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November 02, 2009

Bad Dreams

My dreams have become increasingly literal over the last several years. Last night, for example, after watching football all day, I had a dream in which the Giants quarterback Eli Manning appeared. He seemed like a nice guy. My interpretation of the dream: Eli Manning seems like a nice guy. I also had a dream in which I was upset because I was going bald. My interpretation: I don’t want to go bald.

As a kid, I remember having incredibly vivid dreams of flying through panoramic vistas, being chased by monsters, finding a UFO in my backyard. Dreams were events; now they are even more banal than my actual life. Soon I imagine I will simply dream about everything I did the previous day, only I will be bearing beige.

I read somewhere that this is a common experience. Dreams seem to decrease in intensity as we age. Which is kind of sad. Kids don’t need the added excitement that dreams provide. They already spend most of their time freaking out. A lot of somnambulant adults, on the other hand, could use a brain jolt now and again. Like that guy Jared from the Subway commercials. He seems like he could use one.

Or maybe the adult mind just craves rest and doesn’t want to deal with the inexplicable.  Maybe actual life is inexplicable enough. Or maybe our brains are so filled with computer passwords and cellphone numbers that we don’t have any more room for awesome flying laser monkeys. Did our ancestors have better dreams when they had less stuff to carry around in their heads?

Maybe rationality killed dreams. Once we started learning about the world, maybe the brain stopped trying to make sense of it for us. Maybe once you stop believing in magic the brain stops trying to make you believe. It’s like the brain is saying, “Yeah, you can’t fly. Here’s a dream about soup.”

It seems like the opposite should be true. It seems like the brain should do everything in its power to expand our belief in our own potential. After all, when we talk about all the things we want to achieve in our lives, we talk about “our dreams.” Shouldn’t the brain be supporting this instead of cutting us down to size? Perhaps the brain is actually a sadistic bastard who gives you a taste of a horizonless world as a kid and then slowly pushes in the walls, so that we end up feeling as though our entire lives are like the trash compactor scene in Star Wars.

Another, more optimistic theory is that, as our dreams become less wondrous, the real world may start to appear more so. Of course this theory requires one of two things: a lack of cynicism or an abundance of mescaline.

Like a lot of people, I often find myself happily dumbstruck by the natural world. In American Beauty Ricky says “Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it, like my heart’s going to cave in.” That’s how I feel a lot of the time. I also feel that way when I eat at McDonalds, but I suspect that’s because my heart literally is caving in and not because of anything particularly beautiful.

Maybe dreams are nothing more than our brains collecting our experiences like playing cards and shuffling them back into order. Maybe as we get older, it just gets better at organization. I guess that’s okay with me. The more I know about the world, the more I want to know. I spend a lot of time reading about science and outer space and string theory and all the stuff out there that is both fantastic and real. When you look at pictures of galaxies and atoms and have the maturity to understand that the actual world is crazier than anything our brains can imagine, I’m happy to forgo the flying laser monkeys.


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Joey G

I know what you mean. My dreams at 30 are a lot less exciting than those just 10 years ago.. I had a funny dream relating to your postponed Troc show. I dreamed I broke into the Troc and stole back the ten dollars they owe me for hauling my ass in to Philly for a cancelled show. I can't remember the details very well but I do remember hearing,"Life Is A Lemon And I Want My Money Back." It was strange.
As far as an interest in the world goes I am right there with you. Those random fact, how they make it books are waisted on kids. As an adult I too am more fascinated about the surrounding world than I ever was as a child. I think a big part of it has to do with the fact that it is easier to learn when you don't have to.


My dreams are still weird and ambitious. My life has gotten very beige, however.

The Naked Redhead

I still dream very vividly, always have. It's not a super good thing when you're depressed, though, because if my dreams were really good, I'd try to sleep all the time because it was way better than being awake.


"Dreams seem to decrease in intensity as we age."

I don't think I got that particular memo. Mine are just as nonsensical as before, although the main characters lose a bit of luster. Instead of Tom and Jerry pushing me into a pool, it was Larry King.


Sometimes I wonder if our "dream worlds" are real and the "real world" is really dreams. Like, how do we really know?

And then I kindly remind myself that thoughts like that are why I ended up on medication...

Which, incidentally, has made my dreams much weirder and much more vivid.

(PS - I love this blog. It's beautiful.)


Once I had a dream where I was standing in the hardware store, picking out a furnace filter. In real time. Just standing there. Looking. Standing. Looking. I woke and said, "I just had the most boring dream of my life!"


Flying laser monkeys - makes me think of the Rothbury monkeys.

I read this a few times because it made me tear up and I couldn't figure out why. I decided that when someone does all the footwork - thinks up every possible scenario as to why something is the way it is, clarifies, simplifies, entertains and teaches - it affects me.

