Saturday, October 07, 2006

What dreams may come

I dreamed last night that I had been called in at the last minute to play the role of Marian the Librarian in a performance of The Music Man. I was doing just fine, winging it and making up lines as I went along until I realized with horror that I was going to have to sing. Did I forget to mention this was a nightmare?

All of my scariest dreams – aside from the rare terrifying ones where something bad has happened to my kids – tend to have this theme: I am doing something for which I have no training, no preparation and no business doing. Last week I seriously woke up in a sweat because I had crashed the schoolbus I was driving. I also have those classic dreams where I am taking a final exam in a class I never attended, or, in what I guess is the college professor’s variation, I am lecturing on a topic which I know nothing about. I suspect these dreams are about the Last Judgment because everything so far on this blog is turning out to be about the Last Judgment. Or more likely they just mean that I feel under-qualified, unprepared and ill equipped for my role as a parent. But I don’t need a dream to tell me that.

So, the last thing I remember from last night’s dream is being backstage at a computer, desperately trying to google the lyrics to Goodnight My Someone and thinking “How am I going to print this without the audience hearing?”

I’m clearly spending too much time on the internet and am beginning to think it is the solution to all problems. Next up I’ll cure world hunger with a few right clicks.

Sigmund Freud had a lot of sound ideas – if you set aside the one where he says everything is about sex (and Freud also said that we project onto other people our own neurosis so that pretty much tells you all you need to know about Freud’s head). The ideas I like best from Freud are about dreams. He said that in our dreams we get to fulfill the desires that we ordinarily suppress. Like a child who is thirsty may dream that she is drinking a glass of water (or worse, that she has to pee...), adults live out their wishes while asleep. The problem is that if, even in our sleep, we unmasked our true thoughts, we would wake up in shock. So our unconscious mind distorts and disguises our most disturbing ideas and translates them into symbols and seemingly irrational events. In this way, dreams are the “guardians of sleep.”

In Freud’s theory, sometimes the most obscure elements of a dream are the most significant because they stand for something disturbing that your mind is trying to hide from you. The more confusing the dream, the more important it is. I take great comfort in this notion since I often have dreams that seem crystal clear at the time – “Mother Teresa, I’d like you to meet my Aunt Louise” – but then under the cruel light of day and the hot glare of logic, they wither into a mass of nonsense.

Any discussion about dreams, Freud, and irrationality naturally has no place to go but to Salvador Dali. He and Freud had a lot in common. They both thought everything was about sex. And, had they been properly analyzed and treated by the profession of psychology that hadn’t really been developed yet, they would both have been diagnosed as severely narcissistic. As proof, here’s my favorite Dali quote:

“Every morning when I wake up I experience an exquisite joy – the joy of being Salvador Dali – and I ask myself in rapture what wonderful things this Salvador Dali is going to accomplish today.”

Alrighty then. Good thing Dali was a fabulous artist. And apparently really good at dreaming too because his paintings are often illustrations of his own dreams. This one is my personal favorite:

I can totally relate to this scene because honestly how many times have I heard myself say “Good grief! Who left all these stupid drawers open?” The best part of the painting is the flaming giraffe in the corner. I mean who hasn’t had that dream? The one where the giraffe standing next to you and Mother Teresa suddenly self combusts. I hate it when that happens.

Tags: dreams, art, Freud, Dali


Radioactive Jam said...

I think "flaming giraffes" would make a nice conversational exclamation. Like, "Flaming giraffes, man! I don't care what your roommate says, diced hot dogs do not belong on pizzas." And when the other person asks, "Whaa...?" I can wave my hand in a dismissive manner and say, "It's a Dali thing" and change the subject.

Oh, and - dream-time Google queries? That can't be good. I mean no offense or disrespect; I'm just saying.

Still, unless it shows up in your waking-life search history you're probably okay (the Google Dream interface is still in non-public beta).

scribbit said...

My husband and I love interpreting each other's dreams, we kind of make a joke about it but most of the time there's a lot of reality at the bottom of it.

The Lazy Organizer said...

I don't remember very many dreams these days. My most disturbing one was when I left my yet unborn baby at Granmda's house in Texas and forgot about her. 6 years later I was wondering why no one had reminded me to go back and get her.

Hmmmm, maybe that's what all this organizing is about.

LaughingElk said...

Ay, there's the rub!

I've asked a lot of people what they dream about, and I think 98% have had the dream where you are in school taking a test and you suddenly realize that not only have you not studied for this test, you've never attended the class! I still have these stupid dreams, and I haven't been in school for 20 years! Argh!

Who are the 2% who don't have this dream? Teachers. They have the same nightmare, only they have to give a test, and they forgot to write it. The teacher version is not nearly as gut-clenchingly awful, and the rest of us have no sympathy for you.

Special note to my wife, who is also a teacher:
Just kidding, honey!

I would also like to say that "The Flaming Giraffes" would be an excellent name for a band.