Renaissance Dreams

The idea of dreams and dreaming seem to be very subtle and almost censored in Shakespeare’s play, “The Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Despite having the word, “dream,” in the title, there is only one literal dream written in the play. The mischevious fairies and the characters’ intertwining fate seem like non-sense, like a dream (seen from this angle, “dream” is implied metaphorically—not a literal dream). But it can also be argued that the play itself is a literal dream. The play writer may have intended this ambiguity to avoid loudly stating his opinion on dreaming. Dreaming during the Renaissance era is quite censored in some respect because of the religious restrictions and intimidation. Interpreting dreams without consulting the religious “sources” can be misconstrued as paganism; and paganism is dangerous in a culture with a strong Christian foundation. Although some theorists did not believe in dream divination, the idea of divination in dreams is widely popular. If the play is seen as a metaphor, one can “safely” extrapolate the moral lessons/truth in the play. The play, at the same time, can also be a dream, a dream which has some divination or truth in it. Shakespeare made it implicit. Maybe to present the disparities of opinions on dreaming, or to suggest that there is divinity is dreams but in a more subtle way.

Bullying Dream

I travelled to San Francisco during Spring break. I chose to stay at a budget hostel. The dorm was small, but pleasant. There were four bunk beds in the dorm. My other three roommates were from Sweden, they were friends with each other. They were nice, but I wouldn’t say friendly, ‘cos we didn’t speak to each other besides saying “hello.” We didn’t get to see each other much anyways: I was an early bird (due to time difference), and they were owls. Overall, I thought they were okay maybe decent roommates.

Anyway, on the second night, I had a dream where the three roommates were very annoying. Smoking, being loud, mean… I can’t recall the exact details, but in the dream, I wished they’d leave soon, or I had different roommates.

It was interesting to see how the roommates in the dream were the completely opposite of them in the reality. Reminds me of Freud’s idea of representation by the opposite. But the wish WAS there, (now that I wrote it out consciously) I did want them to leave or to have different roommates: not because they were loud or disturbing, but by the opposite, being too quiet and unsociable.

Travelling in Rochester

I was at an amusement park in Europe. To be more specific, it was in England. It was drizzling. I saw my cousin. We roamed through the crowd swiftly, and then stopped, we didn’t know where we were going. I asked my cousin if she made a reservation at a hotel. She said she didn’t make any plans or reservations. I said we should find a place to stay first; otherwise, it would get dark and we won’t be able to find a budget hotel. She said it’d cost around $100 and not to worry. We had to catch a bus, but we missed it. Fortunately, she did have a map with her. We asked a guy from a car, he told us we were at Rochester. By looking from the map, Rochester wasn’t walkable within a day. I thought I’d be able to travel to some place else besides Rochester, but it looked like we’d probably stay in Rochester.

Sorry, Darwin, your theory is just too much in demand.

Have you seen an advertisement which really doesn’t have much to do with the product? I mean, what does an arranged marriage have anything to do with TV? (yes, I have youtubed some commercials just to prove my point). Not to be completely unfair, there are some commonalities, and the marketers use that common factor to leave the viewers with an eye-catching ad. Same is the case with Blechner’s “Oneiric Darwinism”: dreaming and Darwinism. Anyone who is interested in dreams or science would wonder, “what does dreaming have to do with Darwinism?” or vice versa for the latter group. Instantly, the writer has already grasped the attention of a wider range of readers. Besides, it just sounds better than plain Dreams.

At this point, I will make a digression. For those of you who are dying to know what the ad about arranged marriage and TV is about, you can check it out on Youtube,<>. For the uninterested ones, let me tell you upfront, it’s about having choices. I know, it’s quite boring when you just go straight to the point, but I find it amusing when someone pair a succinct message with an elaborate one. And I will try to bore you with Blechner’s engaging writing.

