Freud on dreams: for some reason I find myself drawn to this topic, at this moment. Maybe it’s that nightmare, night before last, in which a solicitous stranger unexpectedly produced a weapon and began pelting me with painless coiled darts. Or maybe the repeated spousal reports of snoring, the recent incident of nocturnal laughter, etc. Is that all supposed to mean something?
“No real progress in a definite direction is as yet discernible” in deciphering dreams and their possible meanings, wrote Freud. But he was sure they weren’t just meaningless static, either. “Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy.” So the trick is to unlock the symbolic mystery. Except when the cigar is just a cigar. How to tell? Write ’em down in a journal, say the experts, and maybe you can begin to write your own lucid slumbering stories. But I agree with Sara: the great enchantment of dreaming is the element of surprise, and of promise.
So I prefer my daydreams, which for the most part involve neither snoring nor suggestive imagery. (Never mind what’s supposed to be on a man’s mind, according to Freud.) They’re about possible futures, not a troubled and traumatic past. Freud appreciated them too, when he wasn’t obsessing over stogies and caves and such. As Maria Popova notes,
[A] piece of creative writing, like a day-dream, is a continuation of, and a substitute for, what was once the play of childhood.
Or as Bobby Kennedy quoted G.B. Shaw, “I dream things that never were and ask, why not?” That’s what dreams are really good for: expanding our comprehension of what might be possible, for playful spirits of every age.
Some worry that technology is killing our capacity to dream. Here’s a TED Talk with a different perspective on that:
“To sleep, perchance to dream”: Hamlet may have been tired of life, but the deepest dreamers dream of the life still to come. I’ll take Michael Chabon’s “Omega Glory” over T.C. Boyle’s council of doom any day. Or night. I still wish I’d said this:
If you have children, I don’t see how you can fail to do everything in your power to ensure that you win your bet, and that they, and their grandchildren, and their grandchildren’s grandchildren, will inherit a world whose perfection can never be accomplished by creatures whose imagination for perfecting it is limitless and free.
Yes, we’re dreaming. Of course we are. Maybe that’s what it really means to be alive.