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.

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