Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Jazz and narcolepsy: three dreams influenced by what I've fallen asleep to.

For a class, I listened to a jazz album called The Complete Science Fiction Series- a compilation of two albums put together in 1971 by avant-garde saxophone musician and composer, Ornette Coleman. The full album is available for free listening on YouTube here.

I thought it would be interesting to see whether or not unusual music like this would influence my dreams, so I left the YouTube playlist on shuffle and repeat as I went to sleep.

This is the first track.

I haven't formed a stable opinion about the album yet, but if anyone else has, I'd like to hear about it! Leave a comment, a private message, or send an e-mail.

JAZZ-INFLUENCED DREAM

I'm on a high-speed bullet train, sitting in a spacious dining car booth, watching a woman standing in the aisle. She's looking through the window with her back turned to me. It's the 1930's. A coiffe of her polished, hay-blonde hair peeks out of her wide-brimmed hat. The hat matches her green-blue dress, although it's trimmed with feathers, lace and sprays of pearls, lending a femininity to the crisp lines of her outfit.

The winter landscape streaks by.

Now I'm in a house. It's the kind of house that doesn't want to offend visitors. It has white walls, a preference for khaki, and pastel wallpaper accents underneath matted and framed embroidery and landscape giclees. It's lazy, calm, day, insulated from extreme cold by the snow.

I've been sitting on a window seat, looking outside for several minutes now, allowing my thoughts to dither. Rotund snowflakes fall from the cobalt sky.

It's the Christmas season and I'm enjoying the warm nostalgia in the neighborhood. Friends and neighbors I've known for years in the sleepy cul de sac are milling about, showing off new winter coats, gossiping, throwing snowballs, picking up groceries and... *gasp!* I even catch a couple flirting with each other...

INTERPRETATION OF JAZZ-INFLUENCED DREAMS

These two dreams were influenced more by the last major thing I felt before going to bed than the music. It was the day before Valentine's Day and I thought, I like Valentine's Day. I can see why other people don't, but it's a holiday, and something about repeated celebrations across a large body of people I have connections with creates a pleasant sense of nostalgia. It's not the same as Christmas though. Christmas is a nostalgia-gasm. 

So I suspect that I was secretly yearning for Christmas. However, the train and the 1930's feel was influenced by Cubist and Futurist paintings related to other course material for this class.

AFTER FALLING ASLEEP AT THE COMPUTER

It's night. I enter the same small strip mall I used to enter almost every month for 20 years. I'm annoyed that so little has changed. I walk up and down the same aisles. The stores cycle as I walk. The businesses often aren't the same for five seconds, but the same, uninspired architecture and its peeling, off-white walls remain. I feel contempt for the city for its inefficiency and lack of innovation.

I wander through an old grocery store that's always been attached to a different, much larger mall. It's overcrowded and dirty. I don't think anyone here cleans. I don't buy anything. I move through it in order to go deeper into the mall.

I pass by one of the eternal dollar stores and pop up and drift away in these sorts of malls. This one has been around longer than usual. I enjoy looking for deals on cheap chintz I don't need. It feels satisfying.

I exit and wait for a bus at a corner stop that's nearly buried in the snow. It takes forever to get there, but when it does it's large and sturdy. I enter. It's heated. I enjoy watching the city go by and feeling the warm air blast on every now and then. Everything is coated in white and gray due to the snow, the gray skies and the concrete and metal.

I arrive near the first strip mall again and walk back to the parking lot where my car is. I enter an old, dimly lit bar I used to frequent. Not much has changed. I exit and start walking down those same halls. They turn white and dirty.

I'm in the hall of a horrible grocery store I used to work at. I hate those sorts of places. They aren't bad to shop at from a consumer perspective, but you don't realize the sort of everyday evils people are put through until you look behind the scenes at places that expose minimum-waged workers to the general public. They're sitting ducks.

People sit in break rooms having uninteresting conversations. Bosses monitor silently and fill in reductive, restrictive and inefficiently-designed forms for the business.

The hall changes again and I'm in a warm, beautifully-designed hallway that reminds of the Los Angeles train station. The arches, tiles and incandescent lighting are gothic and art nouveau. I open the door to a cafe to get my homework coffee. I'm immediately hit by a long line going right to the door. The hiss of commercial espresso machines- steam forced into metal-ensconsed milk- is a familiar comfort.

I look to the left and see one of my best friends from high school. She was about 6 years older than me. I forget exactly how much by now. But she looks young- maybe only sixteen! I never knew her then. I was sixteen back then and she was my age now. We have reversed positions.

"Cheryl, what are you doing here?" I asked.

