Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dreams of the Holiday Season

christmas dreams
christmas dreams (Photo credit: D Petzold Photography)
         When I think of Christmas-specific dreams, my thoughts go back to dreams of childhood.  I cannot recall offhand any dreams about Christmas in my adult years, but I do recall having Christmas related dreams when I was a child.

          My Christmas dreams when I was a child were those of wishing for things that I wanted to find on Christmas morning or more ambiguous discoveries of unexpected things that were equally delightful.  Christmas dreams were never bad dreams.   Those dreams were sleep experiences that would leave me feeling happy, hopeful, and excited about things to come or things that could be.  Dreams related to New Year were more disconcerting.

Two Examples of Holiday Season Dreams:

         One example that I remember came when I was about eleven years of age after I had begun collecting stamps.  I was passionate about the hobby at that time and I would look forward to receiving packets of foreign stamps as part of my Christmas bounty.  In one dream I was in the dining room of the house where we lived.  The house in the dream was bigger and the larger dining room was positioned differently than our actual dining room.   I reached under the table into one of the corners and discovered a cache of stamps that began pouring out into my hands and onto the floor.  I was elated by the philatelic treasure trove that I had discovered.   After awakening I checked beneath our dining room table to find out if any stamps were really there.  Of course they were not, but still the dream left me feeling happy.

       Somewhere around that same time I recall having a dream related to New Years that left me with a more apprehensive feeling.  In this dream I was outside in a neighborhood not far from the one where we were living at the time in San Diego, California.   This was a neighborhood that I recognized but was mostly unfamiliar with.   I had an awareness that it was midnight.  There was a verge of New Years revelry that was overshadowed by a sense that the world was ending.  I looked up at a sky that appeared to be churning with clouds that were illuminated with an internal fire.  I was fearful, yet awestruck.

Here Is How I Interpret the Difference:

       Christmas and New Year are both times of expectations.   Since the Christmas event is related to looking forward to receiving material possessions, there is usually little fear involved and a greater sense of hope.  Past experience construes previous gifts received and good times had related to that day.  Happy thoughts abound.   The Christmas dreams relate to some things unknown and things that are often probabilities, but they are all things that we believe will be happy things.  The Christmas dreams will frequently reflect that belief that we have within us.

        The New Year anticipates what will hopefully be good for us, but what might also bode darkly.  This is the beginning of an entire year that could consist of bad and good.  There is not much in concrete material things that we relate to the concept of a year.   The year is primarily related to a series of events.  We may have been hearing of the previous year's events, many which may have been bad and frightening.  Predictions may be offered of things to come and sometimes those things don't sound so good.

         In the early 1960's when I had the dreams related here, we were in a time of Cold War with the threat of impending nuclear war ever looming on the horizon.  I was not terrified, but interested in what was going on and fascinated by the possibilities of what could happen.   I was aware of Biblical prophesies and my favorite entertainment was any film that was  post-apocalyptic or dealing with effects of mutations resulting from nuclear energy or other sources.  My darker dreams of that period reflect not being afraid as much as being curious about where the world was going.

         Have you had any dreams specifically influenced by the holidays?   If so, have you noticed any difference in dreams related to one holiday or another?   How would you suppose dreams might differ in children from one decade to the next?  Do you ever have dreams that seem to reflect apocalyptic visions?


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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dream Movies to See: Waking Life

Cover of "Waking Life"
Cover of Waking Life
           Many movies include dream sequences used for various dramatic effects, but far fewer are movies strictly about dreaming.  The movies that are built around the topic of dreaming are usually far-fetched fantasies, mind-bending horror tales, or science-fiction/speculative studies of the dream world.

           Then there is Waking Life, a 2001 film by Richard Linklater.   Waking Life is a remarkable film on many levels.  Not to be merely passed off as a cartoon for adults, Linklater's film was actually shot on digital video using live actors and then given the animated appearance through a process called rotoscope, where the frames are drawn over and colored in.  This process creates a visual that is a very disorienting fluid look.  The result is a wonderfully fanciful dreamscape.

