I don’t generally dream. (See footnotes.) Last week, though, I had a strange dream where I went to buy a package of Hostess cupcakes from a vending machine in one of those big banks of machines. After having some difficulty putting in my money, I realized there was already credit on the machine, so I got myself some free ones.
Then I noticed that all the machines were just giving out their wares and I methodically started emptying the machines out, carrying so much junk food that I was dropping it.
And, as is always the case with my transgressive dreams, I felt guilty.
- I don’t like most junk food, including Hostess cupcakes.
- I can’t eat stuff like that right now anyway.
- I was stealing.
- And I was stealing cheap things.
I mean, like my Pappy always used to say, it’s one thing to be bought, it’s another thing to be bought cheaply. (He always talked about that in terms of people stealing office supplies.) And finally, perhaps worst of all:
- I knew I was dreaming.
When I was about five or six, I had a nightmare, and I went–as children do–into my parents’ bedroom. They were still awake and my father was rather annoyed. When I told him it scared me, he scowled and told me it was my dream, so I was in charge, and stop wasting his time with such nonsense.
This, perhaps surprisingly, was effective. (At least with me. I’ve never been able to sell my kids on it.) And the upshot is that when I do dream, I’m always aware that I’m dreaming. I’ve never had any kind of extended nightmare since, because I’m aware that I’m in charge of what happens. This eliminates any sense of fear. (I did have a night terror once, though. That was amazing.)
The opposite side, though, is that I also always carry whatever moral baggage I have into my dreams: So I can’t engage in any of the wanton behaviors that we’re generally prohibited from engaging in in day-to-day life. So, not only could I not steal in my dream, I couldn’t even bring myself to eat any of the junk food. Which is a shame, because I could’ve enjoyed dreaming of eating it, even if the reality would’ve been disappointing. I even had a pretty good mental justification worked out, since I’ve been robbed by so many vending machines over the years, I figured this was the cosmic karmic scales finally balancing.
But I shut the whole thing down when I found myself trying to figure out how much money I should leave to compensate the vendors.
This is part of the reason I don’t dream: no percentage in it for me.
Footnote: And for those of you pimping the idea that everyone dreams, I say prove it. I don’t deny that I go into REM sleep, of course, but I am unconvinced that that necessitates having a dream. The whole “you dream, but you don’t remember it” strikes me as unfalsifiable.