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Dream Weaver: The Brain as Gymnast

Essay By: Bill Rayburn
Memoir


An homage to the human mind and the daily calisthenics it performs for all of us. (approx. 800 words)


Submitted:Apr 2, 2012    Reads: 16    Comments: 1    Likes: 0   


DREAM WEAVER

All the furniture was set up as before. The same faces in the same roles in the same positions. It was eerie. The attention to detail was frightening, almost Michelangelo-esque. Like his famous sculpture, 'Madonna of the Steps', where a figure flows from a detailed torso to a point just below the waist where the legs simply vanish into mist. For every stark, graphic detail, there is a thought-provoking absence of same.

Weeks ago I'd had the same dream. One of those dreams with both living and dead family members in full regalia, where almost every OTHER detail was crystal clear, while certain aspects my subconscious clearly chose to remain murky, out of my grasp. A dream where memory was shrouded, and only employed sporadically, a sign my unconscious mind was shielding me from something. That's what makes dreams so fascinating and open to interpretation. They combine fact and fiction, the fiction's source being a singular one; the human subconscious. It makes for a potentially fascinating recipe of what was, what is and what will be.

Where else do those three worlds collide so unencumbered, with such freedom to wrap themselves around each other, intertwine with every aspect of what occupies my brain? The shocking lack of rules in dreams is what makes the mental landscape a high stakes, exciting, yet very dangerous prison exercise yard, with no guards or machine gun turrets to offer protection. There is no other aspect of human life where absolutely anything goes, and we have no control.

Then I woke up and as I was waking up, everything on the stage in my mind scattered, like in a bar fight. It was chaos; as if they knew the light of day would make them disappear, fade to black. Some ran towards each other, tables were overturned; some retreated to the safety provided by my pending consciousness, color turned to sepia which turned to black and white which became open eyes. Eyes open, dream ends, what a delicious reversal of conscious life. I wonder why you can't dream with your eyes open.

And here's where it gets weird for me. I don't know what caused me to wake up. Maybe a random shoulder rotation, who knows. But my first thought was, how could all the details be the same? That was weeks ago.

Then, as happens on rare occasions, upon flipping over, I was able to drift almost immediately back to sleep. And everything and everyone was back in place, like a well-run movie set. With the random way things unfold in a dream, there is clearly no need for a director. I don't even try.

How does the mind do that?

Even today, doctors will almost always finish a study on an aspect of the human brain with a simple qualifier: Of course, we could be wrong. No one really knows.

Sure, most doctors being who they are, won't hesitate to speculate about the brain's functions; its ability to recover from injury, its instantaneous firing of synapses as it sends thoughts to our extremities; pain, elation, sadness, curiosity, confusion. In a matter of milliseconds, the human blanket of emotion and intellect can be thrown over us by our brain and, for the most part, we don't know how.

The field of psychiatry, commonly called 'shrinking', is defined as: a branch of medicine that deals with mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders (itals mine).

Think about that. Why is this incredibly broad field narrowed, by definition, to where and when the brain fucks up? Why not focus on the incredible things the brain accomplishes on a regular basis?

I want to know about why the brain functions at such a level that it's likely we'll NEVER know its full capacity and capability. I'd like to have explained how the brain has become the single greatest creation known to man. A literal magical mystery that we marvel at, maybe because it's difficult to label, to pin down. A doctor can hold a heart in one hand, and a brain in the other. One beats; one sits inert. They are similar in size. They could not be more dissimilar in function.

Forget about dreams, played out when the body is ostensibly at rest. I'd settle for knowing how and why the brain works when I'm awake. Maybe the world of dreams is merely the brain cleaning out its grease trap in the hours it is closed, and we should let it do that. But as we navigate life from an upright position, the brain is clearly at the helm of the human bobsled.

Would it detract from the wonderment of human thought if we know how it came about?

Maybe, when it comes to the brain, ignorance is bliss.

Now that would be ironic.





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