DREAM LOOP

Today’s dream (or rather, last night’s dream) plays with something of normalcy, which is something that seems to occur regularly in my dreams, which is perhaps why I’ve struggled to remember them for so many years. Here it is:

 

I woke up, for the first time, or perhaps the millionth, gasping for breath. My room was dark, but the beam of light peaking out between my window curtains signaled to me that it was well into the morning. I took a brief look around, when suddenly the door burst in and my father was there, spewing some nonsense about getting out of bed and doing my chores. I couldn’t really make it out, but his tone of voice was clear enough. I sprung to my feet, threw a pair of shorts on, pulled a shirt over my head and walked through the door…

…then sat up gasping for breath again, again, for what felt like the first time, but may have been the millionth. At the time, I had no memory of what happened prior, just as many fail to remember their dreams moments after waking. This time there was a scratching at the door, likely from one of our cats. They would occasionally scratch, asking for food—or occasionally freedom. I opened the door, and saw Twilight, our black cat, staring up at me with great green eyes. I walked her to the door to let her out front, the pitter-patter of her feet were as light as snowflakes falling. I twisted the nob, watched her exit, then figured I’d grab myself a quick bite to break my fast. I took two quick steps to the fridge, opened the door

and again was gasping for air in my bed.

 

But this was where the dream ended. My eyes opened, and the world felt that slight twinge of real that distinguishes it from even the most vivid dreams. What does it mean? I don’t really know. I could be, very obviously, that my life is literally on repeat. Day in and day out things are too similar to really be distinguished. The repetition of gasping could very well be indicative of choking, as if I am dying by doing this. Or, it could mean nothing, and this is just some weird thing my brain decided to project, and I just happened to remember it. Who knows? Let me know what dreams you’ve had that stood out to you in the comments below!

 

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BARN FIRE DREAMS

For the past while I have been recording my dreams, either in a mental log or on actual paper, and you may have notice I’ve been talking about dreams a lot over the past few weeks. That’s because I wanted to change up my Tuesday slot, because I’m struggling more and more not to be redundant with my concepts. I mean, you can skin a cat multiple ways…but at the end of it, all you’ve done is a bunch of skin cats. And it really isn’t in my interest to have people saying something like “Yeah I get it” when I talk about my ideas. So, instead, let me describe a short dream to you that I had the other day:

 

The world began with the light from a rotting wooden roof. Sunbeams looked down on me from the rectangular holes of missing roof tiles, and the interior of the barn had grown over with moss and various other plants. But the hay was still comfortable—at least, as I realized my arm was trapped beneath a woman, it had been for the half the night we had slept. I didn’t know her name, but she look familiar, like the friend of a friend. As I rubbed my eyes and rose, stumbling, I saw that the place really was run down. The walls looked like they might give out any time, and the color of the wood was so grey with rot that it scarcely looked a color at all.

And then I was outside, almost more suddenly than my mind could keep pace with. The air was fresh like the morning after a heavy rain, though the ground gave no hint that there had been so much as a drop recently. There were a great many trees around us, though there were other small cabins mixed in as well. It looked like a world stuck out of time to my mind’s eye, yet my body felt perfectly at home.

Until, of course, a young woman rounded the corner and ran up to me. Her hair was a vibrant red, and when she approached me it was clear she had been running for a great long while.

“Fire,” She gasped, pointing back the way she came, “help.” Without a moment’s hesitation, we were off running again. I can’t say how long we ran for, nor how I got my hands on a massive hose, but there we were, spraying down the side of another barn. Everything was going according to plan, until the faint cries of “help” rose up through the barn window, and we realized someone was inside. I handed the youth the hose, and ran toward the half open door. The heat inside singed my face, but I continued inward. It was as though the world itself had been immersed in flame. The Earth, the walls, and the roof all burned heavily. Even the faint view of the light seen from the shattered window in the loft looked redder than it had outside.

I looked around, and saw a pair of children standing at the center of the room, paralyzed with fear. It looked like they had found the only place without fire, though the circle around them was growing ever smaller. There was no way to get to them, save through the flames. Somehow, I found an area where the fire was less fierce, and took a few quick steps across the flames to them. I scooped them up in my arms, then looked for the door. In all the movement I had lost my bearings. It seemed so much farther than before.

Wood crashed around us as the roof began to shatter, shooting sparks through the air. The flames fed on the fallen wood like wolves on their prey, and grew all the fiercer. There would be no making it back to the door the way I had came. I looked around for another way to cross, but there was none. The flames crept closer, so close the children had to huddle against me tight. My mind raced, until it came to me that I’d have to toss them. They might break an arm in the landing, but it was better than being burned alive.