She looks at me, totally unphased, not at all surprised to see me. She seems exhausted. "I decided to move to San Francisco."

"Oh wow- I know you always said you wanted to have a cafe in San Francisco!"

She doesn't pause in her quest to dust the mugs and syrups sitting on the shelves. "Yeah," she says. "I'm finally doing it." There's no excitement in her voice or demeanor.

We catch up a little and I continue to marvel at how young she seems in both appearance and in terms of the life questions she is resolving for herself. It feels extremely bizarre to me. I ask if I can continue to stop by and talk to her in the future.

"Of course!" she says, busily pushing chairs in and fixing up the flowers in their vases on the tables.

INTERPRETATION

I fell asleep while typing a message on Facebook and I must have been thinking about writing to Cheryl. She wrote to me the day after I had this dream.

I often wonder how strong the influence the analytics the internet runs on us is. If you want to try something scary, search for the names of private individuals you know personally under Facebook's "gifs" option in messaging, or see what YouTube thinks about you by seeing how its suggestions change if you leave YouTube on autoplay all day.

I seem to be comparing and contrasting where I was and where I am. When I was good friends with this girl, I was in a very inbetween place in my life- just graduating from high school and having gone into my counseling program- not having a clue as to what I was going to do with the degree, while soaking in all the life challenges she went through as someone just old enough for me to get a good, solid preview of what I could expect to deal with in the next 10 years. I look back on those experiences and consider them invaluable. I am looking at the lives of older people now in order to see how they end up dealing with the challenges of parenthood and whether or not the choices they've made drive them to change careers or to invest more into their careers or to do the same things they've always done (symbolized by the shifting businesses in the same architecture).

I'll probably have to move in the next few years since I know I'm going to grad school. I'm thinking a lot about where I would prefer to live for six years of my life. I will have been in this part of LA County for about that long when I finally graduate with my first fully-accredited degree. A lot of experiences pack themselves into six years, although I'm at a point at which six years seems to fly by very quickly.

I don't understand how so many people go straight from high school into college and into grad school. I wouldn't have had enough experience with how the world really is by doing things that way- not enough to feel satisfied with my long-term career plans. I think they are fortunate in many respects.

I think of how I've burned through a third or so of my life and it amazes me. Was any of this real? What will my experience of life be when I'm 90? Will I retain all my memories? I'm already stunned at how much I retain (and I'm also surprised and dismayed at how this is generally not information of a productive variety).

I never hear anyone exclaim their surprise at how predictable their lives were and how they knew just how things- even the most mundane, technically predictable things- would end up feeling. The feelings that arise out of the inevitable death of a parent or inevitable breakup or birth or career decision always seems to take people by surprise, emotionally. Will there continue to be an "I" to understand that we once existed the way we have, or will everything simply turn off the way a computer does? A computer doesn't dream once it's been shut down. That's the nature of the things Cheryl tends to make me think of. She's a very spiritual, beautiful person.

FALLING ASLEEP AT THE COMPUTER AGAIN

I was editing a couple of personal statements a friend had generously agreed to help me with when I fell asleep mid-keystroke.

I was in a class, looking at one of my professors in the center of the room. It was a new-fangled room that incorporates computer monitors at the front of various pods of desks. The walls and tables and furniture are all covered in dry-erase paint or coated in dry-erase materials, but none of the classes that meet in these rooms take advantage of it. It's a pity! I'd like to scribble all over the walls and the furniture. That was a lot of fun when I was three. The walls definitely seemed to exist in order to be livened up. After all, that's what paper and coloring books were for. My parents didn't seem to want me to take advantage of our blank walls back then, but that made a lot more sense.

The professor starts the lecture by discussing why he believes he is different. An flurry of questions runs through my mind about what would make someone different. While he is explaining, I am talking to myself:

What scale of measurement are we using to justify calling someone different or normal? Why would that scale be valid? Is the statistical average enough to call someone normal? What if the majority had a genetic abnormality? Which would be normal; the people conforming to the standard or the statistic?

What could have someone feeling this way about himself? What would be the effects of someone feeling that way? Have we done anything to encourage this feeling he has about himself? Have I personally done anything to encourage this feeling he has about himself? How does someone else feeling this way about himself make me feel?

What are the moral implications of my knowing that someone feels this way? Is action or inaction the more socially appropriate course of action?

Is this simply a way of communicating that I am not interpreting correctly? Is calling oneself first different then calling oneself weird at length and in public... not actually something that causes this individual distress?

Does he actually believe this? Does he believe this in the way that I believe he is believing this? Do most people feel this way?

Does this person feel this way due to circumstances or is this feeling due to a chemical reaction that would have taken place regardless of the circumstances which create a narrative for the feeling?

