07 May 2007

Haunted Dreams

Every once and a while, maybe once every several years, you get one of those dreams that lingers with you long into the morning, long after the details are gone. This morning was one of those days. Sometime after falling back asleep at 3 a.m. after awakening for no particularly good reason in the middle of the night, and the mad rush of getting the kids to school by 8 a.m. that starts a little more than an hour earlier, came one of those dreams.

My wife noticed I was a bit out of sorts, not all that unusual for me as I am definitely not a morning person. I described it to her as being haunted by a dream in which I was up close to a pogrom in what seemed like contemporary small town America. I don't know if pogrom is really the right word -- I wasn't consciously aware of which group was being attacked or why precisely the attacks were being carried out. But, it was a mass extermination effort directed at a group of people by an angry semi-organized, but not government-directed mob. In the dream, I was neither oppressed nor oppressor, maybe a friend of a victim, I'm not sure. But, it was up close and personal. It was dark. Homes were burning. Worse things were implied or taken in by sound or smell, rather than sight. People were fleeing into trees or a swamp or both. It had started innocently enough, a gathering of friends reminiscing for an evening, and somehow, the horrors swirled into being happened upon somehow, maybe upon a return to a friend's home.

More than three hours later, I can still feel the echoing emotions, although almost all of the details have thankfully, faded away in the piercing daylight.

Where do these dreams come from? Why? Some interesting recent scientific studies have show that sleep helps people teases out distant, hidden relationships involving information they've recently encountered, without them even knowing that they've done so.

Dreams are fascinating and also, indeed perhaps because they are, obscure.

While I am a die-hard skeptic by and large, I've had a small number of deja vous experiences that have seemed at the time as if they were preceded by prescient dreams. But, they have never been consequential -- the longest episode what a high school economics lecture where I felt sure that I knew exactly what words the teacher was going to say, and just how he was going to say them, a little in advance, all though the lecture. Most have been brief and even less consequential.

I feel at the time as if I remember having dreamed the moments before, despite the fact that they often, maybe even usually, involve people that I didn't know at the time I think I dreamed them in unforeseeable circumstances -- prosaic interactions at a job I hadn't even applied for at the time, for example. Usually, the moments feel as if I dreamed them a few months to a few years prior.

If my perceptions were accurate, it are a fascinating proof of principal and of the nature of the universe, but practically they are completely useless. The vast majority of my dreams never manifest and almost all of them are swiftly forgotten. I have never acted on such a dream, never even had enough context to make any sense of one.

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