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Dreams: Intergalactic Battles set to Scurvy Pirate

February 12, 2011

Last night’s dreams are beginning to fade, even as I try to hold onto them. Vala from Stargate SG1 was in the last dream, and there was intergalactic battle, all of it set to what does not fade, what lingers rather actively in my mind, the Backyardigans merrily singing “What do you do with a scurvy pirate? Make him walk the plank!” The dreams were so boisterous, all the linen went sliding to the floor, two heavy quilts and electric blanket, along with the top sheet, and a pillow. It’s a wonder I didn’t go sliding off, as well.
Most my dreams tend to be action-packed save-the-world sorts of things, although occasionally they are quieter, and I am Tallulah, an older black woman living in New York City and big into cooking. Even those kinds of dreams wake me and leave me enchanted with the dramas that unfold in my sleeping brain. 
Then there are those repeating dreams that mirror waking life, where I am teaching or I am a student again. Or out in the garden, or with the kids. Or where I am visited by a loved one. Now, I know that these visits are not supernatural events, but they are lovely things to see my grandparents again or teachers who meant the world to me and who I still miss nearly thirty years later. It’s sobering to realize that even as memories fade away from conscious awareness that the brain retains it and can activate those pathways and play those images for us and let us see them again, occasionally set in the intergalactic battles that wage in my sleep.
It’s easy to see how people can go to great lengths to explain what a dream means, why dream readers appeal to us, why Freud and Jung capitalized on people’s dreams. Modern scientists often eschew any deeper meaning and look for evolutionary advantageous reasons for dreaming; the mind’s way of rehearsing for potential real life scenarios (although I doubt I’ll be in a space ship anytime soon) or the random, meaningless firing of neurons. 
Given a choice between fanciful thoughts about visitations from long lost loved ones and the deeper meanings invoking sex and archetypes or the rational, empirically-derived theories regarding the purposes of dreaming, most people are going to go with the mystical and fanciful. We look for meaning, need it, crave it. 
We try to create that meaning, derive the purpose, especially when things go wrong. It makes processing the reality easier, I suppose, if we believe that it’s all meant to be, that everything happens just as it should. Or, if we cannot believe that, to do as Lanza has done, and create a world where there are endless worlds and no one dies and everything that could be is so that even if what you have totally blows, somewhere there are lots of yous that have it all. It’s an appealing fantasy, I admit, the idea that even if you can’t do what you want, there are endless yous doing all the things you want, living the lives you want. The problem is when it moves from a harmless little daydream to the bedrock with which you live your life and what you try to make other people believe. We do die. We have, as Sally Fields reminds us, this one life, this one body. Pretending otherwise robs us of the impetus to act now to make this one life better.
So maybe in some ways my intergalactic battles do in some way mirror my waking life; this need to impose reason and rationality, this tilting at windmills to get people to prefer to look at the world as it really works, or at least as close as we can get to it, has me kicking some ass as Vala, or cooking as Tallulah. All while making scurvy pirates walk the plank. Or maybe it’s all random firing. I’ll believe it more likely to be the latter while smiling over the fact that I’ve done a very human thing and tried to find meaning and purpose where none but what I impose exists.

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