You’re Dreaming!

“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.

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No News Is Bad News

I like to keep abreast of current affairs. I find important issues such as elections, changing macroeconomic conditions and the name of Kate and Will’s latest to be extremely compelling.
In addition to keeping a watchful eye on these weighty issues I am also drawn to the weird happenings in the world. For instance this week I learnt of a 0.5km fun run in the Texan town of Boerne. That decimal point is not a typo, we’re talking 500m. I could do that – it’s a fraction of the distance I run every day looking for my keys, phone and wallet. The run starts at one bar and ends at another. One hundred and fifty metres into the run there’s a doughnut stand, which is beside a smoking area. It would be fair to say the emphasis is more on fun than run.
You could say the organisers of the Boerne fun run are “taking the piss”, but not as much as IKEA, as this next piece of news will reveal. IKEA recently placed a magazine advert for baby bassinets that doubled as a pregnancy test. Anyone who thought they might be pregnant was encouraged to pee on the ad that was splashed across the magazine’s pages. If they were pregnant the positive test revealed a previously hidden special discount price. If there are couples out there reading this and trying to get pregnant – not at the same time obviously – please note this only works for women.
Some people may discount weird items news as being improbable or inconsequential. Whereas I, having lived with myself these past few decades, find them entirely believable. Furthermore, I find they have value in allowing me to view the weird events in my own life less severely. For example, I read of a job interview that went awry when the applicant fainted and only regained consciousness in an ambulance. Which made me feel better about the time I went to the toilet while nervously waiting for a job interview. When I tried to leave the stall I found I was locked in. With my phone in my car, and my cries for help going unnoticed I resolved to commando crawl under the door. However I was concerned my clothes would get dirty so I stripped to my underwear then squeezed through the gap. While lying horizontal and scantily clad on the toilet floor someone came in; I was relieved – in every sense – when they didn’t hang around. However I did get the opportunity to explain myself fully to them when I saw them on the interview panel. You see it works, you’re already feeling better about your own worst interview.
It is incorrect that News is an acronym for either Notable Events, Weather and Sport, or for North, East, West and South. Rather the clue is in the name; news is to do with new information. Other explanations are fake (news).
Fake news, unlike real news, is intended to deceive. It is not news. Nor is it new – the term was used as early as 1894 in a cartoon by Frederick Opper. We owe a lot to President Donald Trump for the work he has done in the area of fake news. We are especially indebted to his broadening of the term to include accurate news that he doesn’t like.
Real news has power, and the people who vilify the fourth estate, or worse still harm those within it, realize this. News has the power to increase the engagement of ordinary people in society. Initially through increasing their ability to hold a conversation. Secondly, it facilitates the shaping the people’s opinions and beliefs. Then ultimately, news allows people to go out and shape their world. Clearly dangerous stuff.
So I’m going out to buy a quality newspaper with accurate reporting, reasoned editorials and a few job vacancies with interviews by Skype – not in an office block with a dodgy toilet door.
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Birth Order