           There is limited plot to the film.  Basically the main character wanders from scene to scene meeting up with an assortment of characters with whom he carries on a variety of conversations that cover topics such as philosophy, religion, politics, and the very nature of dreaming life versus waking life.  As the film progresses, the unidentified main character tries to figure out whether he is dreaming or not and eventually tries to find a way to escape the ongoing dream in which he feels trapped.  The basic story is comparable to a Twilight Zone episode.

           This a talking film--little in the way of action, but a lot of very interesting discussion.   Waking Life almost comes across as a sort of documentary about ideas and theories.  In a sense the film seems like a college catalog where we are given overviews of course topics.   Many of the characters are actually real life philosophers, authors, and other academics expressing some of the ideas for which they are known.

           I've watched this film a number of times and probably will watch it many more.  For me, the film never gets boring as the concepts presented can stimulate some deep thinking.  I still haven't comprehended everything the characters in the film are trying to convey in their discourses.  One idea is touched upon and then the scene moves on to another.  It's a relatively short film that moves quickly because of the pace of flowing from scene to scene.

           The soundtrack is outstanding.  Mostly tango influenced, probably because the music is performed by a tango ensemble that consists of a string quartet, an accordion, and keyboard.  The music is appealing and what could be accurately described as haunting.  This is one of my favorite soundtracks.

           Waking Life presents the most accurate film recreation of what a dream is like, from the look of the film to the conversations in the dialog to the disorienting effect of the complete experience.  This could be one of my dreams.

            If you are willing to take the 90 minute journey and don't require constant action, you might enjoy Waking Life.   I find it to be intellectually stimulating and a learning experience--or at least a thinking experience.  It could be great fun for viewing with family or friends who like to discuss what they've seen.  I encourage you to try it out.  Let me know what you think of the film if you watch it.

          Have you seen Waking Life?   What did you think?    Can you think of any other films that deal strictly with the process of dreaming, the nature of the mind, and the philosophy of existence?  


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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Continuity of Dream Settings

waterfall (Photo credit: 3sth3r)
A recent dream...

       I seem to be on vacation perhaps with a tour group.  Some of the people in the group I know, while there are others who are not familiar to me.   We are traveling in a bus or some similarly large vehicle.  

       Where my clearer memory of the dream begins, our group stops at a small town where we disembark and begin a walking tour.  At first I think we are in Kansas, but the very large mountains not too far away indicate otherwise.  I am sure this is not Kansas.  I am puzzled as to why I was convinced that it was and try to figure out where we are.

       The town is very quiet and very few townspeople can be seen.  Our tour group walks through the town.  The place seems familiar to me.   We suddenly come to a huge opening in the ground which I first think is a canyon.  A sort of waterfall cascades below into the depths of this place.  As I study the scene I note that the waterfall and the entire opening appears to be man-made as though it had once been a massive open pit mine.  There is much lush greenery in this chasm and this makes me think that if it were an open-pit mine, it has been out of use for quite some time.  To get a better few of the "waterfall" I go to another part of the chasm rim which is very grassy and wet.   The ground looks very unstable so I back away so as not to fall into the chasm.  I realize that despite the beauty of the appearance, this place is very hazardous.

         Our group now begins to return to the town and the tour vehicle.  We now seem to be in the hallway of my mothers house making our way to our destination.   At first the hallway seems to be very normal, but then it seems to be quite long.    There are rooms with open doors to my left.  I look in the first room and see  that there is an older person in a bed.   As I continue I don't look directly into any of the other rooms, but out of the corner of my field of vision I can see all of the rooms have old people in beds.  This seems to be a hospital or a retirement home.   To my right, the wall is opened to the outside where I can see the chasm and the distant mountains which tower against a blue sky with wintry white cloud puffs hanging over snow-capped peaks.

          We are suddenly in the town again walking toward the tour vehicle.  

          At this point I awaken, puzzled by the dream.  For some reason a country song is running through my mind.  It seems to be related to the dream or inspired by it.   It's almost like I was hearing the song in the dream as I was waking up.  Since it's a good sounding song I intend to write it down, but I don't and soon it is lost to me.   I realize this dream seemed to jump from scene to scene rather than have a logical continuity of movement.  

