Wednesday, 14 July 2010
Do dreams have any meaning? They seem to in the Bible, but it doesn't seem like many people still experience prophetic dreams. My instinct is to write dreams off as meaningless nonsense, but the Bible provides us so many examples of people's lives being changed by dreams.
In the Old Testament, Joseph becomes greatly respected in Egypt for his ability to interpret dreams rightly. He correctly predicts years of feast and famine and plans accordingly. Daniel is also able to interpret dreams and unlock their significance for King Nebuchadnezzar. In these examples, dreams can actually predict the future with the right interpretation.
In the New Testament as well, God uses dreams to announce world-changing events. It is in a dream that God instructs Joseph that Mary's child is truly born of God and that he should marry her. In this dream, God uses an angel to send his message clear as day to Joseph, no interpreter needed. Wow! I wish God talked to me like that.
Maybe he does, and I forget about them as I do most dreams. But most of my dreams are random/bizarre or somewhat bad, and so I'm glad to forget them. Dreams have never sent a clear message, at least as far as I can tell.
But lest you think I'm judging the examples of the Bible too harshly, most modern theories about dreams are quite off-base as well.
Freud's theory about sexual metaphors and wish-fulfillment seems even more unlikely. Though some people do report having piles of gold or meeting Nicole Kidman in dreams, most dreams are just too random to support the idea that they reveal the deepest desires and/or urges of our hearts. Although, I did once have a dream about being an award-winning writer. But compared against the number of times I've dreamed about flying, falling, my teeth moving around (but not falling out), arguing with people, finding things, getting lost, badgers playing chess, being a dog, etc, I hardly think that my dreams constitute sub-conscious wish fulfillment.
Another theory is that dreams are a way for your brain to process unsolved problems. It's what we mean when say, "I'll sleep on it." We expect/hope that in the morning we will have a better sense of the issue. Maybe that works for some people. It happens for Agent Mulder in the X-Files, but that's TV. Usually when I try to "sleep on" a problem, the morning is even worse because I realize that rather than come to any coherent realization, I've just procrastinated and the deadline for deciding which college to attend is just that much closer. A pros/cons chart or, heck, flipped a coin would have been more helpful.
In the same vein, I've had scores dreams about finding an object that I have lost. But when I wake up and look for my keys under the dresser (or wherever the object was in the dream), it's never there. My hopes of having psychic dreams are always dashed. (Sometimes I find the water bottle somewhere else later, and sometimes I don't).
The last theory holds the most water, in my opinion, but still comes up short. It's the idea that dreams are our brain processing the experiences of our day. This seems to explain the dreams about meeting FDR in Crate & Barrel (having learned about him that day and visited a Crate & Barrel). At the same time, it doesn't account for the way dreams seem to make your sister look like your best friend, or being in a totally new or non-existent place, or explain why you are absolutely certain that the spoons have a critical secret to tell you if you could just lean your ear in closer...*they're so quiet*. Ahem, dreams are random. Usually they feature occurrences very out of the norm that have little to do with the events of the day. How is flying a processing of the day?
In conclusion, dreams are random nonsense. Or if they do mean something, I don't know what it is.
What do you think dreams mean? Have you ever had a particularly insightful or meaningful experience while asleep? Do you think God still uses dreams to speak to us?