I did it one at a time. The boy went through first. His body soared over the tips of the flames, which in that moment looked more like the finger of Hell. He crashed through the door, rolling a few times before struggling to his feet. The girl was next. She was heavier than he was, and the tips of her skirt caught fire as she passed over the wall before us, but in landing she rolled and they were put out. The wall of fire screamed before me, enraged I had taken it’s prey from it. There was a huge crack, and I saw the ceiling finally give way. Then everything went dark.

 

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HELP I NEED A NAP

So while I was fumbling around my mind today, watching Casually Explained videos, I decided I should talk about sleep deprivation, mostly because I’m functioning on a cool three hours sleep, and had to get up to wait for the gas company guy to get her (spoilers, I’m probably going back to sleep after writing this). Sleep deprivation, according to a quick Google search, can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness, weight loss, and weight gain. To which I’m thinking…duh? Daytime sleepiness? What the h*ck kind of symptom is that (like my use of censorship on “heck” there)? Of course you’re going to be tired if you’re tired. That’s WHY YOU’RE TIRED.

So let’s just skip the symptoms, because I don’t feel like talking about them, and focus on why I stayed up in the first place. Yeah, I was binge watching T.V., and no, it was likely not a good idea, but hey we all make bad decisions and just because I can come clean about them doesn’t make me a bad person, right? RIGHT?

Wow, my brain feels like a mess today. Anyways, sleep deprivation makes you feel like you’re brain was baked on high in an oven for a minute, quickly doused with a soapy water mixture, then finally tossed in a blender for a quick go, before carefully being poured back into your head. It is not a fun time. It can make you feel sick without actually being sick. So with that, I’m going to cut it a bit short today to get this all set up, and take a (hopefully) short nap.

Oh, and let me know what your sleep patterns are like! Do you get all loopy and weird like me when you’re tired? Or are you one of those high functioning people that can just power through it?

 

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SLIPPING IN AND OUT OF DREAMS

When you start walking through walls, do you finally realize that you are in a dream? Personally, I struggle to even remember dreams, much less realize that I am in them. I’ve been trying to take stock of them when I wake up over the past couple weeks, and I’ve gotten a little better. Now I can usually remember the endings of the dreams, and if it was really vivid I can usually remember the major plot points, but I still struggle with beginnings.

Not that dreams really have beginnings. I doubt there is some voice over that says “one day our weary hero was walking through the woods, blah blah blah blah” like some cheesy 80’s movie. But let’s take, for example, a dream I had about a week ago. Somehow, I got to a point where these massive, titanic beings were chasing after me, literally bursting through buildings to get to me. The whole world knew, and the everybody was trying to help me get away from them, but I had no idea how I had gotten to that point. Was I the scientist who made them? Was I carrying some secret? Was it some other reason? I don’t know. But I am certainly curious.

The other interesting thing I’ve been trying is to slip in and out of my consciousness and dream states more quickly. Often times, I will wake up—or be woken up—before I mean to start my day. In many cases, I will have been woken up out of a dream, and will want to fall back into it. If I have to get up to do something, I’ll lose track of the dream, but if I can relax my mind into a resting state, I can often slip right back into the dream I was experiencing. Sometimes it takes a sharp turn because of this. For example, if I was dreaming about picnics, it might be that while after I wake up, the picnic leads me to a circus fair or something.

Anyways, that’s just my two cents on the topic. Do you have any recommendations for remembering dreams? Let me know!

 

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THINKING ABOUT SOCIETAL DIVISIONS

Well, I’m feeling a tad bit under the water…er…the weather today. But that doesn’t mean I’m not feeling awesome. Wait. That’s literally what that means. Anyways, I was thinking about all the content that exists on the Internet, and how little of it we actually know. I mean, think of all the memes you know. Or…don’t know. There are so many memes. Like so many. Seriously, do you think you know them all? I certainly don’t.

Which made me think about how divisive the Internet can be. We all know there is a separation between the news people read. The right reads Breitbart, the left reads Huffpost. Whether or not one is based in fake news and the other is based in reality, there is a split between what people read. Which indicates to me that we are split into sectors in the world. And it makes me curious if people have always been that way. Like, for how long have we drawn lines? That’s what countries are based on, right? Just lines that say “don’t cross this if you aren’t from here.” Before that, we had tribal lines, right? Like…I’m from tribe x and you are from tribe y. We’ve been erecting borders between each other for literally thousands of years.

Which makes me curious of how people dealt with lines before today. I mean, tribes obviously had wars, and those didn’t really end well. To me, that means one of two things. Either, we are a species incapable of change in this manner, in the sense that we are incapable of rising above our animal instincts to kill people who get in our way. OR we just haven’t gotten there yet. Do I have a clue as to what it is? Nope. But I do think that there is strong evidence that shows we haven’t gotten there yet. Firstly, we’ve developed systems to prevent illegal activity. The police are an obvious aspect, though to me it is clear that some amount of reformation needs to occur before it can actually be successful. Laws are another example, though these too are imperfect, since they can be twisted or divided in a way that favors certain groups.

