dream log: too much Heroes IV, not enough healthy elephants

Lately my dreams have been both vivid and interesting, but until this last sleep-time there hasn't really been one where I could remember all three acts in sufficient detail to want to log it.

Dream logging started out as part of my determined quest not to be sideswiped by those parts of myself I don't trust very much. But even as I've become more comfortable in my own skull, I still find it fun and challenging to try and glean useful psychological info from the welter of images. My current theory includes, as things no longer really in dispute, the ideas that a) each "act" is the product of one REM cycle within a given sleeptime, and that b) when a dream is remembered fully, easily and in detail, this means the working problem it represents has come to some sort of useful conclusion. In addition, various in-dream actions and structural elements (light levels, indoor/outdoor environments, eating food or conversing in words) are ones which I've identified as important for study, but for which I haven't settled on a single preferred interpretation as yet. And perhaps most interesting to me are the images which recur across more than one dream over a long period of time, with alterations from one dream to the next. These I am certain represent ideas, beliefs, or aspects of the relationships between myself and the universe which are both important to me and changing as I live my life.

In any case, whatever is going on down there in the depths of the Fiatbrain right now, I rather approve of it.

Act one took place in a large building. The place was well-lit, the decor was sort of gray and white and efficient-functional, and it was crowded with large numbers of people milling about in a desultory fashion or standing in line. I had the impression this activity was a continuous, 24/7 sort of thing, so that whenever one visited the place it would be found in roughly the same state.

The purpose of the building was to enable people to get into one of many, many pocket universes. All these universes were similar, more or less patterned on the same plan. Green fields, a map that stretched far and wide across a kind of fantasy landscape, and a conflict of some kind. I don't remember the nature of the action; there was some sort of fairie kingdom, but one which was unusually densely populated and efficiently regulated by a tiny but singleminded queen. Come to think of it the fairie kingdom had a lot of the social elements of a beehive. At any rate, different versions of this universe had slightly different parameters. There were "soft" versions where everyone was always nice and no one was allowed to put anyone in danger, and there were "difficult" versions where everyone you met would attack you on sight. There were ones where you studied the situation from afar, the whole kingdom spread out like a map, and there were places where your perspective was always first-person. Within each universe there were a kind of portals or gates that you could use, once you'd gotten that kingdom's difficulties more or less under control, to move into other mini-universes.

What took me a bit to figure out, and almost got me lost in the process, was that each pocket universe had its own version of the original building by which one entered in the first place. There were kingdoms within kingdoms, fractal, all the way down, and if one wasn't careful it would be very easy to just hop from one universe to another, similar one, without ever getting anywhere or accomplishing anything different. When I realized this I started poking around the nearest entry building, and found something curious. There were portals or doorways all through the building, of course, but people generally only used those to which they'd been directed by the staff. (Not pictured. The building staff was skipped, meaning not manifest, assumed in the frame of the story--even later in the act, when I interacted with them more or less directly.) I was trying out different doorways to see if I could get directly from one building back to its counterpart in the previous universe. And when I used one of the doorways which allowed me to do this, some of the "troops" I'd assembled in that universe came back out with me into the previous one.

They got clobbered at once--there were guards on the exit, y'see--but this was the first time I'd had anything except myself carry over from one place to another. I was mightily interested. Perhaps, it occured to me, with a sufficiently large force, one could bring something all the way out into the original building and make use of it in the real world! So I waltzed myself back out into the original building to see if I could find a staff member who could explain to me what was going on.

My inquiries (skipped, as I mentioned earlier) resulted in me sitting down across the table from a guy who was clearly an experienced player, who was bemused and somewhat pleased that anyone had figured this out. The room itself didn't have any lights on and so was somewhat dim, but clear daylight came in through a smallish window in one wall, so we could see perfectly well. Even so, beyond a general impression of sharp, laughing eyes, of lean and somewhat grizzled competence, the guy's features were pretty much skipped. He explained that there were a lot more places in the pocket universes than anyone from outside normally visited. Those like himself, who'd been there for a great while and were no longer part outside life, tended to stay in the areas that only they knew about. The crowds who muddled in and out of the building tended to travel only to the pre-programmed destinations, never suspecting there was anywhere else to go. And said crowd, since they didn't put much thought into it and were only there to occupy themselves, made awful gamers. He showed me some kind of roster: people like himself from the "old days" were all off in one category, while the more recent roster of those who'd withdrawn from outside life were mostly at levels where they didn't get much done and eventually faded into the background. Which was bad indeed, because there was something that needed doing, something kind of urgent. Something on which people both inside and out needed to collaborate, and this crop of newbies didn't have their head in the game at all, and weren't likely to be very much help.

