December 3, 2006

Really Boring Prescient Dreams

History, literature and the religions of the world all boast their share of prescient dreams. The Bible’s chock full of them, from David (or was it Daniel?) to St. John. And of course there are people like Jeanne Dixon and that wacky Nostradamus character, who somehow convinced the generations who followed him that his murky, incoherent poems were, in fact, crystal clear predictions of events centuries in the future.

     Dreams themselves are tricky bastards, but those supposedly prescient dreams are an even trickier business. If they are in fact visions of the future, that says some pretty wild things, not only about the nature of time, but also about the type of information our dopey, mushy brains are able to access.

     What makes them especially tricky, though, is that there’s no way of knowing whether or not they really were prescient dreams instead of plain old weirdies until after the fact. Nobody was saying that Nostradamus had predicted Hitler until after Hitler showed up, or the Kennedy assassination until after the bullets flew.

     So even though I’m inclined to dismiss the whole notion as wishful thinking on the part of desperate people looking for the wrong answers, I must admit to being a little unnerved by some of my own dreams in recent years.

     Most all of my dreams are like anybody else’s—pretty easy to explain the next morning, if you know the dreamer well enough. Anxieties about work or school, your financial situation, your relationships, your family. Some are merely the product of falling asleep with the television or radio on. And some are just stories your brain makes up to keep itself entertained while you sleep. Even if the symbols don’t make much sense, the core is usually obvious.

     Then there are the dreams that seem as simple as most any other—until a few days later.

     About five years ago, for instance, I had an innocuous dream about being in the middle of the desert and coming upon two tall white obelisks. As I watched, one of the obelisks toppled into the other, and they both smashed to the ground.

     The next morning I jotted it down, as I do many of the dreams I remember with any clarity, and told Morgan about it over a couple beers. No big deal—just one of those “last night I had this weird dream” things. Then I forgot about it.

     Well, then, two days later a couple of airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center, and down they came.

     I never even thought of that dream of mine until Morgan brought it up. But instead of thinking—as some people seem inclined to—”My God! I saw the future! I could’ve stopped this!!” I just shrugged, and agreed it was kind of a creepy coincidence. Then I forgot about it again.

     The reason it comes up now is that this past Sunday night I had another dream. In this one, I returned to my apartment, but was met at the top of the stairs by my literary agent, who in the dream was also my landlord. She told me that she’d given my apartment to someone else, and that I couldn’t return to it. She’d boxed up all my things already and put them in storage—I just had to leave.

     So, not having any choice in the matter, I left, and wandered the streets in a sad panic, thinking that I had no job, no money, no place to live.

     (As evidence that we’re firmly in the Land of the Metaphor here, I didn’t go straight to Morgan’s place, and never wondered about the whereabouts or well-being of my cat.)

     I eventually spent the night in a small room in a crumbling boarding house, but was informed the next morning that I had to leave there, too, as the guy who was living in that room had returned.

     That was the dream. The next morning it was clear that it was about my dealings with the publishing industry (which haven’t been that hot lately), and the fate of the book I was working on. Understanding it in those terms, the dream was clear and simple. This time I forgot about it without even bothering to write it down.

     Well, then, two days later I came back from running some errands, and found a message from my book editor waiting on my machine. The night before I’d sent him a note to find out where things stood with the current contract. He was just calling about that, I figured.

     But when I called him back, he told me that he was leaving the publishing house I’d been connected with since the late ‘90s, and moving to a new one. It was a smaller place, not as fancy, but possibly more interesting—and he wanted to bring me and the book I was working on with him.

     That’s when the dream came back to me. It all made sense—and I had seen it two nights earlier. It was astonishing! I was seeing the future without realizing it!

     The only thing that separates my prescient dreams from those of Nostradamus and St. John is the fact that mine are really banal. (I would make a “Nostradumbass” joke here, except that several thousand other people seem to have beat me to the punch.)

     Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to throw open the window or go running down the street announcing to all and sundry that I have the second sight and that my dreams can predict the future. Truth be told, I had plenty of other concerns before I went to sleep that night which could just as easily explain everything in the dream—but thinking of it as prescient is just . . . well . . . more fun, I guess.

     I went back to the file where I’d jotted down hundreds of dreams over the years, and started to look for any other prescient ones I’d forgotten about.  Something about gas prices, maybe, or a shoe style no one had marketed yet.

     I didn’t really find anything.

     Then again, perhaps it’s just a power that’s coming to me now that I’m in my forties. The real test may come in a few days. Last night, see, I dreamt that Morgan and I were at our neighborhood bar having a few beers. Then I excused myself and stepped outside to have a smoke. Weird thing is, I was wearing some sort of team jersey with a number on the back.

     Jersey aside, if Morgan and I do happen to end up at that bar in the next couple days, and if I decide at some point to step outside for a smoke, I may decide it’s time to reconsider my skepticism.


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