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The Dreams I Cannot Forget

April 12, 2010

I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
• Emily Bronte

I am a dreamer—figuratively through daytime dreams of hopefulness—and literally. I often capture my nighttime dreams in a journal, writing while still half-awake. Dreams not captured quickly are evanescent, evaporating once I’m fully aroused.

Most of my dreams are quickly gone. I write them down and when I read them even a few days later, it’s as though they were written by someone else. I don’t remember them at all. Except for a few: the dreams that color my mind. The exhibit I’m working on, The techNObots, was inspired by such a dream, one I captured in the late 1980s while I was going to school and working as a graphic designer, spending nights and weekends alone in a room with a hulking computerized typesetting machine:

I am walking down a long, featureless corridor, chilly and dim.
It is always cold here, for Their comfort.
Their comfort is more important than mine.
Despite my sweater, I shiver.
I do not want to be here.
I want to leave and never return.
I cannot.
The craft I once enjoyed now imprisons me, because of Them,
Machines that lack just one thing to make Them perfect,
The human element.
And that is me, and others like me.
They still call us artists, but our work is no longer our own.
Passing countless doors, I reach my cubicle, a tiny blankwalled room.
The room is even colder than the corridor.
And there He is: my partner and my nemesis.
I dread the coupling.
Each time the neckshunt is connected I fear that we will never disconnect.
I dread the ghastly coldness that invades me as we join.
My blood becomes His, flowing over His circuitry.
I am alone here, in a room designed for Him and not for me.
I could keep Him at home, but I don’t want to.
Coming here is bad enough.
Living with Him would be unbearable.
He is efficient.
Images I envision appear instantly.
Colors I imagine burst forth brilliantly.
It is wonderful and horrible.
He is wonderful and horrible.
Second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, we work.
He monitors my thoughts.
Only my artthoughts are paid for.
My private musings, my daydreams, my feelings are captured in His memory.
Retrievable.
And worse than this, I can feel Him, an invader in my blood,
Touching, exploring, searching for something.
I do not know yet what He seeks.
Artistry could not be built into these machines, so I am here.
Attached by silicone fangs to a vampire who drinks my creativity,
Wondering how long until it’s gone.

I have had other related dreams.. On November 25, 1994, I dreamed that I woke up because my arm itched. I looked down and steel wires were growing out of it. Only a few at first, but they kept popping out all over my arm. I couldn’t pull them out or cut them off. They kept getting longer. I talked to my husband, but he just said I would have to go the doctor. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to hear that I was becoming a robot woman. I got panicky and I woke up.

Eric Fromm (1990-1980, social psychologist and humanist philosopher) said that “men and women are growing more alike every day because they are both growing more like machines.” The techNObots explores the costs and benefits of human’s increasing dependence on—and romance with—machines, to us and to our human relationships.

Even as I wordprocess this and get ready to post it for the world to view, I think fondly of the days when it was not possible to do so. When email did not dominate my days in ways I find difficult to escape. When I did not have multiple phone numbers and multiple voicemails. When it was not so easy to be accessible. I do not want to be a slave to technology, a prediction Fromm did not know he was making when he said that “the danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.”

It does not require a metal body to turn human beings into extensions of their tools.

What do your dreams tell you?

In our dreams (writes Coleridge) images represent the sensations we think they cause; we do not feel horror because we are threatened by a sphinx; we dream of a sphinx in order to explain the horror we feel.
• Jorge Luis Borges, “Parables”

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