If you take away the arranged marriage element from the ad, the core message is “choice.” If I take away Darwinism from Blechner’s article, it’s about challenging the axiom ( and we are very gifted pupils on that when we are dreaming). Blechner calls this “thought mutations.” Let me just un-fancy it a little. The essential point is that when we dream, we are free to think. Dreaming or awake, we are using the same brain, yet, because the thought patterns are different, the products are also distinct. It’s like mirror-writing. A regular writing and a mirror-writing contain all the same characters except that they are mirrored. Yet, when we look at mirror-writing, it’s hard to decipher the meaning. It seems strange and mysterious. If mirror-writing is dreaming, and regular one the awake state, when we unmirror the writing, we’ll wake up with a text— a new idea, an inspiration, a creative idea. Stevenson has unmirrored some parts of his dream and he woke up with a book called The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The rest is just sentence completion.

Without realizing, I think I just supplanted Darwinism with mirroring. So Let me go back to “challenging the axiom.” I think what Blechner suggests is that dreaming offers us infinately more thoughts. During waking life, our thoughts are confined to logic, but when dreaming, everything is possible. Therefore, dreaming is really like the opposite of conforming to the axioms. The idea of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (inspired from a dream) is a antithesis to the dominant philosophy of Manicheanism during the Victorian Era. In Manichean philosophy, one is either good or evil; even though Jekyll and Hyde are portrayed as two personas, the two personas, nevertheless, belong to one being.

Dreaming is not afraid of going against the axiom, the mass, and the norm. In that respect, radicalism and radical movement is a waking dream. Martin Luther King Jr. Frantz Fanon, Marx, Jose Marti… all the radicals at their contemporary time were the most vivid waking dreamers. Before I digress any further into radicalism and being accused of being a terrorist (of which I have by a co-worker in a non-tendencious joke), I will save my life and end it here. Maybe someday I will become brave enough to be a waking dreamer.

Jane Eyre’s Other World

In “The Dream of Reading,” Richardson draws the similarity between dreaming and reading, and further assertst that “both [dreaming and reading] involve the postulation of narratives in partial or total senseory isolation from the sitmuli of the ‘real world'”(86).  this idea of escaping from the reality and retreating to a safe haven through dreaming or reading does not seem to be a new concept (although I quite admire the comprehensive comparison between reading and dreaming). Sometimes, we say, “dreaming in another world” when one is not “in the moment.” When we read, we “drift into another world.” This other world, be it a religious territory- heaven or hell, or some other state of consciousness, is always by some degree removed from the reality.
Jane Eyre always retreats to this other world when she wishes not to confront the reality. It explains why she loves reading considering she is always surrounded in a hostile environment. When John took the book away from Jane and tried to hurl it, Jane instinctively tried to “save” the book. In a way, she is saving herself becuse the book/reading is her only escape; therefore, to destroy the book is like destroying her other world.

Victorian Dream Theories: Faulty understanding of Cause and Effect

The problem with the Victorian dream theories is that they are often led by faulty understanding of cause of effect. For instance, it is widely believed during the nineteenth century that indigestion causes nightmare. In fact, Macnish even listed the food that may trigger nightmare based on their nature of being “hard to be digested.”  The logic employed here:
P then q; q, therefore p.
(P is Indigestion; q is nightmare)
is a flawed logic, in other words, invalid. It is believed that if one has indigestion (p), then one will have nightmare (q). One has experienced a nightmare (q); therefore, it must be caused by indigestion (p). This kind of thinking is  not explicitly presented as it is in their theories; nevertheless, the justification that nightmares are caused by indigestion shows the erroneous understanding between cause and effect. Hobson has debunked the myth; he further explains that indigestion affects some parts of the brain but it in itself does not have direct correlation with nightmare. The perceived “cause” of nightmare is but an illusion of some other unknown knowledge.

I find that the Victorian dream theories are mostly based on the manifest characteristics of dreams than the cause or properties of dreams. The theorists established some hypothesis; though they are not right entirely, some parts of their theories resonates with some of our modern ones. I’ll list a couple of examples:

“Dreaming… consists of a series of thoughts or feelings called into existence by certain powers of the mind, while the other powers which control these thoughts or feelings, are inactive” (Macnish 102)

– Hobson’s idea of form of dreaming: activation of certain brain parts when dreaming.

