A Certain Lack of Focus

Sunday, December 02, 2007

In Your Dreams

Can you read in your dreams? Supposedly no one can. I think it's got something to do with the part of the brain which is active when you're asleep. The language centers are not awake, therefore you can't read.eyesI think I first became aware of this question when I was a kid and saw a Batman (cartoon) episode where Batman realized he was dreaming when he picked up a book and it was full of gibberish letters: no words. It made me wonder because I often read in dreams, especially in that half-sleep state where you're about to wake up. I'll be reading a wonderful story, but then I wake up and can usually no longer remember it.

Of course this isn't quite the same as real reading, what I'm dreaming about is the action of reading, the ingestion of a perfect story. This has nothing to do with language. Sometimes I did remember what I'd read, but if I tried to picture the words on paper I'd be unable to do so.

lettersSince that time I've been curious about reading in dreams, and whenever I dream of reading I try to remember the appearance of the words. I've succeeded at least once, remembering the image of at least parts of words. In my dream I was chatting with my brother on AIM and the word fragments I definitely remembered reading were: heronma (part of my brother's old screen name), sweater, and Ameri (part of American). There might have been more, but those are the ones I can remember now.

When you are reading but not reading in dreams, usually you see nothing but scrambled letters. My theory is that human beings have the image of letters memorized in their brains, but for words we put them together in different arrangements. One is visual memory, one is language memory (probably not a scientific term). It can be assumed that in dreams visual memory is active, but language memory is not. So maybe when I saw segments and even a few full words, it was because my brain had put those entire words into visual memory the same way it does with letters.

I've noticed in dreams that sometimes I think I've read something definite, and then when I go back to check, the letters have shifted and it says something else entirely, or nothing at all. When I notice, inevitably I wake up.

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