If a person speaking this way about himself bothered someone in the classroom, would it mean that self-disclosure in the classroom is wrong? If it's wrong in the classroom, is it always wrong?

Would someone feeling offended about this self-disclosure be wrong if it inhibited authenticity?

I go on and on and on like this for at least an hour while the professor's speech about himself continues. When the speech is over, the class is over, and I wake up to my computer screen. I look in the corner and see that it's 2 AM, and I haven't sent any of my personal statements to my friend!

I think this dream came about due to my looking up someone on campus who studies psychopathy. I was alarmed to see a documentary that featured a building I pass by every day housing unfettered psychopaths. I'm sure the unfettered "psychopath" was an actor for the film featuring the researcher, but it had me thinking! My friend has mentioned that I am interested in "different" people and I think that fueled the flurry of questions in the dream.

So I guess I'm very strongly influenced by what's happening around me while I sleep (or what happened just before I sleep)! That's not too surprising, but I just looked up "oneirology" and it suggests that these are "authentic" dreams and "illusory" dreams. I can't really tell the difference. It seems to me that one is more well-interpreted than the other, that's all. Please let me know if you have ever had an illusory dream! I would love to hear about it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Arguing, flying vampire-zombie judges in school. (dream)

Image in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
DREAM

I'm at an elementary school. I have to take a class in a room I've never been in. I'm enrolled here and I was ordered to. Although I'm not looking forward to it, I head down the hallway towards the classroom anyway.

I turn the corner, push through the red double doors and find myself in a large lecture hall. The room is full of loud vampires jabbering at each other in ragged, barking staccato all over the room. There have to be a hundred of them. Their dead flesh seems to decay over the desks they hover at. Although their flesh is fish gray and they aren't quite human, they're alive in their own way. They fly in swirls along the ceiling and across the pew-like desks. They engage in heated discussions. Their affairs are conducted with such bombast, they don't notice my gawking at them.

I regret coming and dread having to stay. I'm not aware of what they do or how they do it. All I know is that I don't like them. But my being ordered to come here wasn't a mistake. This is something I am supposed to go through while I am in this program.

One of the gray-faced, black clad vampires flies up to me and yanks a fist full of my hair, pulling my head towards it. He holds it steady with one clawed hand. Before I can react or drop the books under my arm, he jams a coin into my forehead, penetrating my skull. He pulls it out and sees what comes out attached to it.

It's his job to examine the goo, like the entrails of a sacrificial animal. He's a type of priest-bureaucrat with legal rights and responsibilities, and he does this routinely.

INTERPRETATION

Geez... this is how I feel about college!- jamming information in and examining what comes out.

I'm starting to enjoy studying what I am more, so I'm surprised I would have this dream at this point in time. The other day, I woke up and I thought, "There's nothing else I'd rather get out dressed and leave the house for than to do this. I wouldn't rather get a cup of coffee... I wouldn't rather to go to a friend's house... I wouldn't rather to go to the beach. There's nothing else I'd rather do today than to go to these lectures and to interact with this material." It feels very odd, although I've always tried to throw myself whole-heartedly into whatever I've decided to study or work at. I thought my interest in doing anything but art or writing was long gone, and that those were pointless to study in an academic setting anyway. I just don't seem to like academic settings: expensive, sometimes poorly-made or arbitrary tests, rigid rules, inflexible time-schedules,  risking taking on a lot of debt rapidly, the constant lack of time to truly read, research and practice the material, which then leads up to the fear of not knowing what to do and the dread of having to do it poorly or in a confused and fearful fashion.

But unlike a lot of my other majors or dabblings, I don't see any other way to learn what I would like to. There's no way I would be exposed to a lot of material that's changed my outlook on life without going through conventional college classes like these. I also couldn't learn what I want and what I didn't know I want without the social validation that allows me to pause my misemployment for a while to do something that actually makes life a valuable experience. So it's worth the discomfort.

I'm not sure why the zombies are vampires or why they're arguing so loudly and nastily. They seem money and rule-oriented (that's what they were arguing about), so I perhaps that's what I generally feel about the overall bureaucratic structure of college too- money vampirism. Flight in this case indicates the ability to act at a distance (through paperwork or e-mails).

Sunday, May 22, 2016

My cat develops a thumb-sized panda on her head. I give aliens milk-water. (dream)

Image by By Edmund Schluessel (Sanyo S750i k va) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

DREAM

I'm in my kitchen with coworkers and family. Everyone is behaving in a pleasant, banal fashion. A bevy of my cousins mingle with a manager from an old job. Everyone indulges in drinks and finger foods. But there's a palpable tension in the room. We're required to interact like we would under "ordinary" circumstances. They want us to behave the way we would if no one was watching. But we can't. How could we?

