Friday, May 27, 2016
Dream a Little Dream
So, the other day I woke up and wrote down a dream I just had. This was not unusual. I've been recording, on and off, strange dreams that have impressed me for years, at least since the middle 1990's. I had, in fact, written down two more during the past week. What was unusual was that I then read an article at Brain Pickings about Graham Greene and his dream diary.
Near the end of his life, Greene put together over a quarter century's worth of the most interesting of his dreams and published them in a book. Here is what he says in the introduction:
"It can be a comfort sometimes to know that there is a world which is purely one’s own — the experience in that world, of travel, danger, happiness, is shared with no one else. There are no witnesses. No libel actions. The characters I meet there have no memory of meeting me, no journalist or would-be biographer can check my account with another’s. I can hardly be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for any incident connected with the security services. I have spoken with Khruschev at a dinner party, I have been sent by the Secret Service to murder Goebbels. I am not lying — and yet, of all the witnesses who share these scenes with me, there is not one who can claim from his personal knowledge that what I describe is untrue." -- A World of My Own: A Dream Diary, by Graham Greene.
I thought of other author's who kept dream journals, like William S. Burroughs or Stephen King, and all the people who did it as a form of therapy. Suddenly it struck me that I had over twenty years of my own recorded dreams, scattered here and there in my files. I always wanted to collect them, put them in some cohesive order. Just now, I have plenty of down time. Why not do it at last?
That is what I've been doing for the past two weeks. I had most of the dreams gathered in a paper file. Some were typed, some hand written. There were detailed accounts, and cryptic notes. They were recorded on all sizes of ruled paper, on typing paper, and on folded tray liners from work.
I kept finding more. I recorded five "primordial" dreams that I had in childhood. I had finished typing up everything in the folder and numbering them, in chronological order, when I discovered a new cache in my journals. The numbering had to be re-done. I cursed myself every time I had not dated a dream, and even now I'm not entirely sure of the order. I kept tweaking refinements to the format, made titles for quick identification of the dreams, made an index of title and number. And most mornings would bring new dreams.
A big part of the joy of this exercise has been simply editorial. I've cut big gobs of run-on prose (my usual dream writing style) into more easily handled slices. I've removed countless "seems like"s and "kind of"s, but had to insert quite a few "that"s for clarity's sake. Also, I replaced a few unclear pronouns with definite nouns. But mostly I didn't cut or add anything to the original recounting.
One thing I've realized is that, as I've written dreams over the years, I've gotten better at recording a readable dream. You can't just write down the bare facts. You've got to put down the atmosphere, what you were feeling, the point of view. Perhaps because of all the books and movies I've consumed, my point of view isn't always me. A lot of times I'm looking at things from third person limited, or through another person. And what adventures we've had.
I've seen aliens, sasquatches, and sea monsters. I've met J. R. R. Tolkien, Ursula K. LeGuin, C. S. Lewis, Mark Twain, Quentin Crisp, and the Queen of England. There were fairies, ghosts, and wizards. I have met (and been) Gandalf, Goku, and the Scarecrow. I've encountered family and familiar places in crisis situations, from floods, volcanoes, and robbery, to crashing space stations.
I've been to my grandmother's haunted (and haunting) house more times than I can remember. I've visited labyrinthine cemeteries, lost valleys, vast wooded back country, and monolithic cities, and I've wandered dark, winding streets. I go to stores with no money, find prizes that slip through my fingers, try to get a ride home, and plunge along highways out of control.
I've flown on my own, and in a surprising number of hovercars. I cast spells, perform exorcisms, and have done incredible feats of martial arts. I've changed form, both at will, and not. While I'm personally involved in most dreams, some are perfectly contained little tales of their own that I observe from afar. I've got the skeletons for at least a dozen short stories here.
Well! It's been fun collecting all these dreams into a uniform, active document. Patterns have emerged, and old times have been recalled. None have been prophetic...so far. I just added a new one today. This brings the count up to one hundred and sixty-nine, and there is no end in sight. I'm sure that, as in the past, I will grow weary of recording them, or things will get too busy. But I'm also sure that eventually, given the chance, I will come back to them. And the Dream will continue.
Labels: dream diary, dream journal, dreams, graham greene, personal
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I tried keeping a dream journal once, but it just interfered with my sleeping too much, and what I did manage to write down was more or less incoherent.
Since I published this post, I've gone on to a total of 237 dreams. The dreams I remember are usually ones I have just before waking, so they don't interfere with sleep, just my morning routine. I go to the restroom and take my medicine and so on, just mumbling the major details to myself. The I sit down and type up what I can recall. What irks me most is knowing there was a bit that led into what you remember, but it's too elusive.
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