I'm labeling, indexing this post as: "dreams, life, science."
"Science" -- Ha.
I have a hypothesis about dreams.
The phenomena that occur in dreams are less striking to me than the tenor of dreams. I can only speak from my sleeping experience about a general dream atmosphere; maybe others would have different experiences of "climate" (variable instead of consistent?) and have alternate opinions about the nature of dreams.
Does the more-or-less uniform background aura of dreams that I encounter -- pensive, tragic, hyper-existential -- also contain a tentative, experimental feel to the ambiance? And signify anything that can be talked about coherently, conceptually?
Darwin basically gave us this: creatures trying not to die and in the process becoming different things. Sort of a Great Escape. Living and dying are quite serious concerns for an organism. But humans have gotten so abstracted into realms of social mediation and cultural metabolism that the instinctive "mind" gets shoved aside or turned down to a barely audible volume. The biological-subconscious frenzy of being doesn't get fretted over very much by us while awake. It's left to operate on autopilot, so to speak. But when we get very sick or when someone dies, we are then briefly shocked into confrontation with Darwin's creature mantra -- "Live, live!"
If Darwin and the neo-evolutionists -- including evolutionary psychologists -- are right, then all forms of behavior are adaptive techniques. So what kind of adaptation is involved with dreaming? Merely a sideshow for the mind while the brain reboots itself at night? Or something stranger and cooler?
I prefer the strange and the cool.
The consistent aura of my dreams suggests to me that the soul (that impossible nexus of biology and spirit) is taking desperate measures. It's making nightly attempts to save memory per se -- a whole life -- not just memories in particular. And is trying to circumvent time and space by projecting the self's being into other, possible worlds. A futile nightly act of bio-meta-mythic survival.
The phenomena of dreams -- events, interactions, predicaments -- are the residue of memory per se refined into new substance. And from this dark material is extruded quasi-experience as a something palpable enough to be projected toward a tentative, potential-eternal situation.
Deep interior self is alerted to, reminded of eventual death as it succumbs each night to the metaphorical little death of sleep, as consciousness involuntarily goes away. That triggers the mania to construct an after-world. But the spherical architecture of the dream won't permanently cohere. The bubble eventually bursts into a lingering mist only of frustration or sadness.
And nightmares? The specter of extinction, despite great substance and process to the contrary, is eating its way through the tissue of our survival-sphere. We wake, and a perspiration of horror is residual on our spirit.
Beneath the waking mind is another mind that broods and plots the coordinates of symbolic escape toward further and farther experience.
|I Saw Three Cities |
Kay Sage (1944)