They are in the house- aliens standing at the opposite end of the room. They aren't even bothering to hide themselves. There's no division between the living room and the kitchen, and they simply stand and talk to each other at my right in a non-English language while I do the dishes. The cat sits at my feet and watches me. The aliens are humanoid, but have soft, damp-looking, reddish-pink skin with a glossy, veiny texture, large, purple-gray eyes with no pupils, no hair, and a couple of  tubes coming out of various places along their bodies.

I don't think anyone noticed that they were taking over. It wasn't violent, but it was a firm. The entire planet is under their watch and we conform to their rules. One of those unspoken, unwritten rules is that we must provide housing for them when they require it. But they don't seem all that interested in us. They just talk among themselves. We're all very concerned about this. Are they taking notes? Are they making sure we don't act a certain way? How do their senses work? Do they know things about us that we can't?

Something wonderful has happened ever since the aliens came though. My cat and I have developed a  telepathic bond! The cat does not speak English and I don't recognize her as having any speech capabilities, but most thoughts aren't in words. I can feel what she feels, see, hear and sense many of the things she does and appreciate her perspectives. I understand when those perspectives drive her to certain behaviors. But despite an increase of information through this bond, it has only increased the mystery that I feel is surrounding this small animal. It has made me more aware of and respectful of her wishes.

That is relevant because another bizarre thing has happened. There is a tiny, pinkish, repulsive creature I can only describe as a limbless panda that has grown out of her head. I would have removed and killed it a long time ago if I didn't know how profoundly important it is to her. So I just stare at it now and then.

I look out the window at aliens' spaceship. It's a smooth, dark gray obelisk with a drill-like top that seems decorative. A half "s"-curve forms the ship's bottom. The ship levitates over the surface of the earth.

I wonder if they are always going to have control over our day-to-day lives like this. I feel as though something has to break soon. We've all been accepting and polite with each other for weeks or months now, and I don't know how much longer things can stay that way. Sooner or later, something's going to have to come bursting out in order for us all to get back to equilibrium.

I fill up my Brita. I get the sense that they have a thing about water. I put a little bit of milk in a glass of water to see how they react if they decide to take a sip. They've been eating our food and drinking our drinks for the most part, but I haven't seen them drink milk. Maybe if there's just a little milk in it, they'll take it and I can see how they'll react. Maybe it was the color they disliked or the strength of its smell. Maybe it will affect their skin.

INTERPRETATION

The space ship shaped like a spiral obelisk was inspired by homework. I had some online math problems in which I had to find the graph of different functions. One of the more interesting-looking ones was the graph of the domain of the inverse sine of the square of something with two variables. It looked a little like a smooth tower with a really nice curve to it.

In order to make the spaceship, the graph would have been rotated around the flat image's vertical center. That would give it volume (last semester's homework). On the first day of this semester's math class, the professor described the graph of (cost, sint, t), which made a spiral come out of the board. That gave the sea shell top and bottom to the spaceship.

The aliens might be describing social tension. I've been feeling some stranger danger lately- not hanging out with people I feel truly trusting of (takes me several years, usually- I don't know how people manage to pick up and drop "friends" so quickly), although of course I do have my core people as well (the friends and the family and bosses all present and mingling). The "alienation" might also spring from the fact that most of my communication with these people for the past several years has been at a distance through the internet, through travel, etc. I've also been reaching out to socialize casually on the internet- the wisdom of which is very uncertain to me at this point.

I am lucky to have my cat! The panda growing out of her head mimics a pattern on the fur of her head and seems to be a wild, independent side to her that cannot be messed with or removed. Awww. I wouldn't want to in waking life! (although she does bite to wake me up very, very in the morning so she can eat fresh canned food. Maybe I wish that would stop).

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I take on a second job coloring in pictures of Darth Vader in order to take my mind off of my first job. (dream)

Image from Starwars.com

DREAM

I'm a cop. A murderer is on the loose in my City. It's my job to figure out who did it and who's next.

I have a hunch that the killer is someone close to me. I might just be getting paranoid. It's easy to feel that way when you've seen so many photographed remains of people with two arms, two legs and families like yours. There aren't enough differences in the world to convince me it could never happen to me or the people I care about. The City is big enough to hide in, but small enough for all of us to know each other by a networking distance of no more than five people. Everyone's been affected.

The culprit is male. He has to be at least 6 ft tall in order to execute the crimes he has with the techniques he's used on the bodies. There's an element of craving in the stabbings- an envy for the kind of intimacy most people achieve through legal means.

