Sunday, 1 May 2011

Dream wisdom

I teach computer graphics for a living. Among the many lessons I give to my students, I explain how to create a structural map of an object by defining all of the points essential to its definition. To do this, one must identify each location where a surface changes, and put a point there. Then, one must connect these points correctly. If you get this wrong, instead of getting a beautiful 3D car, you can instead create a tangled mess of yarn. If you have the edge pattern built properly, then you need to define whether the edges that pass through it are smooth as the enter and as they exit, if they enter one way and exit another, or if they are hard. This is the difference between the smooth curves on a fender or the sometimes sharp edge that creases its way through a door. All of these things come down to the node network, the lattice of points that the entire structure is built from. Every one of the elements is essential, and it is the specific combination of these things that combine to create, for instance, an Aston-Martin or a Ford Mustang.

I had a dream recently that mentioned these lessons in an unexpected way. In the dream, a spirit guide explained that the events of a life can be pleasant or difficult. They can be soft or hard, like the edges in an edge network from one of the assignments I give my students. Our lives contain many events, like the nodes in the network. Each of these events, regardless of their incoming and outgoing connections, is integral to the final shape of the life, just as the nodes in a well-made structural node network are essential to the integrity of the vehicle design they represent.

It may be that an experience appears to be superfluous, but if it is taken away, that portion of the life, or something connected to it that we cannot see, will collapse. In the same way, there may be things in our life that we would add because we want to and there seems to be no purpose to leaving them out. However, adding such things affects the elegance of the overall node pattern, by introducing new pathways that must connect to each new node. So if we have a life where there appears to be no difference between owning a car and not owning a car (for instance), it may be that owning a car complicates the life we have come to live in unanticipated ways. Perhaps it is not a matter of money, or of knowing how to drive, but that if we have the car, we must meet different people. Those new nodes must now be added to the overall pattern of our life. The new connections can mar the perfection of its original design, so for some, this will not be. For others, those connections may be essential to the purpose of that life, to fulfill those objectives that must be fulfilled, and the car will be bought, and driven, and done with what must be done.

Our lives, the spirit guide told me, are just like that node network I teach to my students, except we do not act upon these nodes and edges, they are already there for us, just as my students must reverse engineer a node network from an existing car. We may not ordinarily see the pattern of our life, but it is there just as much as it is present in any vehicle, though invisible and in plain sight at the same time. Therefore, he encouraged me, the hard times are just as important and necessary as the easy times, and both are to be accepted as the sweet and the spice required for this dish, for this design to be realized to its fullest extent. Do not grudge the difficulties, because they have a purpose.



  1. Mr. P:

    Is it your sense that most people believe or feel that they dream? There was a time when I would quickly answered "yes" to this question; but when I talk about my own dreams I often don't sense that others dream so much. Now, when I say "talk about my own dreams" I'm not even talking about the powerful dreams that, for ne reason or another, resonate with me. I'm speaking of the quotidian dreams that form a narrative but don't make much sense (e.g., I often dream about famous people, they show up in my dream, but these aren't even famous people that I care about one way or another; and I wake up saying "Why the heck was X person in my dream!) I feel like I dream every night and, for the most part, remember some of that dream; but I'm beginning to wonder if this is true for most other people. I haven't perused the academic literature, and I won't be surprised if the research says that most people dream-but-don't-remember ... so perhaps I'm asking what's the difference between those who remember regularly and those who don't?

  2. There are better people than me to answer this question. I am an authority on dreams because of the research I've done on my own dreams and related topics, but I haven't researched other people's dreams that much. I am aware from my reading that people who have researched dreaming believe that REM sleep indicates that everyone does dream whether they remember it or not.

    I dream of famous people too. Interestingly, they are always the same ones. For instance, I have had many dreams of George Bush, but only a couple with Clinton and none with Obama. I've also dreamed of a couple of specific actors several times, despite not being actors that I would otherwise think about very much. I've dreamed of Mother Theresa several times also, despite not being Catholic. I have my thoughts on this, but might save it for another blog.