6.10.2008

Dreams (and a philosophical question)

I just woke up from a much-needed nap.

I had a dream this nap.

It spawned a question. And now I am blogging, instead of peeing. So bear with me on this one.

The dream:

I had to screen a movie that I had written and directed before an audience of over 400 people, at some major film festival... Only I didn’t remember writing any of it or directing any of it.

Now, I should clarify that, in the dream, it wasn’t “not remembering”, where I did it and I just forgot. It was more like I wasn’t even there while it was being done, but I had done it. This is how dreams work - the actual reality of how a thing may or may not have come about is irrelevant. Maybe I was on drugs when it happened; maybe someone kidnapped me, made me make a movie, and then pulled the memory out of my head. However it came to be, I was standing there in front of an audience about to screen a film I wrote and I directed, the content of which I had absolutely no clue about. So basically, I was also screening it for myself.

So, I screen it, and it turns out the movie is about my childhood. It was during when I was living in Decatur, GA before Decatur became “Decatur” (these days, Decatur is rather hip for the most part, with condos in the downtown area routinely selling for $500,000 and houses going for that or more. When I was a kid - and this isn’t part of a dream, by the way, this is how it was - Decatur, GA wasn’t exactly the hip cultural center it is now. I was one of two white children in all five of the elementary schools I attended (I got expelled quite a lot for causing trouble), except for the one school - Hooper Alexander - where I was one of THREE white kids... And all of us - white and black - were as poor as the day is long. There were no yuppies; there were no Starbucks or art stores or neighborhood parties on the weekends. You stayed inside, unless you were actively selling drugs, or arresting those who were. It was crime infested, burnt out, and overall, the entire city amounted to some bizzaro theme park where the rides were all types of crime you might have happen to you during the day - The Car Jack, the Smash-n-Grab, the Home Burglary, and so on).

Wow, that’s a long aside. I’m going to have to start over, because trying to continue after that end parenthesis is going to result in my losing you... If I haven’t already.

Anyway. The movie in my dream was about my childhood in Decatur, particularly my 4th grade year in school. I remember smiling the entire time I was watching the movie I was screening, thinking nothing about the memories and the sentimentality of an entire childhood whose purpose was simply to learn how NOT to live like a racist dipshit. No, I was just glad that no one who was watching the screening had gotten up and left yet. The movie wasn’t terrible.

The thing is, every scene I was watching in this movie - even though it was real and based on my life, and the kid playing me WAS me at age 9 - felt completely new... Like I was watching it in the theater for the very first time. It didn’t feel like watching a memory on a screen, like movies of your life can sometimes feel in dreams. This one, and all the scenes in it, felt completely, 100% original. Which scared me, given that I was supposedly the writer and director. But at least it wasn’t bombing.

There was a point in the movie, about 30 minutes in, where I got into a “jawning” contest during recess with one of the boys who thought, because I was white, I couldn’t hang (for those of you who have no idea what “jawning” is, it’s basically a fun word meaning “put down”). And, I said a particularly nasty one during the 3rd round of insults, and every kid around me started cheering, giving the appropriate “Oh, SNAP”-s, when I suddenly woke up.

The thing is, that one line never happened in my real life. Not that I can remember, anyway. The dream produced a new piece of dialogue in an old memory, neither of which I remembered while IN the dream as having lived or created.

As happens when anyone first awakens immediately from dreaming, you first have to digest what the hell just happened, and you draw the dotted line in consciousness that separates dream from reality. What anyone does after doing that, I don’t know, except to say that I believe everyone has their own process. My personal process is to immediately begin sifting through anything behind that dotted line (that I remember) to find either a) meaning or b) usable content for a story, novel or work.

The meaning - I was displaying a creative work of mine before strangers without being aware of any of the substance of the work. This one’s easy. As everyone who’s taken Psychology 101 in college knows, It’s about having sex, as all dreams are (except for those about cigars, according to Freud).

But then the winning put-down line hit my brain, and with it, the content of the movie regarding my childhood in Decatur, and I realized I would soon have to put out a story about that stuff, because really, there’s some great stuff to talk about from that era of my life. But something kinda dawned on me - a weird philosophical question, and the purpose for this entire post:

If I use the line from the movie I screened in my dream, that I didn’t know any of the content of in advance, and didn’t remember writing in the dream - and furthermore, that line actually didn’t happen in real life - which makes it an absolutely new, externally-produced idea and piece of content to my dream self... Did I actually create it? And if I use it, am I actually plagiarizing from myself?


(Just so you know, this is the kind of shit that my wife has to put up with weekly, if not daily. Kinda makes 6 years of marriage a miracle, huh?)