Act two began as I pondered this, and I went out by the main building entrance. There was a revolving door through which the crowd of people pushed their way in and out. And as I looked at them more closely through the glass of the door I saw what the guy had been talking about. Old, young, male, female, all races, all styles of dress--they all had a bored, defeated look to them. Most were obese, slumped into themselves, distracted by various electronic devices whose cords led back into their purses and satchels, or some combination of all these. Small wonder, I thought, that when they get inside they don't do much of anything, if that's what they're like out here.

Then I was on a bus, talking to someone about--of all things!--Scientology. The bus didn't have any other occupants; the day visible through the windows was clear, blue-skied, with diffuse early afternoon light. My conversation partner was one of those dream-people with an entirely skipped apprearance, so I'll use the plural instead of a gendered singular noun. They were standing up and holding on to the straps, as I was, but beyond that I've no idea what they looked like. The bus drove past a large, shiny building. Not quite a skyscraper, as it wasn't that tall and stood pretty much on its own, but with that windows-everywhere look I associate with skyscrapers. We were saying how pointless it was for them to have such a pretty building, when what they actually did in it was so unbelievably dumb. My conversation partner said something sarcastic about some similarity between Scientology and Christianity. I laughed, shook my head, and said something about how it had been a fun challenge at first to get myself into the Scientology organization and move up through the levels, all while resisting their attempts to brainwash me. "But I've been all through it, like, three times in two months," I continued, thinking to myself that this was a slight exaggeration--it was more like three times in three or four months, "and I'm so bored!"

Act three started with a clean scene shift; how I got off the bus etc. was entirely skipped. I was Ice Cube--the young Ice Cube, the way he looks in the movie Friday. There was a woman walking next to me who resembled both of the ladies in that movie who were not attractive as current or prospective girlfriends. She had the body and demeanor of the shallow, jealous one at the beginning, the face and bad fake hair of the one at the end, and a voice that didn't belong to either one of them. She was leading a young boy-child by the hand. I got the impression she was a caseworker of some kind who'd been sent to interview me, and I needed to make a good impression, or at least not antagonize her.

We were walking down an alleyway--an outdoor scene, but with indoor-quality light. The alley was paved in red brick cobblestones. One side was a wall, along which there was some kind of couch. The other side was bordered by a very tall chain-link fence. The section of the alley down which we walked was sort of the middle of the alley; off at either end of the chain-link fence I got the suggestion of other buildings. On the other side of the fence was something like a vacant lot, overgrown with scrubby weeds and volunteer trees which had pushed their way up through the rubble. And in the vacant lot there were baby elephants and fledgling or juvenile crows. Some of the crows were small and looked new-hatched. One was molting, playfully pulling sloughed down out of its chest feathers, which floated away like dandelion fluff. Another looked more mature than the rest, its feathers sleek and shiny; it stood shoulder-high to the baby elephants, and seemed somehow very solid.

The woman turned to me and started asking me pointed questions. As we spoke, she let go of the boy-child's hand, and he drifted over towards the far end of the fence, not to be seen again in the dream. Her questions concerned Pearl's upcoming missions trip to Africa, a dream event which we both knew about, and which was going to happen very soon. We said Africa, in conversation, but the mental picture I got was of one of those pocket universes from act one--one of the interesting, out-of-the-way ones. I said, "At first I was opposed to the idea, but as I've thought it through I've become reconciled to the trip." I began to list some reasons. "One, when she's in Africa, she can get her mind settled, because people she knows here won't be around to mess with it. Two, it's a great opportunity to travel and study in a foreign country, an opportunity that she's getting for free but that otherwise a person would have to pay a lot of money for. And three--"

