|| - 02.20.2007
|In one of William Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquies, Hamlet rants about fearing death, that great ‘sleep’ which might hold dreams or nightmares, just like the sleep of life.
The genius of Shakespeare is uncontested. And he wrote about sleep and dreams. So, therefore, since so many of my songs refer to sleeping and dreaming, I, too, must be a genius of Shakespearean proportions.
I’m kidding. But I do refer to sleep and dreams a lot in my songs. (I’d count them up right now if I weren’t so sleepy!) I really can’t remember how my fascination with sleeping and dreaming began. But I do remember my senior year in high school writing a research paper entitled “Dreaming.”
In my college psychology classes I studied sleep disorders, and learned that the period of sleep in which we dream is called ‘paradoxical’ sleep. It’s a paradox because our bodies are completely immobilized (so that we don’t act out anything) but our brains’ activity is heightened to the same frenzy as if we are awake. This stage is also referred to as R.E.M. sleep, (Rapid Eye Movement) because the movement of our eyeballs behind our closed eyelids appears almost as if we are actively watching things happen. This is a paradox. We’re asleep, but our brains are acting awake!
Now you can see why I was so fascinated with psychology! (Or maybe now you’re confused with how ANYBODY could be fascinated with psychology!)
About this same period of time, I had to write a poem for a creative writing class, on any subject I chose, so I wrote a poem about sleep and dreaming, and I called it “Night Paradox.”
The poem speaks of imagination sending me to an unlikely world, “a strange-familiar land” where Peace and Fright, queer companions, wander through the night together, and affect the scenes in my dreams. From peaceful and pleasant dreams of flying, to “monster-fears, the dread of empty houses, and icy eyes that stare down darkened halls.” (Cue Vincent Price laughter—mwaa-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaaa!)
Where do dreams come from? What purpose do they serve? What do they mean?
There are lots of theories. Maybe that groundhog with the ping-pong paddle represents something, or maybe it’s just a groundhog with a ping-pong paddle.
They say some people dream in color, while others dream in black and white. Some dreams are scary, and we wake up with our heart racing. Some dreams are recurring.
My dreams are usually in an outdoor setting. I’m usually hiking out in the woods or on the mountains. I’m usually very aware of the weather in my dreams (being a ‘recovering’ Weather Channel junkie). Lots of beautiful and sometimes scary storms show up in my dreams. Sometimes there are tornados, usually several tornados at the same time. But they’re more beautiful than scary.
Sometimes I’m underwater, snorkeling and looking at fish. Sometimes I’m driving, often backwards. Sometimes my vision is hampered, or I can’t get my eyes open, or I can only see my feet. (That reminds me of my college friend Kirby, who used to dream about Jesus all the time, but he could never see his face, only his feet.)
Sometimes I fly in my dreams! I soar! Just me…no plane or wings. Like extremely realistic, fast, exciting acrobatic flying, really high, looping around towers and electrical wires!
If I’m sleeping in my bunk on the tour bus, sometimes I’ll dream I’m in an earthquake, incorporating the movement of the bus into my dreams.
Yeah, we often incorporate something in our 'real' environment into our dreams. When I was a kid, I often dreamed of a lion roaring, and would wake up to realize I was hearing my Dad snoring in the room above mine!
To this day, every time I dream about my youngest brother who is 30 years old, he's never an adult. In my dream he’s a baby, or a toddler, or never more than a 7-year-old.
The past tense of dream is acceptable as “dreamed” or “dreamt.”
I once dreamed I was writing a song. I was sitting at an old upright piano on a stage singing these lines: “I’ve got good news, it’s water for the thirsty, comfort for the weary...” I woke up and wrote down the words and the melody and a few days later completed the song, “Good News” which I recorded on my first CD.
Once I was driving on a long trip (many years ago) and was so sleepy that I had a dream with my eyes open. I was in a village in Africa talking to a tribesman using his syllables and tongue clicks to communicate with him. The sound of my own tongue clicking woke me up—going 65 mph up the interstate! I no longer allow myself to drive while drowsy!
