Wednesday, June 17, 2015

On Dream Logic

Writing dreams is tricky, especially if you're trying to capture 'dream logic.'  But what exactly is dream logic anyway?  I was trying to figure this out, when I remembered part of a quote (whose source I don't remember) stating that dreams are completely logical while you're dreaming them and only become illogical when you apply the logic of waking life.  So, if I thought I'd flip that around, and figure out what dream logic was by applying it to waking life.  And that's when I realized that there is no such thing as dream logic, that the entire concept is a misnomer.  'Logic' is rooted in consistency.  Logic doesn't just dictate that 2 + 2 = 4, but that 2 + 2 will always equal 4.  This is not so in dreams.  It's easy to forget that the logic of the waking world is a result of that world.  That is to say, it is consistent because our experiences of it are consistent, and from those experiences we derive logic.  There is no consistency in dreams.   A single dream can contain contradictions, not to mention the contradictions between different dreams.  So what, then is dream logic?   

I think it's first and foremost a sense of credulity.  Within a dream, we may question why or how something is happening, but that it's happening at all, is never questioned.  Perhaps the greatest piece of dream-writing is Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.  Alice questions why and how things happen to her, her changes in size, for example, but she never doubts its possibility.  One incident from the novel that comes to mind is the baby that she rescues from the duchess.  The duchess is filling the house with pepper, and this baby won't stop sneezing.  Alice takes the baby from the house, only to discover that, a ways down the road, it has turned into a pig.  She is surprised that the baby turns into a pig, but she takes it in stride whereas you or I would freak out.  And we'd freak out because it's impossible, because it runs contradictory to everything we know about the universe.  It is, in the simplest sense, illogical.  But, as I mentioned, we derive logic from experience, and we enter each dream, for lack of a less loaded word, in a state of pure innocence, which is to say, zero experience. We derive dream logic from the contents of the dream, and each dream starts from scratch.  Which is all to say that there is no dream logic outside the dream.

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