As I'd been speaking, the woman had moved closer and closer to me. She'd put her hands on my shoulders and pushed me down onto the couch. And just as I was about to get to point three, she got on top of me, straddling me, and started to grind her crotch against mine. We were both wearing jeans, but I was baffled and highly offended, and even through the clothing the heat of her body was very disturbing. I took hold of her upper arms, shifted my body weight under her, and with as little force as possible--since I didn't want to hurt or seriously offend her--shoved her off of me onto the cobblestones and sat up. "What are you doing?" I demanded. "I don't want to do this!" She stood up with a look of irritation, and asked why I stopped answering her questions. I took a deep breath, found my train of thought, and prepared to start speaking. All of a sudden she was on top of me again, smiling and perfectly pleased about it, as though she'd convinced me after all. I shoved her off again, a little more vehemently, and shouted, "I told you already, I don't want this!"

Then without changing location or any sense of movement, the structure of the landscape shifted radically. The cobbles of the alley and the weed-strewn rubble of the parking lot combined into one surface, like a screen or a piece of paper. Myself, the woman and the couch were gone. The crows and elephants were still themselves, but they were also items on a list, with little radio buttons next to them like on a computerized multiple-choice test. Many of the elephants were sick, and had slumped forward, their foreheads resting on the ground. I rushed around briefly pushing them back up onto their feet, because if they were too sick to stand, their buttons on the list wouldn't work. I looked over the list again; it was a puzzle or test, and there was a definite time limit. I figured out how to solve the puzzle pretty quickly, and selected the right buttons and entered the right answers next to the list items. But in order to submit my answer and send it, somewhere in the list there was hidden a big red button, which would calculate and send what I had entered. If I wanted my answer to count I had to find it before the time limit expired.
I ran through all the puzzle parameters again and again, trying with increasing frustration to figure out where the big red button was.

Then I woke up.


Some preliminary notes, now that I've had the day to think on it.

Notes on act one.
Act ones tend to talk about the general theme or the background for the material presented in the dream as a whole.
The pocket-universes and their many fractal interconnections seem to represent how I view the world of ideas, and if you will, the invisible or spiritual side of reality. That images and social memes from computer games I love played a large part in the construction of this image tells a lot about my attitude. In other words, the way I approach invisible stuff, or towards imagination and creativity in general, is very similar to my attitude towards games. I like things that are long-drawn out, have lots of detail and plot, and can be played in many different ways. I like things that have lots of interconnectivity. And when I enter into a game map or a symbol set or a system of beliefs, I do so primarily with the attitude of an explorer rather than a conqueror, even when (like some of the universes in the dream) the scenario seems specifically designed for conquest. If, as often happens when I play Heroes, I have to start a thing all over from the beginning because I missed some small but crucial step, I will do so happily. (After a few token grumbles, of course, which are mostly for show and for the fun of hearing myself make noise.) If, as happened in the dream, I discover an apparent loophole or shortcut, I will investigate it thoroughly before attempting to take advantage of it.

More and more I've been coming to the belief that magic / spiritual stuff / the invisible stuff side of personality construction is all about relationships. As I become better at having real relationships with real people, I will become better at having (possibly) imaginary relationships with (mostly) invisible people. If I am a good friend, I will be a good invisible friend. So, for example, I'm now even more confident that joining my local in-person Dungeons & Dragons group is probably an excellent thing for my continued spiritual development. Be a better gamer, get a better handle on getting my internal mental house in order.

Notes on act two.
Act twos tend to be statements of a specific problem or conflict.

A vehicle, moving, tends to be a symbol of people acting towards a particular goal or purpose in life.
A building tends to represent a long-term personality structure.
One of my rules of thumb about dreams is "there is only one character in a dream." Namely, the dreamer.

Thus me on a bus conversing with an undifferentiated dream-person is me taking a good hard look at a purposeful, goal driven activity in my life. My guess is, the undifferentiated dream-person is coming from the perspective of things that I haven't thought through yet, while my own perspective obviously represents the things that I have thought through and of which I am aware.

Conscious-me talks about Scientology--a so-called "religion" which exploits people and which I find loathsome and laughable. Unconscious-me mentions some connection between this and Christianity. The thing prompting the discussion is a pretty building we see out the bus window. The building looks perfectly nice, but the things happening in it are perfectly stupid. Conscious me says building equals Scientology. Unconscious me says Scientology has something to do with Christianity.