“The consciousness, from some casual association, wandering back into that strange world of thoughts and feelings in which it has existed during some antecedent time of sleep” (Holland, 108).

– Jung’s idea of dreams being compensatory.

Ally or Foe

I was by myself, walking on a deserted area. I looked at the brick walls. Had no fear, like I was on a mission. I had needles all pierced through my legs. They are very thin, like acupunture needles except that they are very long, about a foot and a half. I was careful not to fall on the side of the needles. They did not hurt much, but it was uncomfortable. I walked toward the city centre, and met three girls. I wasn’t sure if they were allies or foes. One of the girls said I had to remove the needles. I was afraid it would aggrevate the wound, but it was okay. She helped me. There were so many needles- some deep, some shallow. I thought I removed them all, but every once in a while I find a needle buried in deep. We “introduced” ourselves, like secret agents. We all didn’t know each other, whether one is an ally or foe. I was careful not to give too much info, but enough so that my ally could identify me. None of them were my allies. Me vs. three people. But one of them changed her side and came to my help. She wasn’t my ally, but we shared the same enemy. One of the opponent was the one who used needle attack. I was looking for places to shield the umbrella of needles, but there was no place to hide. But at least I had someone fighting alongside, so we’ll manage somehow.


There were hot springs in the harvested crop field. I climbed up the little hill and got on the earthy road. I saw a bee, a blue bee, dancing around me. I caught one in my hand, but let it go because it was so beautiful, almost like a little fairy. I kept on walking. I saw a tree with quilts hanging on its branches. I chose to make one too. I chose light purple and apricot color.

Hobson and Cat Owners

“Rats were used for [sleep experiment] because cats, despite much more being known about their brains, are such poor learners. Cat owners will object to this invidious comparision— surely their beloved pets are at least as clever as rats.” (Hobson 121)

When I first read it, I thought it was humorous, in a sarcastic way, nonetheless, it’s quite funny how he’d actually put this in his work. I questioned, does he have a thing against cats? I found a website that criticizes lab experimentation on cats, and the site listed how some of the researchers cruelly experimented on cats. Allan Hobson, was on the list.

“At Harvard University,J. Allan Hobson injects substances into the brains of awake and unanesthetized cats. He breaks cats’ skulls and implants electrodes in their brains and muscles to study sleep. Wires are tunneled under cats’ skin and run through their bodies. He has received approximately $3.5 million in tax money since 1992.”

The source of info may have some room for doubt. but at least I know he didn’t put that extra bit of humor in there for nothing. It’s like saying to cat lovers, “I don’t need cats for lab  any more  ‘cos they are dumb anyways.” Of course, I’m exaggerating it.

Hartmann vs. Hobson

Hartmann vs. Hobson

Both Hartmann and Hobson sought to explain dreaming from a scientific perspective, that is by explaining how our mind works. While Hartmann agreed on Freud’s idea that “dreams are royal to road to the unconsciousness” and incorporated dream content into the scientific aspect of dreaming; Hobson disputes Freud’s notion of “mysticism” and argues that dreaming is a biological phenomennon which can be purely answered by examining the form, that is how we perceive, think, and feel during dreaming rather than what the dream is about. To Hartmann, the dream content is a mataphor for our emotions; to Hobson, the content is trivial. To some extent, Hobson did make some aspects of Hartmann’s theory into more concrete ground, even though I highly doubt it was his intention to do so—Hartmann stated that dreams are guided by emotions; Hobson verified through science that when we dream, the part of brain which corresponds to emotion is more active. Hartmann suggests that our mode of thinking is different when dreaming (thin boundary); Hobson asserted that dreaming is a different state of mental activity. It’s hard to say which is the cause and which is the effect. Do we feel an emotion because the brain region for that emotion is activeted, or is it that the brain adapts to our feelings?

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