So how do we move forward? I don’t know. But what I do know is that the best way to move forward is to try new things. Big border walls? Not really a knew thing. Strong armed, charismatic leaders? Not really a knew thing. A system that promotes the well being of the economic elite? Not really a knew thing. But that’s just my two cents. What do you think?

 

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DISCUSSING THE INFERNO

I’ve never really been one for writing book reviews. That’s what the Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB) is for, among many other outlets. But I did just finish Dante’s Inferno, and talking about it is effectively a book review, so settle in. If you haven’t read it, Inferno is basically what you would expect. Dante, guided by his senpai Virgil, enters and traverses the bowels of Hell. He listens to many, many different sinners, along with their stories. The plot is leading up to him reaching Heaven, but that doesn’t actually happen until after Inferno.

Ok. Cool. Plot summarized. Now to the fun stuff. The Inferno is a really interesting read, because while it is very “of its time” (literally, you would not believe how many then-contemporary Italian political references there are), it also contains many aspects that can be extended to present day political life. I mean, human nature doesn’t change THAT much, does it? If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen a few quotes that pretty directly relate to the modern political climate. What I found most peculiar about Inferno though, is how Dante treats sin.

Today it seems like there is no middle ground. You are evil, or you are good, and if you are sinful, then you can never be virtuous. By contrast, in the book, there is a split. There are those people who never look back, and are bad through and through, but there are also those who were great, but punished for their sins. The proof that they were great is that Dante speaks well of some of them. Speaking well of somebody who inhabits Hell, not Heaven, seems a bit…wrong, right? But I think that’s the crux of the story—that despite our flaws and short comings, we can still be good people, if we act in a manner that uplifts humankind. By contrast, if we instead turn our backs on humanity and virtue, and live a life solely for ourselves, that greed will consume us and damage everything around us.

A bit of pride is good. Too much pride is dangerous. The Greeks used Icarus to portray this, among others. Dante used various Popes and historical figures like Brutus and Cassius. Yet those men, if Shakespeare’s tragedy is to believed, were trying to defend democracy in betraying Cesar. They were punished, but their actions were, in many ways, for a greater good. What do you think? Where would you draw the line? Let me know in the comments!

 

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A JOB WELL ENJOYED

Hello there!

I haven’t talked directly with my readers in a while, and speaking that I am writing this 16 minutes before it is supposed to go up, and I had no idea what to talk about, today seems like a good day to do that. And it is a great day to be talking directly with you all. We (mainly my father and I) just finished the major portion of our front yard redesign.

Which makes me want to talk about work from a personal perspective. While I was watering the grass we put in today, I was thinking about how a botanist (probably) loves plants, but may not actually enjoy the tedious aspects of the job; like cutting the rectangular grass so that it matches the rounded edges of the space in which it is being placed. Or maybe doing the mathematics to make sure you don’t over order grass.

Similarly, a teacher may love teaching, but in the remodeling of their room, they may find that it is less than enjoyable. I mean, there is a reason people look down on the mundane jobs of the world, like janitors, trash collectors, and day laborers. Their jobs have no room for passion really. They have little control, and the work they do is always terrible (not the quality of the work they do, but the requirements put on them).

Which is to say that our default nature is that we don’t inherently enjoy the mundane tasks of life. Which I guess is obvious, but at the same time, people talk about making the best of things. How do you make the best of something that you are programed not to like?

I honestly don’t know the answer, but I thought it would be an interesting question to pose. Let me know what you think!

 

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UNDERSTANDING (DIS)ORGANIZATION

Lets talk about being organized! The SCARIEST thing in life since sliced bread. Wait. That’s not how that works. Anyways, being organized is something that I am simultaneously great at and terrible at. And I mean TERRIBLE. Like I have books in four different places in my room, and none of them are where I keep my books to be read. I have things in my clothing drawers that are not clothes. Like organization is not my strong suit at home.

But then at work, I organize nearly everything more systematically and efficiently than anyone else on shift, and I carefully keep up that organization. If a staple is out of place, I’ll know. If the inventory gets messed up, I’ll know. I mean, I can’t really do anything besides complain about it, because I’m not the store owner, but I knew there was something going wrong.

So what gives? You think I would care about my living space more, right? Well, I think it has to do with a few different things. Firstly, I am more comfortable in my living space than at work. Less people to impress. That’s why any of us would. Secondly, I’ve lived here forever. FOR-EVER. I know every nook and cranny of this place, and so when you ask me where my copy of Hamlet is, I can tell you it is in stack one, versus when you ask where my copy of Beowulf is, I can tell you it is in stack two. At the store, if you ask me where something is, I have to go check to verify nobody else moved it before I tell you where it is, because working with co-workers is HARD (insert heavy sarcasm because it really isn’t difficult to work with co-workers as long as they just put things back and keep the room a little cleaner than before but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO why would they do that. Ok, rant over).

