Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dreaming About My Father

Well, he did it again, waking me at dawn's early light to go Number One -- Jake the Puppy, who's internal alarm goes off with a regularity rivaling the Royal Observatory's "Baby Ben" at Greenwich. I wonder who winds that one? Probably quartz by now. Anyway, more or less two minutes passed and he was back in his crate and I was back in bed with the big dog curled against my leg, hoping the rest of my night's sleep was still within striking distance.

Fat chance. Ten minutes and we're outside for Number Two. You'd think I'd have learned by now, wouldn't you? Yesterday, at least, I was sufficiently conscious to snap a shot of fog rising from the hayfield with the moon setting overhead (photo).

Seconds later it seemed like, he's barking again. Now, I try to let these things go until he stops; part of crate training is figuring out that the human -- most days that's me -- isn't going to come running at every beck and call. But our typical pattern is becoming pee, poop, then dog food and he knows it. The third time's the charm and being soft-hearted (or soft in the head) about such things, I'm finally up for real. The coffee's made, the dogs and cat have been fed, and following an energetic post-prandial romp through the house, both canines, naturally, are dead to the world. Not me, of course. Oh, no.

While moderating their usual "I want his food" debate, I watched a bit of Inception (2010) on HBO. If you haven't seen it, it's worth a rental, but be prepared to have your brain twisted and squeezed. The theme revolves around interactive dreaming and the possibility of manipulating a dream from within the dream itself. This can be done at three levels. First, you're asleep and dreaming. Second, dreaming you're asleep and dreaming. Third, you're dreaming you're asleep and dreaming, and in that dream you're asleep and dreaming. It's like a box within a larger box within an even larger one. I did say the film's a brain twister, right?

While trying to unravel the film in a mildly caffeine-deprived state, it hit me once again how little we know about mind-brain interactions. Strict reductionists consider the brain's electrochemical processes as end of the story. Brain functions equal mind operations. But the best neuroscientists can't figure out how the mind ends up floating along like oyster crackers in an electrochemical soup. If you conceive of dreaming as the mind talking to itself, mind-brain interactions become still more baffling.

I dream about my father sometimes, like the other night. I don't recall the details but he was there, alive and vibrant, though he will have been gone eleven years this coming November. I'm always glad to see him but it's funny how I never seem to remember the things I wish we could talk about over the phone. You'd think I would, since that's one of the things I miss the most. Whenever he appears, however, I always seem to feel grown up, as if the dream is a reminder, even though he's not with me in any physical sense, he did a pretty good job while he was.

Happy Father's Day.

(Photo copyright 2011 by the author)

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