Dreams and Memories: a Lyrical Essay

Sean Hendley

Nearing midnight, escaped from the proximity of my ‘roommate’, crouched on the floor of a hotel room, I scribble onto a page. Using only the light diffused against the hard, cold floor from the crack under the door, the following floods the banks of my pool: 

1. On Reality and Illusion, one begins to wonder on the boundaries that define the two as separate entities. Separate entities? I’m sure of it. The two are mutually exclusive, no? 

I ponder on what is real and what is an illusion: the contradictions, confirmations, and so, complexities. I realise the obvious: my reality is and my illusions are my own creations. To the waves of acrylic, I am the moon. 
 
Centripetal to this notion are the memories and dreams of an individual, with respect to those who are in deficit of the ability to have these things. We salute you. 

2. It can be universally, (almost institutionally) argued, that we record our memories through our milieu, our ritualistic behaviour and through objects. These subjects become vessels for our memories; our homes are littered with trophies that serve as proof to the reality that we have endured – (survived…suffered, even?).  

Senses are the roots to our memories and dreams. Vision – with the most hegemony – and the haptic sense, are the biggest influencers on our inner creations. It’s not often that you can smell the subtle familiarity of a close friend in your dream, but you may remember being with them upon awakening. They say that you can’t dream up a new person. Instead, those ‘strangers’ you dance with in the wee hours, are complex hybrids of those you know well, mixed with the features of the lady you passed earlier that day in Sainsbury’s bakery, for example – perusing the evening reductions on jam doughnuts.

“My body is truly the navel of my world…as the very locus of reference, memory, imagination and integration.”  

Juhani Pallasmaa

3. Some among us are more explicit in recording our memories and dreams. This current exercise, so late at night, is an example.  

4. In the diagnosis stage of a cousin’s epilepsy several years ago, she visited a psychologist who believed that our dreams are puzzle pieces to a parallel universe in which we exist. When each is meticulously recorded, found patterns teach us about what our body is experiencing in these worlds. 

Excited, I began my puzzle. A true success! 

In most of my dreams, I am under attack. On this, it is surprising how many ways one can be attacked. In one particular week there was a strong theme of wasps, that, through researching the ‘origin of dreams’, I learnt was a sign of aggravation. 

Oneirology is infallible! 

My illusions are my reality. 

Spread the word! 

I would do this as much for fun, as the result of an obsessive disposition of mine, shared with the great French novelist, Georges Perec. He explained his experience of psychoanalysis, claiming he “…had a veritable phobia about forgetting.”, forcing him to incessantly record everything.  

A failing on the reliability of permanence and the human condition. am learning to become more comfortable with this.  

5. Don’t be fooled, however; there is danger in this. I observed that in recording my dreams, I would forget some of them. In clearing them from my own memory, I was entrusting their safe keeping to the memory of paper, and in turn, my own ability to remember the paper’s existence.  

Again, I am not the only one to have suffered this realisation. Socrates, Phaedrus and Goethe all wrote about it. Maggie Nelson too, questioning “…whether the written word cripples the mind’s power, or whether it cures it of its forgetfulness.” 

Please don’t mistake my self-alignment with the greats as some kind of egotistical statement. It’s not like that at all. My illusions are my reality. 

6. So, my compendium of dreams and memories – now useless or invaluable? In this spirit, I ask you to think of the benefits. We all have memories we’d like to disown – dedisco. Think of a prostitute: able to draw a portrait of her previous client to rid her memory of the brute’s contours. His folded, flushed flesh chaining over her with every thrust.

7. I like to think of my memories and dreams as matter in a calm (turquoise) pool; the pool of the mind; “the Seat of the head”. Ode to Maggie.  

“Imagine the Self as the rider in a chariot. 

The body is the chariot, 

the intellect the driver 

and the mind the reins. 

The senses are the horses, 

and their objects are the road. 

The Self…when combined with the senses and the mind  

becomes ‘the enjoyer’.” 

(From The Katha Upanishad, revealed by Yama, the King of Death.) 

A pool where those surviving exist just below the surface, whilst others float to the bottom to dissipate into silt. A conscious act, a quiet act within the innocence of the subconscious. No-one will know.  

Despite many attempts, there is still little consensus on where our dreams come from, and how our memories are actually stored. Traces and engrams are our only jargon. Do both come from the same? Are ‘both’ even one matter, perhaps, and not two? We will ignore the possibility – to change the narrative now would be silly. 

Night after night I return to my bookcase, studying the geometry of words from Berger to Freud. What have I missed? Where are the answers, I cry! There is no response, only silence.  

8. Clearly, more research needs to be done on this.  

9. What is certain, is that these precious, unique and irreplaceable intimate creations, are too often taken for granted. 

Wasted: like the fruit of the body. 

Words: Sean Hendley, Storehouse Content Team, @sjao.h

Pallasmaa, J. (2005) The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons Ltd. 

Perec, G. 1999. Species of Spaces and Other Pieces. Translated from French by J. Sturrock. London: Penguin. 

Nelson, M. (2009) Bluets. London: Penguin.

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