Lessons Learned / Mike Turpin
I am wandering the hallways of my high school dressed only in my underwear. My best friend walks by asking me telepathically, "Where have you been all semester? We have the calculus final today!"
I dodge in and out of shallow doorways and across cold pavement to find my locker. I have forgotten the combination. I am a dead man. No graduation. No college. No job. My life is ruined.
I wake up in a cold sweat with the moon streaming through the bedroom window. I shuffle toward the kitchen while the cat trails affectionately underfoot mistakenly thinking it is time for breakfast. I open the refrigerator and sigh, a pathetic figure cast in pale light. It was only a dream.
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Each night between the witching hours of 2 and 6 a.m., average people are transported through a subconscious rabbit hole and across a bizarre kaleidoscope of disconnected faces, symbols and places. The results range from the comical to the terrifying. Some dreamers journey back in time to face old demons or attempt to amend unresolved conflicts. Others boast of encounters with random celebrities. Some profess X-Men superpowers -- flying at breakneck speeds or deploying telekinesis to move objects with their thoughts.
There is the classic "Groundhog Day" dream where one wakes up, relieved to be free from their early morning incubus, only to fall asleep and have the dream pick up where they left off. The most terrifying dreams are "chase dreams" where someone is pursuing you -- perhaps an insurance salesman or someone from the Tea Party. I recall a nightmare featuring a buck-toothed girl who had stalked me in elementary school informing me that we had just been married. As I fled the church, she started chasing me on a Big Wheel. I could not seem to outrun her but was finally able to will myself awake. If my wife had sat up in bed at that precise moment with false buckteeth saying, "What's up doc?" she would be collecting now on my life insurance.
Lately, I have been having some wild dreams. Perhaps it is anxiety associated with my eldest going off to college or the post traumatic stress associated with Irene. I keep dreaming the Levco guy is filling my house with chocolate milk -- which is annoying because I am lactose intolerant. Another dream has me dressed up like Dorothy from the "Wizard of Oz" and someone keeps shouting, "It's a micro-burst, it's a micro-burst!" When I correct him and say, "No, you mean tornado," he turns to me and angrily chastises me. "It's bad for business to say `tornado.' We use the term `micro-burst.' It's better for property values."
I am uncertain if my nightly visits to the Twilight Zone are caused by unresolved conflict, odd midnight eating habits or an overactive imagination. My mother used to have an expression for the kind of dream where you woke up saying, "What the hell was that?" She simply called it a "pizza dream."
Pizza dreams are not all bad. Some people have made a fortune off their dreams and hallucinations. Jack Nicklaus, struggling with his golf game, had a vivid midnight vision where he was striking the ball with an unconventionally short, modified swing. He awoke and tried the swing successfully on the golf range which resulted in a marked improvement in his game. Samuel Coleridge wrote his famous "Kubla Kahn" after waking up from a drug-induced dream. Mary Shelley, along with husband Percy and Lord Byron, was housebound in a Swiss castle during a violent storm and agreed to a competition with the famous writers over who could tell the most frightening ghost story. After retiring to nap (and consuming a hallucinogenic), she awoke with a vision of a creature so terrifying that it literally induced her to question the essence of Man and God. No, it was not Sarah Palin. It was a creature grafted out of cadaver body parts -- purloined by grave robbers in the dead of night -- nope, it wasn't Ron Paul or Barney Frank, either. It was Frankenstein. (P.S. she won the bet!)
As a child who had more nightmares than Stephen King, my new age mother tried to explain to me that dreams were subconscious fields and mental alleyways where humans tried to work through our anxieties or mental struggles. My mother was always curious about the strange films playing in the midnight theaters of our minds. She expressed great interest in our nocturnal adventures, considering our forays into the unknown as potential "out-of-body" experiences known as "astral flight" to deep struggles of conscience known as "guilt."
Our Age of Aquarius mother read countless books on dream interpretation -- from Freud, Jung and Cayce to the interpretations of Native American shamans. Each Sunday, we were forced at gunpoint to church by our father, only to come home and struggle to reconcile the sacred and the profane of Western Christianity and new age spiritualism. Our mother explained that the Bible was filled with examples where God would choose to appear to individuals in dreams and through these encounters convey a divine message. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians considered dreams as omens and harbingers of great importance. Each society and religion maintained a social order where those who could decipher the hieroglyphics of dreams -- elders, medicine men, oracles and sages were raised to positions of prestige and power.
Freud asserted that each of us possesses a subconscious, Id, and the conscious, Super Ego. These irresistible forces of hidden desire (teenagers) regularly clash each night with the immovable objects of temporal restraint (parents). As the mind works through these physical and emotional challenges, it paints mental canvases more complex and bizarre than any created by Picasso or Chagall.
Unlike Freud, Jung did not seek to interpret dreams as tangled sexual symbols requiring therapeutic intervention. Jung considered dreams a collateral universe where the subconscious mind worked furiously over problems, unresolved issues, philosophical conundrums and latent desires.
There are many who consider dreams a highway to the paranormal, a lonely road to another dimension of our existence -- one that happens just outside of our mind's eye. Rod Serling called it the "Twilight Zone." Ray Bradbury called it "October Country." Alien abductions, spiritual guidance, premonitions, past lives and psychopompic events (encounters with deceased loved
ones ) have all been documented through dreams. Lincoln was said to have a clear premonition 10 days before his own assassination where he dreamed of mourners and a corpse in the East Wing of the White House. A soldier informed him that the shrouded figure was " the body of the President, killed by an assassin."
In 1961, a dream researcher's case study quickly turned into perhaps the most credible case of alien abduction ever documented. A Canadian couple, Betty and Barney Hill, returning from holiday in New Hampshire, began to experience health problems and terrifying nightmares. When hypnosis revealed identical stories of an alien abduction and medical experiments, while driving along lonely US Highway 3, dream specialists were dispatched to investigate. Betty Hill's nightmares never ceased and graphically included minute details of a medical procedure conducted by her abductors that included the unheard of description of a needle that was inserted into her belly button. The fantastical medical procedure that she so accurately shared under hypnosis is now commonly recognized as a routine process to withdraw eggs for purposes of in vitro fertilization. (OK, this is usually where "Twilight Zone" music plays.)
Whether you see dreams as a disjointed, meaningless theatre of the absurd or a clash between the temporal and unknown, the subconscious mind is the last wilderness of our generation. Dreams can portend events like Nostradamus or haunt us for past sins like a relentless Javert. Like so many other invisible psychic sinews that bind us, we are linked by our fascination with these odd subconscious episodes and bonded by the common phenomena of waking up back in high school in our underwear.
We have also concluded that we must, at all costs, avoid eating pizza after 11 at night.
Check out Mike Turpin's blog at usturpin.wordpress.com.