Monday, 22 June 2015

Dissected dream raises questions about nature of consciousness

Yesterday morning I had a remarkable dream, remarkable in the way the subconscious brain can create a hidden fact to be, unravelled in the future... The dream was so remarkable, so vivid, so memorable that as soon as I woke up from it, the first thing I did was to write it down, as accurately and in as much detail as possible, and e-mailed it to my brother Marek and daughter Moni.

We spend so much of our lives dreaming, and yet the study of dreams is a marginal pursuit. Maybe because other people's dreams are boring to us... so bear with me then!

I dreamt I was unloading some wooden crates of strawberries from a lorry on Ealing Common that had come from Poland as part of a campaign about recycling packaging materials, organised by PwC.

Suddenly, I'm in America, in a grand auditorium. There's a wide sweeping staircase, cream-coloured, curving clockwise; it's in a 1950s building. Crowds of well-dressed people walking up the stairs. I'm walking up with Tony, a mobster. My voice is doing a voice-over. It's saying "Tony could pull strings, but there were things about him I didn't like. I didn't like it when he bought us some beers, to show off. 'This is the most expensive beer in the world', he said. Nine hundred bucks a bottle, he exclaimed, loudly, so everyone at the bar could hear he'd just bought these bottles of beer for nine hundred bucks a bottle. I thanked him, tasted it - it tasted no different to a beer that costs a buck sixty-five.' Anyway, we're walking up the stairs to the auditorium. He slaps me on the back and tells me that I have the second-best singing voice in the world.

We get to our seats. They're about four or five rows from the front, on the left, next to the aisle. I feel uneasy, and I'm kinda looking for a way out. I tell Tony that I've got to go backstage and give a final lesson to the show's star. He looks disappointed, irritated. I get up and go through a door to the backstage area, but for some reason I stop to look back at him, through a round window with chromium surround, sitting there alone. I feel bad about the brusqueness of the way I just left. I have a few minutes in hand so I figure I'll just go back sit with him a while before I really do have to leave. 

So I go back, take the seat nearest the aisle. He asks to swap seats with me so that he's sitting nearest the aisle, and he gets talking. He's got this favor he wants to ask me. His younger sister's ready to go to the music academy this fall, he says. Tony wants me to ensure her a place there, using my connections. 'She's got the best singing voice in the world,' he tells me...

BANG! I wake up, in a state of amazement, the dream still totally fresh in my consciousness.

Now, when Tony said that my character had 'the second-best singing voice in the world', the dream was still unfolding. The previous dream narrative, into which this one seamlessly merged, about the strawberry crates on Ealing Common was a typical, regular type of dream I have; all the elements I'd been thinking about in preceding days. The strawberry season is on us; the garage is full of wooden crates and straw punnets, we do a lot of stuff with PwC on best practice. PAFF! Suddenly I'm elsewhere, a different character - an Italian-American singer/singing teacher in an American concert hall. I WAS the character, I was not, say, a writer, writing this down, nor a detached observer floating overhead.

So I could have had no idea about the punchline - that mobster Tony reckoned his sister had the world's best singing voice and was trying to get me to ensure her a place at the music academy with which I was connected.

What was going on in my brain as the story was developing? Was the sister already there, in my brain, at the moment that Tony slapped my character on the shoulder to tell him he had the world's second-best singing voice? If so, the punchline came as a complete surprise to me as I dreamt it. So much so, that the shock of it woke me up. I had no foreknowledge of it. Or was I replaying a train of thought that had already played out in someone else's brain? "Is Hashem telling me that Sy Ableman is me, or we are all one or something?"

Here we go into the quantum physics of what's going on within my consciousness. "You have the world's second-best singing voice," Tony tells me. After he said that, 1) we entered the auditorium; 2) we found our seats; 3) I felt I needed to get away from Tony and made my excuse; 4) I got to the door to the backstage area; 5) I look back at Tony and feel drawn to return; 6) Tony says he wants to sit nearer the aisle, we exchange seats; 7) AND THEN Tony tells me who he thinks has the world's best singing voice - his sister. This is incredible. I just didn't see it coming. The narrative was just so surprising, so anomalous, that it has made me question the way the sleeping mind works.

The detail, the un-me-ness of the dream's protagonist was strange in itself. I was someone other than me - me and my familiar baggage of complexes that I drag through the dream world. Someone reacting differently to how I would.

Now I'm not an avid watcher of mafia movies - I have seen the Godfather movies twice (back in the '70s and again six or seven years ago); I watched Goodfellas around the same time, the once; I've not seen Scarface or any of the Sopranos episodes, nor have I read any mafia novels, nor is Italian-American society something spend my time thinking about. My usual, day-to-day dreams include any amount of details I can put down to undigested thoughts from my waking life - but this - totally different.

And then there's the issue of the $900 bottles of beer. Well, that's contemporary. Out of interest I googled the world's most expensive beers and found (in 2013) bottles for $750 (Caulier Vielle Bon Secours) or $765 (Brew Dog's End of History). Neither, however, could possibly be mistaken for a beer costing a mere $1.65  a bottle (the price is right for imported beers in the US today, Amstel, Heineken, for instance, or a US-brewed craft beer). Could it possibly be that I picked up thoughts from another human being? Weird.

I'd be very interested in a more rational explanation!

This time two years ago:
Baszta - local legend round these parts

This time four years ago:
Downhill all the way to December

This time five years ago:
What do I want for Poland

This time six years ago:
Summer holiday starts drizzly

This time seven years ago:
Israeli Air Force Boeing 707 visits Okęcie

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