I recently came back from a trip to Hungary and Poland. The Hungarian part centred on a large and well-organised conference in Budapest, where I saw many old friends. Such conferences inevitably devolve into something very similar to what I imagine a cruise must be like, only on dry land — except for the fact that part on this conference was not on dry land. (Dinner, boat, Danube).
The trip to Poland was a vacation properly speaking – my first in some time. I enjoyed the native hospitality and learned many useful words, such as kazirodztwo and ościowość. (Do not confuse this with kościowość.)
Now I am back in Paris. The students just came back to the École. This is actually my first beginning of the school year here, as I arrived rather late last year. Even though I do not have to teach, I feel a little like a schoolboy on the first week of school, with fresh, clean notebooks and a full set of pencils.
What are your mental abilities while dreaming? I typed up the following notes shortly after having woken up from a coherent, but not lucid, dream. In the part I remember, I was attempting to give directions in the Paris urban transport system to somebody with the aid of several maps at different scales highlighting different networks. (As I remember them, these maps corresponded roughly though not exactly to those maps existing in reality). I must have been feeling a bit of a perfectionist, as I was trying to find and explain the best possible path using a combination of RER, metro and bus. After a while, I gave up and explained how to get as close as possible by metro alone. (This would not be a bad idea when explaining transport to a newcomer in real life.) At that point I wondered seriously whether the couple of glasses of wine I imagined remembering having had for dinner hadn’t got to my head.
After asking my somewhat frustrated listener for her destination again, she (was it a “she”?) gave me a destination that, oddly, seemed different from her first one, whatever that was. I quickly found a metro line that took the person directly there. I remember it by its colour on the map; its path was much the same as in real life, except perhaps for the crucial bit at the end, which may have been west of where it really is. Most native Parisians, by the way, identify the lines by number, not by their unofficial colours.
So, which mental abilities do we keep during REM, and to what extent? A criticism that has been fielded against psychoanalysis is that not enough of our brain is active during sleep for dreams to tell us anything meaningful about our so-called subconscious. I do recall finding myself sometimes frustrated during dreams to find myself oddly limited – but surely some forms of thought are still there.
How do you think while asleep? What do you find yourself able or unable to do, intellectually speaking?