Friday, February 03, 2006


Existential Friday: To Dream the Improbable Dream

"Why should we expect of ourselves the impossible, when all we need do is achieve the improbable?"

Last night I dreamed this line. I was speaking with a young man who was permanently injured and would never play ice hockey again, which made me incredibly sad. I asked him how he got injured, and he said that he was a Fidelista in the Cuban revolution. The quote was something Fidel Castro had said.

I don't know if Castro, or anyone for that matter, actually ever said that.* But it's catchy isn't it? I think my dream mind made it up. I wonder what that means?

Janelle recently blogged about recurring dreams, seeking interpretations of her recurring dream in which her teeth break, fall out, or turn to mush. The "Dream Dictionary" she consulted gave her a fatuous suggestion: maybe she is "chewing something over." That made me think of cheesy fortune-tellers who stare at your palm or the tarot cards, or the crystal ball or whatever, and say sonorously: "You have ... concerns... serious, concerns."

I do recall Freud's Interpretation of Dreams saying something to the effect that people do sometimes dream in puns (like chewing over something), and we do dream in hokey, obvious symbols. I'll confess that I've frequently dreamed about being unable to pull the trigger of a gun or to aim it. Or, else the gun barrell just goes limp. (I wonder what that means?)

Many people seem to want their dreams to be capable of foretelling the future, or receiving visitations from the spirits of the dead, or other magical things. But why should it be disappointing if dreams are nothing more than shrouded glimpses into our own suppressed thoughts? Isn't there something magical about a fogged window into your soul?

I consider myself lucky when it comes to dreams. While I don't typically remember the details of my dreams once I awaken, I do recall the awareness that I did dream and, if this is possible, feel aware of the experience of dreaming while it's happening. And I say this touching wood, but I rarely have truly unpleasant dreams. They're not often wish fulfillment dreams, either, but they're often interesting and sometimes, like my recurring tidal wave dreams, redolent of an action-adventure tale. The overall effect is that when I drift off to sleep I feel like I'm about to go to the movies.

*A quick Google search failed to turn up anything closer than this: "The impossible often has a kind of integrity which the merely improbable lacks." --Douglas Adams The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, courtesy of The Quote Lady.

Didn't Christopher Reeve say that? Or something like it. I think I read it on one of those "Successories" motivational posters.
Ouch! Now that you mention it, it does sound more "successory" than clever...
What a cool dream! I like your dream quote. It's poetic.

Christopher Reeves seemed too wooden to come up with such a succulent quote as yours. I googled him and found his quote:
So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.
I've only had it once--several months ago--but in your tidal wave dream, does it wash over you, yet instead of panic when it hits you out of nowhere, as you'd expect, you feel incredibly calm?

I would love to know how to tell the difference between the impossible and the improbable. I recall several examples that depended on the duration of time in the frame of reference. (Things that were impossible at one time, then became improbable, and vice versa.) Wild stuff!
Thanks, Janelle. Yeah, my quote does have a certain, I don't know, ironic twist or something. I feel much better now.

JLP -- in my tidal wave dream, I usually manage to get to higher ground. There's a really goofy movie called "Deep Impact" where some of the characters get to higher ground to escape a tidal wave -- eerily like some versions of my dream.
I used to keep a dream diary. I had some pretty wild and vivid dreams. Sometimes I'll come up with really good story ideas. But one time, I dreamed that I was writing my entry in my dream diary; and the dream curved in on iteslf 3 times, each time I thought I woke up and wrote in the diary, and each time the description got terser and terser until I was just writing down 3 keywords. Then I woke up and forgot what those keywords were, and all the dreams on top of them. Only the dream to keep me from waking was left.
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