Wednesday, June 20, 2007

For all we know, it could've been Tony Soprano out there.

Maybe I’m the only one who worries about things like this, but I continue to marvel at the way a person's dreams can accommodate to sudden changes in, or stimuli from, the sleeper's ambient environment. Last night I'm having this long dream, wherein at one point I have a discussion with my youngest son, then I leave my house (which was not, as depicted, my real house, but that's unimportant), then I walk down the sidewalk, then I see a little boy some distance away who smiles at me, then I see that he's got a stick, then the little boy runs over to a tabby cat, which meows at him, and then the little boy proceeds to savagely poke the cat, which shrieks in agony….

At that point I bolted awake in bed, realizing that the shriek was real: It went on for another second or two outside my window until it ended in an abrupt and chilling manner. Alongside me, my wife had also bolted awake at the same instant. "God, what was that?" she said. We both decided that some local cat or unfortunate woods creature had met an untimely end. Then I remembered the dream I was having just as the deathly shriek awakened us, and I lay there for another few moments in astonishment at the way my dream had played the whole thing.

Now, I can understand how my mind would've written the shriek itself into the dream. But the amazing part is the preparatory action leading up to it: having the discussion, leaving the house, seeing the kid with the stick, the kid seeing the cat, the cat meowing, etc. In effect, my mind had TiVo'd the actual shriek—giving itself time to create a seamless bit of action that sufficiently explained it—before "allowing me" to catch up in real time. The fact that my wife and I bolted awake at the same moment suggests that we both reacted instantaneously to the shriek, which was quite loud. Which means (not to belabor this) that in the span of the second or so between when the shriek began and when it woke us up, my mind had already inserted a whole new bit of action into an existing dream—while stalling off my recognition of the sound long enough so that I didn't experience the shriek too soon for the action to "flow" (or even make sense) in the context of the dream! (David Chase, take note.)

OK, maybe I'm more overwhelmed by this than I should be. Still, it's additional evidence of (1) what an amazing thing the subconscious is, and (2) all the little wheels that are constantly spinning in there, creating/synthesizing their own reality. And while this may seem like a small point, remember it the next time someone tells you he's got it all figured out and is in full, conscious control of everything he thinks and feels and does.

P.S. For those who've inquired, I'll have another self-help horror story up by Friday.

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