Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Dream Realities

Originally posted on April 25, 2014

I had a vivid dream a week or so ago: It was an early morning dream; those seem to be more vivid. I thought about it, dreams in general, memory, the way things can seem real enough to catch you up in dealing with them, and, in short, the deeper nature of reality. Dreams do have some features that are intriguing: It seems that in recalling scenes, one can very easily open tiny invisible door-like shifts of scene to other dreams one has dreamt perhaps decades ago. An old mathematician whose papers were scattered on the steps of the University of California Berkeley library—actually not according to memory, but it seemed to be at the time—reminded me of another scholar I had known and a building (actually not) where he had lived and the upstairs of which reminded me of several upstairs of bookstores dreamt in yet other dreams.

Some parts of last nights dreams were wonderfully beautiful, such as the mobile sculptures at the party-home of an old friend. In the dream she was married and busy, but her mom greeted me, seemed to recognize me, though I sort of but not actually recognized her. She seemed forty-ish in the dream, which is young-ish now, but was old-ish back when I knew my old friend, her daughter.

I sometimes think I have dream-angels who try to tell me what was obvious. I remembered the elusive elements of the dream as weakly as I remembered specific elements of a whirlwind trip in “real-awake life” to a professional conference the week earlier—which is to say, in the moment, not all that well. I could voluntarily go back and snatch vignettes from the real event, while dream worlds were far more elusive. But in the relaxed reverie post-dream this morning, the nature of the memories seemed not that different.

I confess that my sense of reality has been just a bit porous, a little less than some I’ve known who have asserted the truth of their memory with far more confidence (even if those who could corroborate that memory disagreed! That is, the memory was faulty, but felt valid.). I tended to give in. Now I realize that “sense of reality” is an aesthetic construction, like plaster or paint, that is given to what may not have been actual, factual. I’ve later realized that many folks can believe sincerely and communicate forcefully facts that turn out not to have been that way at all. My doubts about what I remember are therefore closer to the truth than their sureness. What that tells us I have not yet concluded—well, other than memory itself is not the rock-solid criterion that it’s cracked up to be.

This vulnerability of memory to fantasy, expectation, and distortion has been well-documented in the last fifty years, and has thrown the legal world of witness-testimony into disarray. What else is there that’s better as a way of determining truth? The fact that other than video records, few forms of evidence seem more valid is, well, humbling.

The occasional dream relatively well-remembered is impressive to me. I reviewed the dream for a while before arising, “fixing” (as it were) some of the details in my memory. It’s all so elusive. But as I said, many actual memories are also elusive, such as the names of good friends. The mind remains mysterious in part because it is most vulnerable to a variety of forms of weakness and illusion.

This last dream, for example: I have been impressed with the way the dream realm can construct works of art that are thrilling in their beauty. What’s with that? I can’t exactly describe these mobiles, other than that they were brightly colored and complex. (It recalls another dream many years back when I walked through galleries of sculptures and art works that were similarly abstract yet astonishingly beautiful!)

Back to that dream: The series of events as I crossed the campus and found myself on Telegraph Avenue looking at shops and seeking a ticket to a bus to San Francisco were marvelous. I just remembered finding that the coins I had been given in change somewhere along the way were foreign, curious, bright, similar to American coins, but also slightly different. Come on!

On one level I know the unconscious constructs these dreams, but it seems—there’s that word: “seems”—that it does a far, far better job than I in all my limited skill could begin to do. I’m pretty convinced that the unconscious (1) is about 10 to 50 times smarter than me; and (2) is not “mine,” confined to my cerebrum. I think the brain is more like a radio receiver evolved so as to open to realms—not entirely unlike dream realms—far more complex than the brain. (I do know how complex the brain is, or at least I know much of what is known so far, not doubting that discoveries of greater and greater subtlety and complexity will be made over then next few centuries. But I also suspect that discoveries of realms of mind and dimensional realities will also be revealed, just as the existence of galaxies beyond our own have been revealed only in the last century!)  So, hmmm!

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