“All men dream; but not equally”. So said T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) in his ‘7 Pillars of Wisdom’. Hardly surprising, after all we are all different, certainly we aren’t all equal, and of course, we aren’t all men. And if you thought there was a single understanding of the word dream, well you’re hallucinating.
We all daydream. I imagine like me a common daydream of yours is a life of espionage: safeguarding good, eradicating evil and bedding Daniel Craig. All completed secretly while carrying on the day job as a librarian. No? How about imaging yourself as Cleopatra, bathing in donkeys’ milk while preparing to seduce Mark Antony. No? It must be just me. Of course I’m being silly, my wildest dreams don’t extend beyond discovering the bathroom scales are over-reporting or learning ice cream is slimming.
We day-dream because the brain feels a need to generate its own stimulation. Essentially the brain is entertaining us because we’re bored; it’s transporting us to a more interesting place. Taking us away from a tedious repetitive task, removing us from the Chairperson’s report, or muting your beloved’s explanation of how a router works.
Like daydreams, sexual fantasies occur when we’re wide awake, although Stanley Kubrick had his with his eyes wide shut. Personally I found the movie a battle to keep mine open, and so nodded off for the entire second half and missed the climax – story of my life.
The brain is the largest erogenous zone in the body, so it’s not surprising that it needs a little stroking. While both genders may fantasise, the fantasies often differ. For example, hers is possibly a road trip, and picking up a hitchhiker who turns out to be Brad Pitt. While his might involve the entire female Brazillian beach volleyball team in a hot tub, helping them with the task of sand removal.
While we may all dream at night, we can’t agree on why we do so. Freud saw dreams as “the royal road” to our hidden desires and emotions. The analysis of a person’s dreams, so the argument goes, will give great insight into that person. Freud has fallen out of favour with other psychologists. I guess that can happen when you tell your female colleagues they are envious of their father’s penis, and your male colleagues they have sexual feelings towards their mother.
Today some scientists believe that dreams are aiding memory consolidation, or are an extension of daytime consciousness – perhaps helping us to work through difficult problems. Others say there is no direct function, rather it is a consequence of other biological processes. I personally believe we have dreams to warn us against – just in case you were considering it – going to work naked.
Yet another type of dream is that of Martin Luther King Jr., who in 1963 had a dream of a more inclusive America. While today in the USA “The Dreamers” refer to undocumented migrants who arrived in the USA as children. Here dream is being used as a synonym for hope.
The corollary of dreams of hope are nightmares of despair. A quick browse of any news media will confirm the many instances of misery in the world. Like me I’m sure you’d like to do something for those whose wildest dreams are securing safety and the basic necessities of life. I’m not certain what the answer is exactly, but I am sure it’s to be found in building bridges, not walls. A previous Republican President recognised this when he said, “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall”. Let’s not build any more. We may not all dream equally, but let’s share a dream of a bit more equality.