Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Nature of Dreaming

Ever since I discovered the comic strip titled Little Nemo in Slumberland (sample) I have found myself since then fascinated with the nature of dreams. What mechanisms explain why we dream what we dream? The most plausible layman answer I have heard in that regard is that the brain simply picks up and puts together whatever mental content happens to be lying around, but I haven't studied the subject and so am unable to verify it. It does make sense to me given that in my rare dreaming I either dream about things I have been thinking about intensely or at length recently. At the very least I am able to at least recognize what aspects came from what mental content.

For instance, some time after reading The Fountainhead I dreamt that my living space was restructured: the ceiling was at least three times higher and there was new decorative lighting. I had also recently been enjoying some Calvin and Hobbes strips and had been thinking about what Watterson said about his refusal to license his comic, so when I turned on the television (in the same dream) I was pained to find a live-action program of the strip playing. Upon waking up I felt disappointed that such an aesthetic change to my living quarters was impossible, but at least felt glad and reaffirmed that Calvin and Hobbes was still sacrosanct.

In all honestly I never had a dream I didn't enjoy, including even my worst nightmares (though my nightmares have never been that intense). For me, any stimulus to pass the time is welcome during an idle activity such as sleeping. I seldom dream, if ever, but I do have the tendency to remember them due to such rarity. I remember even when new elements are introduced into my dreaming, such as when I heard two guys speaking in an absolute clear voice and perfect accent (my dreams are usually mute) or when I looked at a shelf of candy and noticed all the wrappers were detailed.

There were a few nightmares I had recently, however, that perplex me in their randomness. Though still mild by conventional standards, they are now among the most frightening I have ever had. I admit to subscribe to the viewpoint that the brain merely picks up what's lying around in order to form the content of dreams, but I cannot introspect exactly what mental content of mine it gathered together.

I was strolling through my kitchen during the daytime when I noticed that a fully grown bear was standing outside in the backyard, right at the patio window looking inside with a puzzled expression. I shut the blinds in hope that he would be foolish enough to think that the inside of the house had suddenly ceased to exist and would go away, but I managed to enrage him instead. He started chewing through the screen door and then stood up erect and started smashing the glass with his paws. I freaked out and ran to a bedroom, shut the door, and prepared to call animal control. I agonized over the phone since I could not remember the number to animal control -- which is probably due to my not actually knowing the number in the first place -- and was too frightened to be able to steady my hand to dial 911. I looked behind me and saw that the bedroom door was open and slashed to shreds on one side, and that a female lion was sitting upon the bed. I was paralyzed with fear as to what to do: I remembered some advice that in confrontation with some particular wild animals you should act as loud and as aggressive as you can to frighten them off, but with other animals you should be as calm as possible so as to indicate that you aren't a threat to them, but I couldn't remember which technique fit which type of wild animals, so I was too terrified to try either one. Being foolish, I treated the lion like some sort of house cat and starting petting it, but to my surprised it soothed her and she no longer looked ready to attack. My terror was still present as I didn't know whether or not I had to keep petting her and feared that a momentary gap would antagonize her. I held the receiver to the phone in my hand, but I was afraid to dial anything since I thought the dialing noises might possibly antagonize her too. Suddenly my alarm clock started blaring through the receiver and I woke to find myself stroking my blanket. In addition, just the other night I had a nightmare that a tiger chewed up my mail, tried to jump into the room through the window, and then roared at me when I denied him entry.

What puzzles me is what prompted these nightmares. I have not been thinking about wild animals recently nor are wild animals a part of my regular thought process, so to have nightmares of them breaking into my home in pursuit of me is absurdly random, but I am not one of those persons that believes that the brain is a separate conscious entity from my mind that is able to send encrypted messages in the form of dreams, so some answer in my introspective content must be available.

Until then, I find myself adverse to nature for the time being.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Writing for 2010

No, I have not given up on writing or taken to abandoning my blogs. My daily habits have been uncomfortably different since I completed two personal study subjects, which cannot be replaced since I'll be transitioning to a part-time college schedule in a few days, so I haven't been working as much or as well I usually do. The absence of a significant workload tends to soften my work ethic, which is why I like having lots of work to do, whether varied or not.

But more importantly I've been battling bad writing premises. Writing is so unique a process in comparison to my other undertakings that I tend to have the bad habit of inappropriately applying to it the standards of another subject. Take my grammar studies for instance. I noticed that in a few short hours I can complete the task of taking notes from my reading and the book-assigned homework at the end of the sections, but in the same amount of time I've noticed I may or may not be able to concoct the final draft of so much as a preliminary writing outline for an article. Judging by the amount of time it takes me to complete one entire homework assignment in comparison to a fractional part of a small writing project, I have had the bad tendency of judging writing as an unproductive process and have been procrastinating on my projects in favor of completing a greater volume of other things. Or in others words: I have been choosing the quantity of other tasks I can complete over putting forth the time and dedication good quality writing requires.

Well, now that I've identified what premise has been making me procrastinate on my writing so vigorously I can work to correct it. I need to constantly keep in mind that writing can become more efficient with practice, but for the period being it so happens to be a process that will consume more time than other tasks will. Just because it may take an entire day to formulate a five page rough draft does not mean writing isn't beneficial.

That being said, one of my New Year's resolutions is to actively remember that the time that passes is irrelevant in regards to productive pursuits so long as one puts forth effort. I have already made this tenet a part of my study routine by hiding all time telling devices while actively engaged in my studies. I turn my alarm clock around towards the wall, shield my eyes from the stove clock when passing through the kitchen, and unplug my radio clock periodically (to prevent inferring the time) to suit that purpose, but one of the lasting problems with my writing is that I was unaware of how to hide the computer clock while I was typing, so much to my distraction I have often had the displeasure of staring at it while constructing an article. Thankfully a friend has taught me how to hide it, so now I can keep myself absolutely ignorant of time the entire period in which I am engaged in mental work, excluding the times when my alarm goes off to designate a scheduled activity.

I would like to, from here on out, keep myself dedicated to posting more regularly than I have before, not just for the benefit of my readers but for the benefit of my thinking. It never ceases to be amazing to me what writing can do to one's thinking. Just yesterday morning I was engaged in writing my thoughts about my upcoming college semester when suddenly I completely switched my train of thought to how keeping a list of short-term goals could be beneficial to my life and motivation. (The switch was initiated by thinking about goals for the semester, which snowballed into contemplating it as a lifelong habit.) While writing, thoughts spontaneously occur to me that seemingly could not occur while I was out on my walk consciously searching for them, and I oftentimes find myself understanding my thinking even better by trying to make it conform to the rules of grammar and completeness on paper. Updating a blog can mean more than merely sharing a funny video or being an advocate for a political view; it can lead to the improvement of one's mind.

Let us see what we can achieve this year given this knowledge, shall we?

P.S. I also resolve to start using contractions on my other blog, Benpercent. Formal writing is all fine and dandy, but for blogging I find it adds considerable strain to what I would like to say.