In another dream, I was in Russia talking to a group of college students. None of them spoke English, and I didn’t speak any Russian. So I asked them a question in Spanish (which I do speak semi-fluently). One of the students replied in Spanish, and said he was studying Spanish at the university, so he became my translator for the rest of the dream as I spoke to the Russian students in Spanish. A three-language dream! Weird!
Dreaming aside, the whole concept of sleeping is amazing and weird too!
One third of our lives are spent sleeping. One third of every day, our body needs to shut down and replenish and rest! What’s going on during those eight hours that we are completely unaware of our surroundings, and yet we’re creating unseen worlds and fascinating experiences inside our heads?
I think God invented sleep just so He could see how funny our hair looks when we all wake up. All 6.5 billion of us in perpetual succession, rolling over, smacking an alarm clock, squinting and rubbing our bellies, stumbling across the room to the bathroom, and topping it all off with a messy, frazzled, unruly pile of hair on top, that took eight hours to perfect!
Funny things happen when we sleep. What causes things to go wrong with our sleep? Sleep-walking, for instance. Or sleep-talking.
I woke up one morning and found a two-by-four board lying on the floor beside my bed. I noticed some writing on it, in my own handwriting. There was a phone number and some illegible gibberish. So I called the number, and found out that an old college acquaintance had called during the night, and we had a conversation of which I had no recollection whatsoever. So, I apologized to him, explained the board and the phone number, and had the conversation over again! This time awake.
Apparently, walking in my sleep, and talking to him on the phone, I had searched the house for something to write on, and chose a two-by-four from the basement to take down his number. Crazy!
Once when I was a kid, my Dad heard the front door of our house open in the middle of the night, and getting up to investigate, found one of my brothers outside, walking down the driveway to the mailbox…in his sleep!
I often fall asleep on airplanes. Usually miss the take-off. For some reason, I dream about playing soccer when I’m on planes, kick a soccer ball in my dream, and wake myself up with a jolt, kicking the seat in front of me. It’s embarrassing to have to explain to the stranger next to me that I was just dreaming about kicking a soccer ball, and apologize to the person glaring at me whose seat I had just kicked.
My friend Will yells out things that sound like another language, although he’s never studied that language. While camping with a bunch of guys in the Grand Tetons in the snow a few years back, we were split between two tents, and my tent-buddy and I suddenly woke to Will’s screaming in the other tent what sounded like German military orders, over and over! (It sounded German to me, or maybe it was Clingon...) At first we thought, bear attack, then we thought, what if Will attacks us? He finally quieted down, and he remembered nothing in the morning!
This is the same Will who (when he was in high school) I would walk into his room in the afternoon to find him sitting in his chair with his textbook open, his head slumped over, eyes closed, and a large neon yellow puddle where the highlighter was bleeding onto the page, as he snoozed mid-studying.
To this day, you can still flip through Will’s Bible and find similar highlighter puddles.
When I can’t sleep, I don’t count sheep, but I do another mental trick. I repeatedly breathe in thinking about the word and the color ‘blue’, and then I exhale the color ‘green.’ It’s just a simple way to occupy my mind with a simple pattern (like counting sheep) to nudge out the thoughts that won’t let me fall asleep. Usually, I stop thinking about other things, and I quickly fall asleep.
Sleep is just funny. I can’t help but be amused by the whole concept. But sleep is definitely a gift! Psalm 127:2 says, “…the Lord gives sleep to those he loves.” Rest is necessary, and rest is a gift, not to be taken for granted or ignored. Rest keeps us healthy, and God designed our bodies to shut down every single day for a significant period of time.
Well, it’s time for me to shut down now. I hope my hair looks cool in the morning! Ok, here we go. In blue, out green, in blue, out green … blue ….. green ….. bzlzue …. grezzezn … zzz… zzz .. zzzzzzzz ….