (relieved), went back to sleep only to have the dream continue from where it left off.

For any of you out there who think that this dream reflects some kind of wish on my part, you are wrong. I have never wanted kids of my own because I never thought I would be a good enough parent. (I am honest about my own faults, even if other people don’t see them, one of which is that I am too selfish to have kids. Maybe someday I will change my mind, but I haven’t yet in nearly 35 years.) Yes, when I see friends or family with kids, I think, “Gee!” But it is just a passing fancy and that’s all.

This dream really annoyed me. It intruded upon what was otherwise a very decent night’s sleep.

Heavy dreams

I’m in the midst of a phase of what I call “heavy” dreams. These are big, ponderous, wearisome dreams that seem to last all night and leave you feeling sluggish and often worn out when you wake up. It probably explains why I slept in until almost 10 this morning! The thing about this dreams is that they are a potpourri of nonsense, so unclear that I can’t remember specific details save for a few images. At one point, I was standing on a chair at the edge of a balcony three stories above the street, looking for something. At another point, I was about to begin a very long drive home. Friends get confused in these dreams. At one point I was sitting next to Jim who, throughout the course of the dream, transmogrified into Rich, even though I kept referring to him as Jim. Waking up from these dreams is like waking up after taking NyQuil, everything about me feels heavy and sluggish. This has been going on for a week or two. I know at some point this phase will come to an end, but I wish it was sooner rather than later, because prior to this phase of heavy dreams, I was sleeping so well.

The teacher dream

I had a dream last night that I went back and visited my first elementary school, Macafee Road School, in Somerset, New Jersey. In the dream, the school was entirely different than it is in reality. And I saw a teacher there who was supposed to have been my first grade teacher, but who in fact, was my 8th grade science teacher at Porter Junior High School in Granada Hill, California. In my dream, she had aged somewhat. I walked up to her and introduced myself and of course she didn’t remember me, but I talked about some of her classes and I think that convinced her I was legit. She talked to me for a little while and then had to leave. As I wandered around the school afterward, I saw one or two other teachers I recognized, and though this was a dream, I felt like a recognized some of the faces of real teachers that I haven’t seen in twenty years.

I’m almost certain that this dream was triggered to the email I received from my computer teacher from junior high school last week. Still, it was nice to see my old science teacher, even if it was just a dream.

The Paranoid/Stalker Dream

Last night I had one of those eerie, unsettling dreams that isn’t quite a nightmare, but that leaves you feeling somewhat off-center. In the dream, I was walking up a ramp leading up to a hilltop. The ramp was something out of a Dr. Seuss story, with lots of curves and switchbacks to it. It was a long, long walk to the top. There was no one else around, except for a man, who was walking about 30 meters behind me. He was wearing a hat and sunglasses and was reading what I thought was a tabloid newspaper as he walked.

I suddenly had the feeling that maybe this guy was following me. I tried not to let it bother me but the more I thought about it, the more paranoid I became. So at the next switchback, I bent down to tie my shoe, slowly, and the man continued on past me. But as he did, I glanced up and I caught him sneaking a look back at me. I pretended not to see it, stood up, and continued walking, now a few meters behind the man.

Still, something didn’t feel right, and after only a few moments, I took off running. This is what is called, in dream universes, a bad idea. It’s like running from a dog that smells fear. As soon as I passed the man, he tossed away his paper and came chasing after me.

I don’t remember much after that. I woke up to find that it was only 12:30 AM (I had gone to bed around an hour before). I have no idea what events would have conjured up a dream like that, nor do I have any idea who the mysterious man was. I am the least paranoid person I know. Still, it got my heart rate up momentarily, but I managed to sleep pretty well the rest of the night.