The brain is a fascinating organ. I've seen pictures of them, and even had a lifesized plastic skull that you could open up to reveal the plastic brain inside. Anyhow, my observation of the brain led to my theory of dreams, which goes like this:
The outside of the brain, many of you may have noticed, is wrinkled and full of crevises. Into these crevise slip little scraps of memory. These scraps, usually inconsequential, would be lost to us, if we didn't sleep.
When we sleep, the cleaning crew comes out and cleanses the brain. They scour the outside, and search the crevises for these little lost scraps, which they gather together. The most recent scraps will not be deep inside, so they will be easily found, and even the lightest of sleeps will reveal these memory scraps, lost only minutes or hours before. During really sound sleep, however, the cleaning crew digs deep into the crevises, to find scraps that may have been lost for months or years.
As they are gathered, the scraps are taken to the recycling crew, who have the unenviable task of trying to piece these scraps together into a useful memory or, failing that, to discard them. As they are pieced together, the recycling crew plays them through the brain like an old movie. This is what comes to us as a dream. The recycling crew, alone at night with no supervision, often put together scraps with little or no relationship to one another, and the dreams that result can be quite ridiculous. For instance:
I grew up in a small town in Missouri. A rather sleepy town now, it wasn't always that way. Before the opening of the Interstate and the widespread ownership of reliable automobiles, Main Street there was a busy place. As a boy my friends and I would find ourselves walking or bicycling downtown and losing ourselves amongst the crowd there. At the end of Main Street was the levee, beyond which was the majestic Mississippi River. usually, our excursions to Main Street culminated with a trip across the levee to play along the banks of the river.
Later in life, when I was stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, I sometimes found my way up to the upper level. There, around the flight deck, was a walkway that allowed the crew to move about clear of the movement of planes and equipment on the flight deck just above. One particular area of the walkway, which we called Oxford Street, was quite wide, with an open grating deck that allowed you to look at the ocean below. It was lined with equipment; fire hoses on reels, fire extenguishers, large metal kegs containing life rafts, electrical and communication panels, and lighting equipment.
Imagine then, a recent dream, whereupon I was walking along Main Street in my home town. It looked very familiar, except that it was lined with hose reels, fire extenguishers, and electrical panels. In places the pavement gave way to open grating that looked down on the Mississippi River flowing underneath it. The parking lot beside the bank bustled with activity as F-14s were readied for launch. I turned to enter the hardware store, in its usual spot on the corner, descended the ships ladder through the hatch just inside door, and entered my old, familiar berthing comparment. One of my shipmates began yelling at me, informing me that I was late for watch.
Being late for watch is a dream anxiety that continues to plague me even now, twenty years since I left the Navy. That, and showing up in various places clad only in my skivvies, or less. I think the recycling crew has access to the 'anxieties' file, and spends a lot of time playing around with it. I've often dreamt that I have the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or to fly by waving my arms, but I can never clear the electrical lines that surround me. Now matter how high I jump or fly, there is always another set of electrical wires blocking my path. Also, while I have the ability to control my direction of flight, the wind also pushes me too far to leeward, and I've never mastered the art of landing gracefully.
Well, that's enough insight into my innermost workings for now. Just remember, next time you enjoy a pleasant dream, to thank the cleaning and recycling crews. They're working hard for your benefit.
Quod scripsi, scripsi.