green morning

For Nobel laureate Francis Crick, of the Salk Institute in San Diego, dreams are nothing more than random attempts to clear from the brain unneeded or even harmful memory. Crick claims this clearing activity is a necessary step to reset the brain for the next day, much as one erases old data from a floppy disc before reusing it.

That's like saying "...much as one erases pesky dinosaur stains from your finest wooly mammoth rug before reusing it." I'm not sure what the rules are governing the use of an analogy to describe another analogy, but my logic doesn't stray into the experimental. This article's about ten years old, still during the lifetime of Francis Crick, a man who as much as anything was in the right place at the right time; a circus clown and a midget could have discovered the structure of DNA in the conditions Watson and Crick did. But it was them, and as a result they would be cultural touchstones, elevated to the rare pedestals that allow the description of impenetrable phenomena like dreams as "nothing more than" whatever they like.

"Hi. I'm Francis Crick. You may remember me from such events as, oh, I don't know, THE GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT OF ALL MANKIND! [A small, overworked brass ensemble wearily plays Crick's chosen triumphant theme music. One of them coughs. Crick looks over his shoulder disapprovingly.] And I am here to tell you that these, these DREAMS as you call them, are nothing more than a mere trifle! I cast off your old ideas as a molting crab sloughs off its shell; they are to me the mouldering and withered failure of the past! Pah!"

Nonetheless I woke up thinking about the above dream theory, having just had a series of dreams "starring" people I've known from different times. What I'm wondering is, according to this theory, is the information in your dream what the brain's trying to get rid of, or is it representative of other information that the brain's trying to get rid of? Because that second option has to be one of the great cop-outs.

Do recurring dreams verify the recycle bin theory inasfar as harmful/unneeded goes, and if they don't, are they only seeming not to? Is this gap in what can be said and what can be measured created by a logical leap which can't be neatly laid over a thing as impossible to assimilate as dreams are? Exactly how hard does one have to work to make this theory make sense before they have tried too hard?

Maybe it's the theme, not the characters, that is the "problem", maybe the characters themselves are "it"; but any theory that's unassailable is also untestable, and science without experimentation is, well...

I'll grant you this, the theory definitely would explain my recurring nightmares of being in a TGIFriday's and not being able to leave. For those of you that are just tuning in, I once worked in one of those restaurants, the worst one in the world, and to this day I dream I try to leave out the front (the only way out) and it opens into the back of another TGIFriday's. This generally goes on until I wake up in a panic. It's a hilarious, foolish place, yet it terrifies me to the core.

The dreams I'm thinking about are the ones with people in them that I haven't seen in a long time, and I resent the notion that these people, whose images are very real and contain many useful lessons, are kicking around in there unneeded and harmful.

I think that things that bother us bother us for a reason, and that we need to be vigilant in our self-affliction and steady in our doubt. Just because something's harmful doesn't mean you need to ignore it, like a bear beyond the light of your campfire, and as acceptable as is any theory that casts broad assumptions about what's unneeded and harmful and floppy discs, I would think just as valid any theory encompassing the brain's tendency to cultivate itself in its own terms. All brains, however unusual, consider themselves to have a system that's working so far.

Who's to correlate dream imagery, which may be the faintest trace of anything in the entire universe, with one reason for being rather than another? I'd hope people would try, and they are, but if we could keep the focus on the measurement of continuous variables instead of grandiose proclamations about the nature of everything I'd feel better about it.


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