Abandon hope, ye who do not enter here. Just when you thought all your wildest dreams would come true, turns out they don’t need to. But they can.
Sorry, Novalis. Dream scholar J. Allen Hobson has allegedly discovered that dreams mean nothing after all. In a recent paper, Hobson claims that dreaming ‘constitute a protoconscious state’. Rather than the mind’s excursion into parallel realities, repressed desires, or absurdism, dreams may be practice runs for reality.
He told the New York Times this week that ‘dreams are tuning the mind for conscious awareness.’ The brain may function exactly the same way whether dreaming or awake. The difference is the presence of absence of external stimulus. Hobson hopes, ultimately, to explore ‘a theory of consciousness that is derived from the study of dreaming.’
Perhaps now, all the wildest dreams of the German Romantics will come true. They explored the connection between dreaming and waking by writing fantasy. ‘Our life,’ Novalis said, ‘is no dream, but it can–and perhaps it should–become one.’ Dr. Hobson might want to include a dose of SF in his research. It would be a relief to find out that I really am a cockroach.
Alternatively, move to the suburbs.
Paul Barker’s The Freedoms of Suburbia (Frances Lincoln, 2009) defends the burbs as dreams come true. According to The Economist, he suggests that the suburbs are ‘a place that reflects how people want to live, as opposed to how they ought to live’–that is, ‘child-oriented and politically conservative but wildly improvisational when it comes to interior design.’ Quite possibly, the reviewer adds, Barker’s robust defense of block housing and bay windows represent the latest fascination with past architectural trends.
The Observer sees the matter somewhat differently. Rachel Cooke suggests that Barker is simply being honest about our dreams. It’s all very well for the young and the edgy to live in urban flats with a Starbucks in every direction. But, in the end, ‘I want, if not to wear my trouser bottoms rolled, certainly to have a pocket-sized garden and the illusion that my neighbours are more than three feet away from me.’ The suburbs contain a vision of individuality, she suggests, a comforting reassurance that I am myself, and I can like lawns if I want to.
Both reviews agree that ‘suburbophobia’ has existed as long as the suburbs themselves. And that suburbs are on their way up in the world. Perhaps the suburban dream deserves a second chance? Perhaps boring is the new exciting?
Perhaps we need a theory of protoburbia–life in the suburbs as life without external stimulus?
Jonathan Dove could set it to music. He’s launched a musical crusade to make opera-family friendly. His latest opera, soon to appear at Young Vic, retells a Finnish folktale in which the swan-hunting hero gets dismembered. There’s still a happily ever after all–the swan-hunter’s mother sings over the remains, and he comes back to life. The story, Dove says, speaks of the power of song and myth. ‘It also suggest[s] a counterpart (and antidote) to those Wagner operas where a soprano sings herself to death in the last 20 minutes.’
Dove has rediscovered that ‘opera thrives on fairytales.’ Kids love it. And not the Disneyfied versions, either. Give them the grit of original Grimm if you want them to appreciate it, he says. His 2007 operatic adaptation of Pinocchio kept the more horrifying elements in the story (getting eaten by a whale was the least of Pinocchio’s worries). ‘Our young audiences took it all in their stride: the most popular moment turned out to be where the cricket gets squished by a mallet.’
Perhaps because everyone’s always dreamed about doing that.