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"Dremes been significaciouns as wel of joye as tribulaciouns..."

I awoke in the wee hours last night, shivering from a terrifying dream.

Lately, my dreams have taken on vivid and bone-chilling hues, perhaps because I’ve got more space in my brain that isn’t filled with television.

Last night’s slumbering episode involved an old house I grew up in, helpless and lonely zombies, grocery shopping and a computerized army amassing itself for impending battle. The zombies weren’t malicious, just in search of finding their souls again, and sensing that I still had one. The problem was, zombification happened by touch, so I spent most of my dream desperately avoiding the grasping fingers of blank-eyed, hungry creatures while trying to find the basic staples on my grocery list.

While my husband thinks this is the making of a great short story, I’m putting it through my various dream rubrics to see if it has any greater significance.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, dreams are often used by God to speak to human beings (Jacob’s ladder, Joseph’s marriage, Pharoah’s famine), and are also prophetic in nature – a fantastic picture of things to come or actions needing to be taken.

As much as I appreciate and try to live according to biblical principles, I hope there’s nothing divine in my dream. I’d hate to think that it’s a sign that grocery shopping is about to get a hell of a lot more complicated than it already is.

In Geoffrey Chaucer’s day, around the 1300s, the medieval courts were rife with speculation and theory about dreams, and even the chickens debated their significance. The wonderfully ironic story of Chaunticleer the rooster, from the Nun’s Priest’s Tale gives us some insight into the medieval interpretation of dreams. Chaunticleer debates with his bevy of hens over a dream he had of a fox eating him. One retorts that he’s been eating too much grass and is simply out of ‘humour’, and a trip to the apothecary for some “laxatyf” will set him right. Another thinks the dream is a terrible prophecy that will happen, while his favorite hen, the lovely, “debonaire” and well-preened Pertelote, tells him to man up, that the dream is a warning only, and that he can take his destiny into his own hands.

So if I was to follow Pertelote’s advice, grocery shopping should hold no terror for me, no matter the number of glassy-eyed fellow shoppers who may or may not bump into my cart. I must live to shop again.

Of course, the scientists and psychoanalysts have yet to weigh in.

My favorite scientific interpretation of dreams is simple: our brains are going through the images, thoughts and actions of the day like nocturnal, slightly anal clerks, reading everything before either throwing it in the psychic trash bin or tucking it away into the appropriate memory folder.

So somebody (probably one of the television-addicted junior neurons) must have forgotten to file the zombies under “Ridiculous” and they were moldering in a stack on a synapse desk somewhere, mixed in with a bundle of childhood memories and yesterday’s grocery list.

Freud might have something to say about the meaning of my dream, that its contents weren’t simply randomized images being reviewed and categorized. He’d stroke his beard thoughtfully, mutter something profound, and tell me that there is a reason for zombies in the grocery store and at my childhood house, and that my brain is trying desperately to tell me something meaningful. What that thing is, however, is “hidden” and will require many more expensive therapy sessions to unravel properly.

I might just take a stab at it myself: anxiety about grocery shopping, coupled with a long-held love and perhaps obsession for that beautiful house on East 19th, with its room for imagination and childhood adventure, mingled with images from a scary movie I saw and a philosophical book about the fate of a soulless society to create last night’s sleep-adventure.

I feel slightly better now, that daylight is here and all is somewhat clearer. But I have to finish this post quickly, because there’s a strange scratching sound at my door, and some groceries to put away.