It is a truism that accounts of other peoples’ dreams tend to be boring. I’ll restrain myself and later in this post I’ll recount a particularly striking dream scene, stripping it of the mundane context.
Have you ever wondered just what part of your brain concocts dream story-lines? I imagine a writer-director, an auteur if you will, sitting in one of those canvas director chairs. I imagine that he looks a bit like Quentin Tarantino. He chuckles inwardly as he observes my puzzlement at the twists and turns he has concocted for a particular dream. This auteur has ample material to draw upon: the contents of my memory. My auteur isn’t malicious or unduly terrifying, for which I am grateful.
I’ll cut to the chase. I found myself driving a red Ford Explorer down a narrow alley. The truck didn’t seem to have a Neutral or a Park indicator on the ring surrounding the steering column. The brakes didn’t work. I just wanted to find a place to park the vehicle and then find the owners, a couple I had known in Knox County, MO.
I ended up right at the edge of an eighty-foot cliff with a small river or large creek flowing down at the bottom. I finally found Neutral but the key refused to allow me to turn off the engine. I tried to engage the emergency brake but it evidently was broken and ineffective.
Then the Explorer plunged over the edge and hurtled down towards the river. “Oh, no!” I exclaimed. The vehicle hit the water, righted itself, and began floating downstream. As I said, my dream auteur is merciful and I wasn’t injured, not even stunned, and the Explorer seemed undamaged. Eventually I hit a shallow portion of the river, the tires regained traction, and I found a place where I could get back on the road. The remainder of the dream doesn’t need to be recounted.
So now I know what it might feel like to drive a vehicle over the edge of a cliff.
Indulge me, kind readers, as I concoct a metaphorical fantasy.
I’m imagining that my brain has been enlarged to the size of a small office building. Various neural structures are represented by rooms containing filing cabinets. I decide to take a stroll through the building. In the lobby I encounter my dream auteur sitting in his canvas chair.
“Hey, Larry, how’d you like that Explorer’s plunge into the river?” He couldn’t suppress a sardonic smile.
“Scared the piss out of me, for sure!”
“Well, you have to admit that no person or vehicle was harmed during the making of that dream!”
I continue my exploration. Why, here’s the Word Room! Every word I know neatly filed away in alphabetical order in a series of cabinets. A gray cabinet contains the words I just kinda know, words I usually figure out from context, many of them French.
The next room has a brass plaque over the door: Proverbs,Catch-phrases, and Cliche´s. I had no idea that I know so many of them!
I wander on down the hall and come to the Image Repository. Just millions of images: photos, still scenes from movies and TV, images of places I’ve been and people I have known or even only briefly met — just about anything visual which has caught my attention during the past 57 years. One wall of the room was filled with cabinets full of video sequences from movies and TV shows. Some of them were entire TV shows I saw when I was a kid. I found one cabinet filled to the brim with cartoons.
Another wall had “Natural History” painted on it in an antique script up near the ceiling. Images of every plant, mushroom, liverwort, and lichen I’ve ever seen were all neatly filed away. One small drawer was labeled “Fish, Molluscs,etc.” Another cabinet was labeled “Insects, Arachnids, etc.” Yet another cabinet was labeled “Tetrapods” — birds, mammals, amphibians, etc.
A large adjacent room contains cabinets chock-full of every piece of music I’ve ever heard, some of it fragmentary, including the hundreds of fiddle tunes I know.
I wander back out into the hallway. I encounter a harried-looking bald-headed man, short of stature and seemingly in a hurry to get someplace.
“Who are you?” I asked him.
“I’m the curator; I’m at the beck and call of that damned auteur of yours, Larry. You wouldn’t believe how much work it is to gather up images and sounds for those dreams he comes up with, not to mention the daydreams you seem to be prone to! Gotta go…”
“Wait! I have just one more question. Why can’t I access these archives myself?”
“Oh, that would never do. Your waking conscious mind can only hold so much information at once, and much of that information is survival stuff which you need to be able to function effectively in the world. You know how sometimes you just can’t recall a name, a tune, or some other type of information?”
“Yeah; it happens all the time.”
“And then after a time the piece of information just suddenly appears in your mind? That delay gives me time to search the archives; when I find the information, a name or whatever, I toss it up through the membrane into your consciousness. Otherwise you would spend half of your life in fruitless archive searches. I’ve been trained to search the archives — just leave it to me. It’s my job.”
The curator scurried off — he reminded me of the White Rabbit in Alice In Wonderland.
I’d better end this metaphorical story and allow my mind to regain its normally inscrutable neural state. Interesting tour, I must admit, but I need to get some sleep. Sweet dreams, I hope!