Last night I slept very soundly, with lots of dreaming to keep my brain occupied while my body recharged. I don’t remember what my dreams were — I almost never do — but I do remember thinking, as I was dreaming, that these dreams were very entertaining.
When I awoke, I thought about what a marvelous thing dreams are. One second you are observing and participating in a curious, often inexplicable place where anything can happen at any moment and storylines can casually shift and twist and morph without it seeming at all unusual. Then, after you awaken, your experiences in dreamland vanish in the blink of an eye and you’re back in the actual world where the laws of physics and basic linear reality once again hold sway. Sure, you can have terrifying nightmares that give you the creeps even after you awake, but for the most part dreams are pleasant enough — nonsensical and crazy, to be sure, but non-threatening.
I found myself wondering whether my parents ever explained the process of dreaming to me. I don’t remember whether they ever did, and I don’t remember explaining dreams to our kids, either. Every mammal seems to dream — anybody who’s seen dogs run in their sleep knows that — and I remember watching our newborn boys’ eye movements as they slept in their cribs, knowing that they were dreaming and wondering what in the world infants could possibly be dreaming about. By the time they were old enough to have developed the language skills needed to have a meaningful conversation about it, they had been sleeping and dreaming for years and had long since grasped the difference between dreamland and real life. I suppose that’s why we never had a talk about the process of dreaming, as opposed to trying to interpret individual dreams. Perhaps dreaming is so basic and reflexive for mammals, and humans, that it is understood on an intuitive level, with no explanation required.