in the realm of dreams

uncharted territory

I’m Spiderman, leading a parkour group across the city, in search of our civilization’s last remaining playground. I’m a detective, running from the police after an investigation on the use of rats in government experiments proves more complicated than I’d thought. I’m a witness to the Pope’s humiliation after the biggest scandal of the century erupts. I uncover an underwater mansion and move in. I make my way across a barren land, escaping a conspiratorial government that plans to brainwash all of my peers. I wake up at Brown, 27 years after my junior year, only to find out that I’m still a senior. I drive a car into the ocean, in an attempt to outrun a hurricane that’s chasing me. I crash a truck, I play the piano in front of thousands of people, I’m the sole survivor of a train crash, I befriend a talking dog, I…

…wake up. I’m a 21-year-old student, sleeping peacefully in my dorm room bed. These are only a few of the dream adventures I have had in the past few years. I don’t know what’s weirder, my dreams themselves, or the fact that I remember almost all of them. It’s not that my memory is supernatural—I can remember just as much detail from the past week as the next person can (which is to say, almost none). My dreams are usually so epic, however, that they make themselves impossible to forget. I mean epic, in the truest sense of word: massive, heroic, often expanding.

If I had a penny for every time I woke up with the urge to write my dream down—convinced that it could become the next big epic fantasy series—I’d have, well, a lot of pennies. More than George R.R. Martin has, for sure. And yet, I always try to resist that urge. You could attribute it to my sleepy laziness at those times of the day, but the truth is, I’ve never been keen on the idea of recording one’s dreams. Doesn’t keeping a dream journal work against the spontaneity and unexpectedness of dreams? How do I know that my subconsciousness is not going to be subconsciously aware of that journal, and would not work towards producing a crazy dream, only so that I have something to write down when I wake up? I find the prospect of exciting dreams’ arising on their own, completely unrelated to any analytical aims of the present, much more valuable.

Quite frankly, the Japanese scientists’ recent invention of a dream visualization machine freaks me out.The best thing about dreams is, after all, their unexpectedness. Analyzing dreams seems largely counterintuitive, especially since they are ephemeral by definition. Dreams are supposed to function as a one-time, individual viewing experience with no consequences—an experience you can never really share with anyone (anyone who’s tried to excitedly relate a dream to friends knows how dull they tend to sound when spoken aloud).

It’s like reading a book—the idea of writing a report at the end affects the process in more ways than one. First, the prospect of the assignment makes the actual experience less enjoyable, and second, it makes you focus on specific things you perceive will be of interest to you later.

Whether dreams are believed to show us the future, the past or the present, they have always been given meaning beyond their basic experiential value. My grandma’s sister is convinced, for example, that every time she dreams in pink, someone in the family earns a lot of money. Imagine keeping a journal of all of your “pink” dreams. I don‘t think I’ll be able to dream in another color. And if I do, I’ll just end up being disappointed every morning.

Sure, by analyzing our dreams, we might gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, our fears, and desires. But we also cheapen the experience. Instead of being amazed at the crazy adventures our brains come up with every night, we end up waking up ready to hyperanalyze everything, giving meaning to every role we assumed and every action we took in the dream realm.

The less sense dreams make, the more exciting they are. Lack of logic annoys us in film and literature, but it’s the thing that makes dreams what they are.

Tonight I’m going to fall asleep with no expectations. And when I wake up, I’ll just lay there, enjoying the memory of my latest dream adventure, before slowly letting it go.