The BBC reports that scientists now believe they can develop a system to record people’s dreams. Their plan is to electronically visualize brain activity and identify dream themes by mapping activity in individual brain neurons that purportedly are associated with particular individuals, objects, or concepts. The idea seems far-fetched, and the scientists concede they are a long away from actually being able to capture dreams. I really wish they wouldn’t try. We’re all better off, I think, if our dreams splinter into hazy fragments and vanish from our consciousness the moment we awake.
I almost never remember my dreams; I only recall those that are so deeply disturbing that they startle me into wakefulness and survive the forgetting process that accompanies the first instant of awareness. And when you remember your “bad dreams,” you realize that it is not only the topics of the dreams that are troubling, such as being chased by a menacing dark figure or realizing that you are late for a final exam in a class that you have blown off since the semester began months ago. Usually the physical context is equally unsettling, like suddenly finding yourself buck naked and running down a street in some creepy part of town or sitting with a long-dead relative in a cold, dark house where the walls ooze blood and there is a screaming face visible through every dusty window. If every dream is so weird, wouldn’t remembering them all just be psychologically traumatic? And, in a perverse way, wouldn’t it be an embarrassing let down if the vast majority of your dreams instead turned out to be boring downloads of what you did during the day? Who would want to relive a humdrum workday? Maybe we instantly forget our dreams because they are so dull.
I don’t know whether dreams are attempts to communicate with us from the Great Beyond, or extrasensory perceptions of future events, or just the products of random electrical discharges in an exhausted brain that needs to wind down after a tough day — and I don’t need to know. Just let me get some shut-eye, and leave my dream life alone.