I was conceived in a wine bar in Queenstown, New Zealand. How about you? A few days later I was born on a drawing board, with only the neighbour’s dog in attendance. I was already 30-something – it’s enough to make your eyes water.
Mine was an unusual beginning, but then I’m what is referred to as a brain child. I am an original, something that has been invented. Whereas you, Dear Reader, although possibly conceived on a bed of rose petals in Paris, are merely unique. If I seem overly competitive I’m sorry, but I am a first-born child.
You may justifiably retort that I’m just a cartoon character, a mere doodle on a page. However you and I have much in common. I too have feelings – I can feel flat, grey and drawn. And at our respective conceptions both of us were just a rubber away from non-existence. So I too have insecurities about my position in the world. Being Celia’s first born I can easily be supplanted by a pesky second brain child, and end up as yellowing sketches desperately clinging to the fridge.
Many believe that birth order, whether you are the first born, second born, etc., has a big effect on your personality and behaviour. Eldest children, so the theory goes, got lots of parental attention; consequently they tend to be high achievers and leaders, but can be controlling and bossy. Barack Obama is a first born, so too are both Bill and Hillary Clinton. The trend in monarchy is even more exaggerated, with virtually every King being a first-born male – spooky! Also twenty one of the twenty-four US astronauts who have been to the moon are first born. Which leaves middle born children wondering, if we can send twenty-one first born to the moon, why not all of them?
Of course, a middle child doesn’t have nasty thoughts like that. According to birth order theory middle children tend to be mediators, compromising, diplomatic, conflict avoiding, loyal and unspoilt. However, before you middle children climb out of your boxes you are also thought of as shy and having low self-esteem. To witness the qualities of diplomacy, conflict avoidance and shyness in a middle child you need look no further than Donald Trump.
Finally, and this is their constant experience, finally we come to the last-born child. A group that until they left home weren’t aware that clothes came from shops. You have had to fit into an established order, consequently you’re charming, a people person, precocious, creative and innovative. Older siblings are expressing this when they endearingly tell you you’re manipulative, blaming of others, prone to showing off and disorganised.
Is any of this true? Funnily enough each birth order group believes the stereotypes to be correct in two out of three cases; only being incorrect in assessments of themselves. One thing we appear to have in common is self-serving bias.
Despite these conflicts most families feel bound together, united by something greater than personal rivalries. Wouldn’t it be nice if the people of the world too saw themselves as one big family, and started to get along despite their differences? I think we’d all celebrate the birth of that world order.

Oops

With regard to committing social faux pas the world can be divided into two groups: those who admit to regularly transgressing social norms, and those who lie. For apparently we all embarrass ourselves four times a day on average. Just thinking about myself, I’d consider only four embarrassing moments within a 24 hour period a stellar day. One worthy of celebrating by jumping up and down on the spot and shouting with glee! Oops….

Common embarrassments are tripping over in public, getting food stuck on our face and forgetting someone’s name when introducing them. I consider these to be mere trifles, as I’ve done worse – much worse. Once in a clothes shop a sock of mine got caught inside one of the many pairs of trousers I had been trying on. The trousers were then returned to the clothes rack before I noticed the sock was missing. Soon there were three shop assistants, as well as myself, searching through the many clothes racks to find my lost aging holey sock. However this incident is insignificant when compared to what once happened at the end of a hike in the New Zealand wilderness. I simply had to answer the call of nature, and did so in a remote clearing at the bottom of a small terrace. Only the terrace turned out to be an embankment for a railway. This railway carries a tourist train that twice a day trundles slowly though this area, thereby allowing visitors to see spectacular and unparalleled views of what New Zealand has to offer. On this sunny day in the height of summer the train was packed with tourists in the open carriages, all aiming cameras with gigantic lenses at the virgin scenery (and me). This most certainly colored my cheeks.

It seems to me that embarrassment serves two valuable purposes. Firstly it entertains friends, giving them much hilarity. Secondly it provides material for speech writers at birthdays, weddings and funerals. My funeral may run for days as my blunders, gaffes and indiscretions are recounted; although ironically my funeral may be the one social engagement where I maintain a calm composure.

Psychologists believe the purpose of going bright red is to clearly communicate that we are aware of our mistake. This colourful admission of guilt results in the beetroot-faced being more likely to be forgiven, trusted and liked than those who maintain a perpetual calm. Consequently people showing embarrassment are more likely to be found attractive. So why am I still single? I believe the frequency and scale of my embarrassments has rendered my attractiveness so great that I am viewed as unattainable; sad, but perhaps true.

So the next time you fail to live up to some social standard and you feel the colour rising in your cheeks, take heart in the possibility that a future beau may note your discomfort, and judge you to be both trustworthy and attractive. Who knows, perhaps there’s a tourist somewhere who’s wondering how to contact that woman with her pants down and her colour up.

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