Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Dream of Dried Fruit

Last night I dreamed of dried fruit.
Dreaming is one of the most fundamental human experiences. Some maintain that the division of life into the secular and the sacred, the physical and the mental, the realm of bodies and the realm of spirits derives from dreaming, when thoughts appear to move by themselves in their own incorporeal world. So, dreams give us shamanism, Parmenides, and Plato. Those of us who might be characterized as "ontologically challenged" and feel more comfortable with ideas than objects might be especially attached to our dreams. If I had my preferences, I certainly would rather be a disembodied spirit than an electrically charged tube of protoplasm.
The importance of dreaming for abstract reasoning, imagining future and counterfactual events, and story-telling might lie behind the fascination with the interpretation of dreams, from ancient books on oneiromancy to modern psychoanalysis.  There are modern researchers who maintain that all of this is fantasy and that dreams have no meaning. Those nightly images are nothing more than the brain's way of discharging unnecessary energies and connection, sort of putting out the garbage at night. Some claim, further, that the apparent narrative sense of dreams is imposed on the chain of images during sleep by the waking mind. I wonder about these kinds of reductionist claims, though. If we can tell something about people and societies through garbology, the study of the things they throw out, shouldn't'  we be able to understand minds by looking at what they discard? And if waking minds produce the associative coherence of dreams, then looking at dreams as reported phenomena should be giving us a good deal of information about those waking minds. The interpretation of the interpretation of dreams, then, might be a fruitful means of understanding entire cultures through a sociology of dreams, as well as a technique of examining individual psyches.
Of course, what it means to dream of dried fruit remains a mystery. I did wake up hungry.

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