I think what Lassie--er, I mean, unconscious me is trying to tell me here is that those things I dislike about Christianity have to do with the "building." That is, the psychological structures of belief and perception, the mental frameworks for action built by its practitioners. Some of the structures themselves are even quite nice, but the ways in which those structures are used are objectionable and don't do justice to the potential of the structure. The point here is that those aspects of the culture and psychological attitudes of Christianity I don't like are the ones which remind me of Scientology. And it is those things--according to dream-me's comment and silent aside--that I've been through backwards and forwards, if not perhaps as thoroughly as I'd like to think. And with which I'm profoundly bored.

Notes on act three.
Act threes tend to be either the conclusion of a process described in an earlier act, or a pointed suggestion for a further action that should be taken on a previously introduced subject.
Crows are a significant repeating symbol for me. Although this is only the second time they've appeared, making them a relatively new symbol, and unfortunately I didn't log the first one here.

All the location indicators tell me that this action scene is taking place in a part of my mind on which I haven't done a lot of work lately, but which is very important for my personal development. Alleyway = off the beaten path in terms of the channels of conscious thought. (But the cobbles and the "neighborhood feel" make a place where I'm at home and very comfortable.) Vacant lot means an area of my mind where I haven't developed a settled structure--actually quite a positive thing. I have very fond associations with vacant lots with weeds growing up through the rubble. And even though it was an out-of-the-way place it wasn't dirty or grimy at all, just poorly lit and not built up.

I have no idea why my brain chose Ice Cube for my avatar and his unpleasant suitors (suitoresses?) for the antagonist in this scene. Maybe it was just a good match for the emotional dynamics in this scene. Even though I haven't seen that movie in ages! I don't know what the child means. Maybe the lady represents the bad, antagonistic side of the Christian perspective, and the child represents the good, valuable side? That would make sense, especially since he went off in the direction of the vacant lot filled with lovely, lovely animals.

But that little action scene where the other character starts a conversation about one thing, then physically holds me down and tries to jump my bones, is exactly what it feels like to be proselytized. It's a mental image worth holding on to, for those times in life when it comes up. If I ever find myself trying to push my viewpoint onto someone who isn't receptive to it, I will endeavor to think of this dream scene and and control myself. And if I'm on the flip side, I will think of the odious lady with her fake hair and tight jeans and start giggling, instead of feeling dirty and cornered. And I will try to remember that there may be some other, valuable thing which is being momentarily eclipsed by the awkwardness of the situation.

As for the very last bit, where the scene changes into a puzzle--well, I'm puzzled. The puzzle itself bears some resemblance to a pre-employment Excel skills test I'd taken online earlier in the day at the behest of an employment agency. The thing about the "big red button" is probably drawn from my frustration with a fiddly bit of new Kingdom of Loathing game content in the Itznotyezitz Mine. (The mastery of said new content is fortunately not necessary to beat the game. Just part of one of those exasperting sidequests.) Something to do with an extremely complicated machine, calculating numbers in base 7, and decoding bizarre dwarven runes.

Is this how I feel about the personality area in which the scene took place? About the issues represented by the scene itself? Or maybe it was just my conscious worries about money and joblessness reasserting themselves as I swam back upwards into consciousness. Who knows.


The Woeful Budgie said...

In any case, whatever is going on down there in the depths of the Fiatbrain right now, I rather approve of it.

Not much to say except that I originally read that as "Flatbrain" which led me to believe you were drawing some obscure analogy between the unconscious and Discworld. ^_^

Also, Act One? Full of win. Exploration dreams rock, and the idea of pocket universes is just too damn cool for words.

Fiat Lex said...

:D I'm glad you enjoyed it! Sorry for the confusing term there--I almost used one of my real-life nicknames and only thought to change it at the last minute.

Indeed, the pocket universes thing rocks the proverbial casbah. And since I'm pretty sure this is my unconscious mind's representation of how I view the alleged invisible side of reality, it is doubly cool. A really useful metaphor is one which a) is detailed enough to match the referent at many points, b) has enough ambiguity to show the referent's qualities from many different angles, and c) is fun to use!