Sudden Dream Setting Changes:  Why Do They Occur?

          The sudden shift in setting is a common occurrence among dreamers.  What I refer to is the effect of being in one place and then suddenly another without any apparent reason for the change in location.  Often the dreamer may notice the change, but accept it to be something normal.  Sometimes the dreamer's mind may wonder about the scene shift, but rarely does the dreamer make note of the change or protest the change in any way.  The occurrence is merely an accepted part of the dream environment.

           Typically this scene shift will happen as the dreamer is en route from one location to another.  In this case it may be an abbreviation of dream time of sorts in order to move the transition more rapidly within the dream events.   At other occasions the dreamer may be in a place and the scene will just suddenly change without any sort of act of travel.

           Why would this shift occur?   As stated above, this may be an abbreviation of time within the dream to move the action along at a quicker pace.  Then again, considering that the dream is most likely a form of subconscious thought, the shift may be nothing more than a distraction in the sense of changing one's train of thought, free association, or being misdirected by stimuli from another source.  It may be the mind working as it normally does.

             On the other hand, the shift could be an illusion of memory.  Perhaps after waking we only think there were sudden shifts because we are remembering with a fault.  We vividly recall the highlights, but the details have faded.   Compare the dream experience to a sequence of events in waking life--a vacation say, or a day at work.   While we were actually experiencing the time our minds would focus on things of greater interest while minimizing the data that seemed unimportant or of little interest to us.  Later, upon recollection or recounting the events to another, we would draw only upon highlights and in doing so the timeline might sometimes appear to jump from one scene or circumstance to another.

            For me the latter explanation is credible.  However, I would tend to believe the theory of the dream as thought to be the better explanation.  Since dreaming seems to be primarily a mental process, it's seems logical that the mind would work in similar ways in sleep as it would in wakefulness.

           What do you think?   Why would dream scenes suddenly change during a dream?  Are our dreams like a magic and illusion show, full of smoke and mirrors and misdirection?    Have you had the time/scene shift experience in your dreams?   How about in real life?


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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Do You Have Nightmares?

Allan Gray (Nicolas de Gunzburg) finds a coffi...
Allan Gray (Nicolas de Gunzburg) finds a coffin containing himself in a dream sequence. Modern critics praise this sequence as one of the most memorable sequences from Vampyr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
          The dream sequence is a literary device commonly used in film for creating tension, foreshadowing, revealing back story, analyzing character personality, and developing other aspects of story or character exposition.  Occasionally the dreams are thrown in for comic relief or just plain weirdness.

            Usually the dream sequence is a small part of the film that may occur with the character either sleeping or daydreaming.  In some films such as Wizard of Oz the dream is essentially the story.  Conversely, in a film like Inception the story is about the dreams and concerns the process of dreaming.

            Probably the most common use of dreams in films is the nightmare.  A character will have a dream that will cause them to awaken in terror accompanied by sweating or screaming or both.  This night terror will typically have something to do with a frightening aspect of the story and be directed to scaring the film viewer.

            I can't immediately recall ever having a absolutely terrifying nightmare like those often depicted in film.   The most frightening dreams I've had have generally been related to some undefined and unseen sense of terror that is not accompanied by any distinct visual that is inherently scary.  In most cases these types of dreams will cause me to awaken in silence or with a start, after which I remain awake for a period of time feeling dread, anger, confusion, or sadness.

             My dreams with scary visuals or themes tend to be more like nighttime entertainment as though I am watching a horror or suspense film in my sleep.  If I do awaken, I will frequently return immediately to sleep in order to continue viewing the dream, sometimes with the intent of directing the dream to change the bad outcome the dream had been seeming to take.   Dreams rarely terrify me, but usually they are just strange.

             Do you tend to have terrible nightmares?    Is there something in particular that seems to trigger these frightening dreams?   How do you cope with night terrors?   What types of things do you dream about that you find to be so scary?

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