Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Eyes Wide Shut

Like an elite athlete struggling to recover from invasive surgery, I have yet to reacclimate myself to my dreams. A psychic injury, of sorts, entirely ended what had been, until then, a vibrant, lucid dreamlife, one that made an adventure of virtually every night and every (rare) catnap. Science tells me I must have dreamt. And so the injury did not deprive me of my dreams, but rather deprived me only of my lucidity within them and my recollection of them in the cocooned in the muslin of morning.

Recovery has been slow, faltering, incremental. Now I remember at least some of my dreams upon waking, and I not infrequently awaken to them from within. The control I once enjoyed -- making of each dreamscape an amusement park, or at least a new city to be explored -- has been long in returning, however, and I regret my continuing inability to mold each subconscious island into a playground of my own design.

Lucid dreaming is something that should come with practice and effort, conventional wisdom has it, and there are any number of suggested techniques for achieving greater lucidity to and control in one's dreams. In my case, I benefited from chatty, whimsical parents, who fixated on the idea for a spell when I was relatively young. Simply listening to them illuminated its possibilities, and at some time in adolescence, with no real effort applied, I began to awaken to my dreams with some regularity with a host of results. Slowly, I developed the ability to manipulate my nocturnal sojourns to suit my mood and my fancy.

Now, I would estimate, I awaken to about a third of the dreams I recall upon waking, and so I am returned to a state more endemic to my youth, when dreams could be fearful occasions. I've only had a handful of nightmares sufficiently vivid to have stayed with me, and very few since adulthood. I almost never exert the god-like control I once took for granted, however, an elementary reminder of my subjugation to my own implacable hardwiring, how fragile things are that a finite episode has changed things so inexorably, even many months after its passage.

Now, I often awake aware that I have dreamed an epic, which I recall only in fragments. A couple of early mornings ago, I found myself shackled to a long story of a devising wholly removed from any conscious effort or contribution, a ride I had not asked to take and could not readily end. At one point I woke entirely, somewhat breathless and tired with the odyssey, only to fall quickly asleep and continue where I left off.

In a last segment of the dream before waking for good, perhaps twenty minutes before my alarm was set to go off, I found myself face to face, through prison bars, with the dark almond-shaped eyes of a beautiful young woman. She looked Japanese to me, but I struggle to distinguish one far eastern ethnicity one from another so she might have been imagined with the features of a different heritage (an interesting question lurks here regarding whether my subconscious could have given her the features of a discrete ethnicity when my conscious mind would struggle to explain what suggests one background over another, but that's nothing I need to get into here).

I remember only that our eyes' silent meeting was fraught with meaning for both of us, a caesura in the drang of all that had transpired around us, but beyond that context eludes me as it has since I woke that morning. The oddity of the moment, however, was that as I stood there, still, returning her stare, I had the entirely dissonant experience of meeting her wide steady eyes with my own while another part of me, a thin rope of connection, reached back into this world to feel the tight press of my shut eyelids asleep in my bed. I wasn't necessarily lucid to the dream as such; perhaps if I had been the sensation would have been less discomfiting. Rather, I had the irreconcilable experience of my eyes being both as open and shut as they ever are at the same time.

Paralleling this disconcerting duality, I woke from that scene at once happy to be of one mind and sorry I couldn't have followed the dream further to resolve it in the dream world where resolution once came so readily.

Each night I go to sleep hoping things have returned to what used to be normal. That hope, the prospect of control, used to be self-fulfilling. Now it appears not to be enough.


Anonymous May said...

The title of this post made me think of Kubrick's movie and of the two actors that play the protagonists: I dislike both of them, not as actors but as people. I guess it sounds arrogant, according to common thinking, to express an opinion about strangers (I don't care, I will go on judging people by my sixth sense).
The movie could have been much better too. It seems difficult to transpose good ideas into a movie. I can think of many examples of when I was deceived by the simplification of reality.

I am afraid that this has little to do with the content of your post...

11:41 AM  
Blogger Moon said...

of course, i knew the title of the post would evoke the movie, amd i tried to think of something else but it just fit the post so perfectly.

i guess i disagree with you about EWS, you and the vast majority of american film critics, although a couple ultimately took favorable positions. and although much of my fondness for it came from everything kubrickian about it, i also thought cruise and kidman, the leads, were splendid in their roles, their private troubles (their incipient real-life divorce) spilling provocatively onto the screen.

critics complained that they were flat, incredible. i thought their coldness was entirely intended by kubrick, and that their affectlessness simply reflected the limbo at which their characters had arrived, paralyzed, confused, horrifyingly lonely.

of course, i'm a sucker for kubrick, and i knew going in to see the film that it was to be his last, so maybe i was too kind. that said, i thought the film was in many ways the apotheosis of thematic explorations he'd been making through his filmmaking career, that it asked the same BIG QUESTIONS his other works had, even if answers continued to elude him.

12:14 PM  
Anonymous May said...

You make that movie seem more interesting than I thought it was when I saw it. I was able to recognize the reference to some "big questions" but I wished that they had been treated on a more complex level. Perhaps you will talk about it more extensively in one of your future posts and I will appreciate it more than I have done so far.

I was disappointed also when I saw other movies potentially interesting like "The Truman Show", "American Beauty", "The Stepford Wives".

1:00 PM  
Anonymous purple.puppies said...

I too have woken from a dream and been able to continue it apon falling back to sleep.
I wonder if you can explain something for me. I haven't seen my kids for over a year. At first I was still able to play with them in my sleep through dreams.
For the last several months I am unable to dream about them at all. Why not?

12:34 AM  

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