…and Lethe-wards had sunk

Detail from the Christ Church facade, Oxford

An attempt at a brain-reviving nap this evening turned, surprisingly, into several hours of lucid dreaming. Anyone who has experienced the phenomenon, in which you become the author of the dreams which you know that you are having, can attest to how empowering and enjoyable it is. You can shift yourself anywhere in the world, instantly, redesign mountain ranges, and generally have any level of influence upon that internal world you desire. The result is about as distinct from the paralysis of earthly restrictions as anything can possibly be. The whole experience was also peppered with false awakenings, during which I felt as though I could very actively plan out what would happen during the next stage of sleep: where it would occur, who – if anyone – would be present, and whether elements of multiple places would be combined or overlaid upon each other.

Sleep and dreaming remain among the more incompletely understood of mental phenomenon. Theories exist regarding its importance – everything from a simulation designed to prepare people for future traumas to a system by which memories are sorted and consolidated – but I don’t think any definitive answer has come out of cognitive psychology. When you think about it, it certainly seems odd for creatures to spend a good fraction of their lives immersed in a kind of hallucination. This may be especially true because of the dangers of items ‘bleeding over’ from dreams into the stock of what you consider to be legitimate memories. There have certainly been many occasions in which I have had conversations in dreams and then believed, at least for a while, that they had actually occurred. Doubtless, there are some such that I never cozied on to the artificiality of. In particular, I seem to dream of conversations with those with whom I rarely actually speak: Kate, Linnea, Alison, etc. That is pleasant enough, though it may implant artificial memories and ideas about them.

All that said, I am off to make a running leap at one of the piles of reading strewn about my room. If I can read effectively until 1:00am, then sleep until 9:00am, I will have laid the foundation for re-building my sleep schedule: a real necessity if I am to be a productive human being in the days between now and September 6th, when I am returning to Vancouver.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

3 thoughts on “…and Lethe-wards had sunk”

  1. My friend Patti has lucid dreams almost every night and she draws them in her journal. As she is an artist, she can do this fast. She has gone to a number of therapists and has had all sorts of interpretations. There are many books written about the significance of different types of dreams and past-life regression therapists feel that they may take us back to experiences that we have had in other lives. My best dreams are when I can soar effortlessly into the sky.

  2. Dreams are always a touchy thing to describe: mostly because many of the people who concern themselves intensely with them are such wackos. It’s a shame, because I am sure some excellent science could be done on them.

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