words and images by mk swanson
Dream as Reality

Dream as Reality

Wow. I was reading an article by Dr. Temple Grandin called “Do Animals and People with Autism Have True Consciousness?“, and I was stunned by her comment, “Perhaps language blocks access to the subconscious.” This seems true to me at an instinctive level. When I wake in the morning, I remember my dreams quite clearly initially, and I marvel over their complexity. I often feel they are the basis for a new story or that I have discovered some great truth, even when the dream isn’t a big dream. However, I can’t hold onto the dream for long unless I verbalize it, either aloud or in writing. Thinking about it won’t work, unless I think in specifics, actually speaking words to myself.
The problem is, once I speak the dream, it loses something in translation. Sometimes I capture a bit of the thrill, but never to the extent I felt while dreaming, and often once I verbalize the dream, it loses its luster.
Dr Grandin says that those who think in pictures (like she does, like animals may) cannot grasp philosophical or abstract concepts. That makes me think of my current fascination with the idea that there are many experiences and emotions for which I have no name, and no way to quantify. There are emotions that have no parallel to any feeling I have had before, and felt experiences that are hard to describe, perhaps impossible to describe, because I have no language for them. It makes them very difficult to remember. But then, having a word for something may only give me a vague approximation of what it really is.
In Plato’s theory of forms, what we see is not the thing itself, it is simply a shadow of it. Perhaps my language-less felt experiences are my seeing the thing itself, in all its glory and complexity, and the ones I can name and remember are my pitiful brain’s way of creating a shadow that I can grasp.
Maybe the dreams I give voice to are simply Form or appearance, and the dreams themselves are the substance–which makes me think of the aboriginal Australian belief that The Dreaming is more real than waking life.