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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Do dreams really come true? Perhaps for some people they do, at least those conscious dreams that we might better describe as hopes. Some people believe dreams are prophetic, while others view them as the unconscious echo of our fears, desires, and doubts. I find myself more in the aspirational camp but must admit some of my dreams seem more like riddles than manifestations of my psyche or repressed emotions.

Unlike other kinds of story-telling, dream narratives do not follow the rules. They are not linear but can jump from one scenario to another with seamless if improbable agility. The logic is interior, it would never stand up to scrutiny and the cast of characters never require exposition, they simply are, acting and reacting as if we have always known them and nothing they do is ever out of character. They need no back story.

I quite like this aspect of dream stories. Unfettered by the conventions of a story conceived for others, dreams can rely on us to make sense of the plot, the players and the psychics of unreality. It is only on waking that we try, almost always without success, to piece together meaning. But while in the dreaming state, everything makes perfect sense even if we are capable of bending time and space, defying the laws of the universe that contentiously limit our experiences in what we call the real world. Who is to say, however, which world is real? Is consistency the criteria on which we apprehend reality or is it the tell, the giveaway that what we think of as real is a carefully constructed fabrication?

You may think I am having fun or have lost my way. I assure you I have not, but I am trying to make a point. So much of our lives are ordered on our reactions to people and events the real consequence of which are far less important to our welfare and our happiness than we credit. Conscious dreamers intuitively understand this. They refuse to accept limitations that the rest of us consider implacable. They defy the rules, the conventions and the cautions of others believing that they can make real that which is not yet manifest. Yes, some fail, but only in a temporal sense. Real dreamers just go on, undaunted by mishap, unwilling to let go of the dream.

If you have ever found yourself in that half dreaming, half awakening state you know what this must feel like. It is desperately hard to let go—to allow the dream to flee. We wish only to remain in the story, unfolding. To awaken from such dreams is to experience the little death—to be plunged once again into the harsh rigidities of rules and consequences. No wonder we fight to remain in a world better suited to our nature.

And yet, when Hamlet utters those lines, to sleep, perchance to dream his meaning is quite the opposite. When life is so cursed as to be unbearable, death—the presumed dreamless infinity is preferable to human care and suffering. But I think Shakespeare had it wrong. The dream lives on, as must we.

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