Anyways, what do you think? Is your place spick and span, or do you have a well detailed map of the place in your head? Let me know!

 

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DREAMING ABOUT DREAMS

I recently was reading through some of the dreams that my late grandfather wrote down in his lifetime, and was struck by how bizarre they were. People trapped in houses, sexual symbolism, unknown entities hunting him down…really just the works. Yet in spite of this, they were completely enthralling. Maybe that’s why they were so interesting. Regardless, dreams are cool.

When you think about it, dreams really are something that we should value higher in our lives. So many people get up quickly just to rush their way back into reality—myself included. I think that’s probably the default state of being for people, perhaps because dreams are often forgotten quickly, and like to hide in the back of our consciousness. There’s a short list of dreams I can remember. But considering how historically important dreams have been to us, I would think we would care about them a little more.

Einstein is a famous example, who dreamed about sledding down a mountainside so fast that he began approaching light speed, which, when he awoke, he used to help form his theory of relativity. The idea that he could use a dream to inspire and create the work that made him famous is incredible. Yet it wasn’t because he just happened to be struck by this dream—it was also because he sat and thought about it.

If I haven’t sold you on dreams yet, think about famous speeches. The “I Have a Dream” speech plays on the mythic qualities of dreams. If we thought dreams couldn’t be reality, it would be a stupid idea to try to use them to persuade others—which, in truth, is part of what that speech was about. Maybe it’s just because dreams are outside reality, which makes them seem better than they are, maybe not.

Outside reality is an interesting side topic for dreams, as it relates to drugs. I mean drugs are usually used as another route to escape—in many cases, people use them to have hallucinations that are very vivid that they can interact with (sound anything like a lucid dream to you?). I’m not sure this is as bad a thing as many people make it out to be. Certainly, some of them can be addicting, and THAT can be dangerous, but simply experiencing the imagery and immersing yourself in the wiles of imagination (because where do hallucinations come from if not imagination) does not seem like it should be entirely feared. Many people produce important work while in a “dream-like state” from drugs—just look at the Beatles!

Ok, anyways, dreams are something super valuable that most people take for granted, which is a sad concept. What do you think? Do you have any special dreams that have changed your life? Let me know in the comments!

 

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CRITIQUING BILLY COLLINS

So, I just got back from USC this past weekend after my month at the USC/LARB publishing workshop, which was an absolutely amazing experience. The people at the Los Angeles Review of Books are all extremely outgoing and kind. They clearly care about the value that every publisher brings to the table—we heard from smaller presses like Angel City Press and Tia Chucha, as well as massive corporations like Netflix and Amazon, and all the magazines, authors, and so on in between.

It was this constant dedication to diversity that made me wish to discuss the work of Billy Collins today briefly. Specifically, I wanted to talk about the poems in The Rain in Portugal, since I just finished it and it is fresh in my mind still. I should preface this with A) that I have not read all his work—in fact this is the only collection of his work that I have read, so take what I say with a grain of salt and B) that I really enjoyed his work. Like it was some of the most inspiring, thought provoking poetry I have ever read.

With that in mind, I wanted to talk about the issue I have with the collection. The issue I have found is that, in many cases, Collins provides only a male-centeric narrative to his poems. Under the Stars, Cosmology, and A Day in May (also titled “May Day”) I think illustrate this issue the best. Under the Stars portrays a person, who is most likely a man, pissing under the stars. While the overall message is to find tranquility in the most unusual of areas, the emphasis on fraternity creates a sort of in-group versus out-group mentality, where the reader may feel alienated if they lack a penis.

Similarly, Cosmology paints the image of the world resting on a variety of unusual pictures (the infinite backs of turtles, for example). Collins decides that placing the world on the back of Keith Richards, holding a bottle of Jack Daniels and smoking a Marlboro cigarettes is the ideal place to rest the world. Of course, this is meant to create humor, but the decision continues to uplift the male narratives. Which isn’t necessarily bad, until Collins begins to represent women to the contrary.

In Collins work, women often become objects. A poem is personified as a woman, for example. And truthfully, it is extremely romantic and lovely to read. But it also can be one-dimensional. One example of this is in A Day in May, in which Collins highlights a girl telling him “have a nice day.” In his brief commentary afterwards, he mentions this statement as being “an irritant” because the girl could not possibly know how good the day was already. Yet to describe her as an irritant seems unfair. She was simple a cashier doing her job, and being polite about it at that. This representation presents women as “lesser” people. Which I think is on the border of cruel.

Anyways, that’s just my opinion. I still adore his poetry—I just ordered a couple more of his collections. But I still think that we can do better—or at least should be aware of the problems that exist even at the highest branches of poetic form. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

 

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