Like heartfelt poetry or earthy song lyrics, an entry like this just gets under my skin. Just feels...right.

Thanks for consistently being that kind of writer and that kind of man.


I find I have lots of dreams where ive experienced great times. Like im back in thailand or in the mountains. I think its a way of my brian telling me how i can be truly happy... and one day ill just take my backpack and leave and go back. Maybe when you dream boring dreams... maybe your brain is satisfied with what you have accomplished in life so it doesnt have to be all crazy anymore.


Don't become beige. I really like your children books as well as your 'adult content'. Just read 'A Brief History of Time' and keep entertaining me; a very selfish fan. :)

Aleata Illusion

I know,it's crazy.I actually sometimes have dreams of like checking my myspace and i think someone wrote me something off the wall.And the next day i check my myspace and i'm like "damn that person didn't send me that crazy ass message"!I think i really have to much technology crowding my brain waves.It's about time for a wilderness vacation without any technology,although that screams horror movie scenario!Damn,i just never win!


Try wearing nicotine patches to bed – craziest dreams of your life!


The last dream I remember having is I got shot 6 times. It wasn't really a boring dream, but it was painful. Also, I was wearing a cast on my arm made out of bread.


I don't know. Last night I had a pretty great dream about finding a really nice orange shirt.


I don't even remember my dreams for the most part, I'm a little jealous.


If you really are afraid of going bald you should have Showalter make you a wig out of his gorgeous locks while he's still got the hair.

Erica Paige

Hi Michael,

I really enjoy your blog, and although you don't respond to comments, I'm sure you read them. It's amazing that such an intelligent, thoughtful and wildly creative man like yourself is not a household name. Maybe that will change in the future. You certainly deserve it and are more than talented enough to be a voice for your generation.

I just want to express my appreciation for you and for your creative output. Keep on doing your thing, it's a really awesome thing to watch.


dreams are gay,the worlds gay, galaxies are gay


Last night I saw very bad dream. Thanks for this nice post about dreams. It is interesting to read. I like this site. Keep posting such a way as I can keep visiting this blog very often.


It's been said we start to lose our childhood and innocence at around 9 years old - about that time the deck starts to become shuffled in order and I bet the laser monkies taper off a bit. I've found I can dream like a child by triggering the mind with something that makes me regress, like the original Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I recently watched this with my kids and was mesmerized and even disturbed (I was also a bit disappointed I could see the cables holding Charlie up during the fizzy lifting drink scene). Either way - "We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams".


My dvr player just started a re-run episode of the very wonderful "michael and michael have issues" and since the restoril I took 10 minutes ago is kicking in and making me feel dreamy, I decided now is the time to tell you how just seeing your face makes my heart grow happy. Your existence has made me a happier person. It started when I first saw you doing the VH1 "I love the (insert decade here)" shows. I did wonder if maybe you were gay and even during the FANTASTIC Stella series, I had moments of fear that maybe you were actually gay. I'm still not sure about Hal Sparks. After your new show started, my love for you and your humor grew to an even deeper level and I did a little googling and found to my pleasure that you are not gay, but to my displeasure, that you are happily married with kids. Then I found your blog. You are an amazing writer and your observations about life and society exactly match my own. You and E from the Eels are two of the three men that I'm sure God had lined up for me, but I ended up with a French-Canadian who doesn't think you're funny and doesn't care for the Eels music. I just wanted to let you know that when I saw your face just now it made my heart swell with happiness. You have the face of an angel and your skin makes me cry. Sorry to all the other bloggers who come here with their "A Game" comments. Mine is straight from my drug-induced brain. Look me up next time you roll thru West Sacramento, CA. I'll dream about you tonight Mr. Sexy, your adoring fan, Elizabeth


You are echoing what many of us have thought when first discovering Michael. I, too, fell hard and fast, and was fortunate to have (briefly) spoken to him after a couple of his shows over the years and can attest to the fact that he seems to be a very sweet guy in person and just as handsome, if not more so, than on tv. Enjoy the high of falling a little bit in love with him. It was fun.


Toward the end, you started to sound like Carl Sagan.


For the record, Hal isn't gay. He's in a relationship with a woman from the Suicide Girls.

I've met Hal and I've met Michael and both are great guys.

Crush away. You're safe here.


Dude, one word: Weed. Smoke before you go to bed and you'll have the most craziest and vivid dreams. Better than when you were a kid because now, like you were saying, you know more about the world and those thoughts are just exaggerated and absurd.


But if you smoke too much weed, your magical dreams will be laced with paranoia. It's a slippery slope, isn't it?

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