Dream Insights

Voice Card  -  Volume 11  -  John Card Number 2  -  Sat, Dec 16, 1989 5:02 PM

This is a response to Vol 10 John 16 ("Turkey on a Bike")...

I just awoke from a remarkable series of dreams and my head is buzzing with insights and puzzles. There were at least a dozen essentially different dreams of which I will try to describe two.

The first concerns the discovery an interesting new game. The dream took place on a soccer field (the scene of the previous dream). I had come across a reference to a peculiar tic-tac-toe-like game played exclusively by Hispanic men in bars amidst tequila and cigar smoke and ribald stories. I was fascinated by this game and was determined to understand it. With great difficulty I coaxed a loose description from a Hispanic friend, who was openly skeptical that an outsider could ever REALLY understand the game.

Upon waking I was able to reconstruct most but not all of this game. It took place on a large grid, like GO, and involved placing markers next to each other. The "active" region of the board was 5 by 5 and was determined by the position of the northeastern most piece. Thus a game would begin by placing pebbles on a large board and during the course of the game the action would drift northeastward until the extreme northeastern corner was reached, at which time a conclusion would be forced.

There were about four types of markers which might be called mothers, teachers, lovers, and fools. Each point or round depended on what two pieces were adjacent to each other. There was some arbitrary dominance relationship reminiscent of "scissors cut paper, rocks break scissors." Thus if a teacher was placed next to a fool, the teacher was in control, but if a mother was placed next to a teacher, she was then in control. Or something like that.

A full understanding of the game required an appreciation of its social dimension. The game was ancient and a host of traditional ribald stories and connotations had grown up around each of the relationships that occur on the board. Thus all sorts of lovers' triangles and incestuous affairs could spring up and the players were in a sense making comments about each other as well as trying to win the game.

The thrust of this dream was that I was fascinated with the game as an end in itself and was determined to grasp it despite my status as an outsider. Upon waking I see the parallels with my attempts to understand male-female relationships, but I am still fascinated by the game itself. I am frequently astonished by the intricacy and strangeness of my dream creations. What an interesting game!

The other dream was notable in that it included an "AHA!" experience. These are familiar enough in waking like: those moments when a profound insight just strikes you out of the blue.

I was with some kind of primative medicine man or high priest who was absolutely convinced that he could gain the power to create life by drinking the blood of a pregnant woman (or some variation on that theme). He meant this quite literally, that is, he thought he could actually give birth. It turned out that his tribe had no notion whatsoever of gender. They may have recognized that some people were more "masculine" or "feminine" than others but did not have a rigid dichotomy of male and female and thus saw no reason why anyone could not give birth.

My AHA! insight was that ideas which seemed bizarre and absurd could make perfect sense if an essential underlying assumption about the world was changed. Thus our seemingly obvious observation that people come in two different varieties had a profound effect on what ideas we could entertain. There were all sorts of ideas that were not even possible for us to think about just because of this one belief. Change that one belief and our whole world would change with it.

When I woke up this dream was hard to remember because it seemed so absurd. Men giving birth? It just didn't make sense. And it's very hard to recall ideas that don't make sense.

I have a theory that our memories work on a connect-the-dots principle. That is, we only remember certain pivotal moments and then automatically reconstruct the lines between each pair of dots. In waking life this usually works quite nicely because the laws of physics are so constant. If one moment I am throwing a rock and the next moment there is a big splash it is easy to conclude that I have just thrown a rock into a stream.

But dream physics are not so reliable and upon waking we are left with a pile of dots that no respectable lines could ever hope to connect. I believe this is one of the reasons dreams are so hard to remember. One moment we are throwing a rock and the next moment a pie is swallowed by a little girl. It just doesn't "make sense" and our automatic experience reconstructers blow a fuse.

And yet that is the very message of this dream! Our assumptions about the world prevent us from seeing important truths. This is why it's so important to tolerate absurdities, a skill which Keats called "Negative Capability." AHA!