I haven't landed him, so I haven't been paid yet. I'll need a second job until I can solve the case. I'm reluctant to take another one on since this one is so important, but I'm worried enough about my finances and creature comforts to slink back to my old job and ask if I can have it back temporarily.

I'm lucky. As I walk through the double doors up to the counter, I find the right person- someone who knows how to reach the big boss.

A couple of minutes later, the big boss comes through the doors to see me in person. I'm surprised at how happy he is to see me and to have me working for him again. He's willing to work around my schedule and give me as many or as few hours as necessary to stave off the debt collectors. I need to spend the bulk of my day reading for this case and developing the tools I need to become a more effective investigator. There's no confusion between us about where my priorities lie. He's okay with that. After all, we both know it's a very simple job as far as jobs go. And I work cheap and we both know it.

I'm a meat machine doing simple tasks and holding people's hands. My mind is allowed to wander. After a couple weeks of this, I look back at what I've done during this absent-mindedness. I've drawn a little, but I've also spent a day or so coloring a page of Darth Vader climbing a ladder on a hill. And the ladder is leaning against a star at night.

Roseart crayons. I like that brand. I colored in that African landscape with Roseart crayons when I was 5, and the results were nice. 

I haven't changed much. I still feel a compulsive need to color boldly within the lines when I'm doing it for someone else. Even pressure, repeated layers of color bringing about higher or lower intensities (my dad brought that to my attention when I was about four) and realistic symbolic color. Darth Vader is black. The wooden ladder is brown. The night sky is navy blue. That is that. There's no question about the inappropriateness of coloring Darth Vader orange or the stars black.

I eat some of the kids' snacks and I watch them run around the lobby at work, playing tag. I look up now and then to keep making sure they don't get into trouble. Aside from that, my mind is free to consider what the killer is doing... how he's doing it... why he's doing it... who he is and when it's going to happen again.

INTERPRETATION

Hmmm! A hard-boiled detective coloring and babysitting and thinking while all the action is off-screen. I'm not sure this would make a very good treatment for a screenplay. Fortunately, dreams are not concerned with external conformity. Dreams are one of the few places left to be free without having to cut oneself off from the world and its material resources. They form one of the cores of life's pleasures. Career counselors always ask, "What do you enjoy doing on a day to day basis?" If I had things my way, I would dream, wake up, write it down, then roll over and dream again- at least until I ran out of material. I suppose I would, eventually, but we'll never know.

That said, I'm building up to a major turning point. Changing my location and then my educational and career goals has fundamentally changed many of my perspectives. This is reflected by the big case I have to figure out and the fact that I feel as though I need to take a break to stop, watch "kids," and color in the lines. College is often about coloring in the lines, and the children I watch playing at work symbolize my desire to watch how this subculture in California operates. The "kids" I'm observing are the ones having more fun at work than me, suggestive of watching the paths of the freshmen and sophomores here- although this definitely does not reflect all the students I've observed. I am behind the counter struggling to figure something out without making much progress, which suggests a sense of separation.

I'm not sure why Darth Vader or why he's leaning against a star. I don't know what he was doing up there. It was a very calm and happy picture. He was happy. I was happy. He was collecting stars like he was picking berries. Perhaps the act of coloring represents a need for more diffuse rather than focused thinking when trying to tackle problems I find difficult (a reflection of my new educational and career goals of the past year or two). In A Mind for Numbers, I'm reading about how task switching helps to encourage diffuse thinking, which needs to alternate between sessions of focused thinking in order to problem solve effectively.

Also, Vader represents a traditional sense of "evil," which I suppose I have always struggled to comprehend, as someone raised in a religious culture, though I can't say I believe in an objective, real evil. I view it as a cluster of thoughts and feelings we fear about ourselves most of the time. The average person expresses it in fiction- watching or making myths like Star Wars. But other times, as in the case of serial killing, yes, we feel a level of outrage at how much arbitrary pain one of us has put another through, that evil, known to us only by a subjective, deeply personal feeling, feels as though it must exist.

I'm still a doubter. I think strong feelings get in the way of solving problems optimally most of the time (at least they do for me), although they draw attention to problems and the need for their solutions, and they also assign a level of urgency to them. So I still don't know why Vader and the serial killer are present aside from the fact that most dreams will tend to extrapolate to negative possibilities. *shrug* Why not Vader. I saw him at the bus stop outside this workplace once. He was cool. He even came in and did a lightsaber demonstration for a birthday party. The dream might be recalling that from years ago! Maybe I wouldn't run out of dream material if I just slept all day for the next 50 years. ^_^