Friday, January 21, 2011

We Are Such Stuff

Dreams and Nigtmares. This post may be one or the other, because I'm not really here. At the moment you read this, I should be in Mexico, touring Mayan ruins. That's the dream. The nightmare was the vaccination series required for the trip. But back to our topic.

Science, brain imaging and neural mapping have put a dent recently in some of the more esoteric aspects of our sleeping lives.We've been told our dreams are nothing more than our brains processing through the day we've just finished, or that our brains are merely clearing the buffers. And yet. Carl Jung taught that a number of cultures consider dream life to be every bit as real as waking life. He cites one culture that teaches children suffering nightmares to go back into the dream and confront the monster - they must face down that which they fear and demand compensation from the fear - a song, a poem, something useful to the waking life of their people.

Demanding compensation from fear - I love that. The notion of treating your dreams as valid, as real, appeals to me. The practise flies in the face of the tendency to reduce the human animal to its most mundane, constituent parts (your synapses replaying your fight with your coworker).  It's interesting how while we're demystifying the workings of the human mind (no real magic or woo-woo stuff here folks!), physicists drilling down into the nature of reality keep finding more and more woo-woo.  Granted. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (who said that and where??) and maybe that's at play here because that level of physics, while it fascinates me, is way over my head.

But really. What's your take. Dreams and nightmares. Reality? Not? Some combination thereof? Think back to the worst, most terrifying nightmare you've ever had. How did you react? How did your body respond? How did that nocturnal imagery affect your waking life? Or did it? Now recall the greatest dream you've had. Same questions. Those things colored your days, didn't they. Now define real versus unreal.

Ultimately, do we care about real versus unreal? I don't. Dreams and nightmares alike are a vast, deep ocean of symbols and stories. They feed into the books I write. What if books are to waking what dreams are to sleeping?

For anyone interested in monkeying around with dream symbolism and understanding, (if you suffer nightmares or night terrors, this book is vital) I highly recommend this book:  


  1. Marcella, you MUST post pictures when you return!

    Thanks for the book recommendation...looks like interesting stuff. :-)

  2. Good post! Books ARE like waking dreams, aren't they? I've always considered fiction more of an alternate reality than anything else.

  3. Love the idea of the waking dream, yes. Going off to play with shiny new idea...

  4. I've always loved the idea of 'conscious dreaming' - that you could guide your dream self to confront the enemy. Or alternately, some people teach to befriend the enemy and make it your ally.

  5. Yeah, I'll totally agree with the waking dream theory. I'll admit there are some books/series/worlds that I sometimes feel like I know better than this one - not sure if that's because I reread them so many times or if the worldbuilding was so strong, but it's funny how comforting that can be.