Rat Race

Image by 19melissa68 via Flickr

Earlier this year I was looking for a place to live. By day I attended open houses, scoured Craigs List and real estate listings for the perfect two-bedroom. And night after night I dreamed of the same: looking at apartments, going from one address to the next. The dreams didn’t look much different from my days.

None of these dreams struck me as being psychologically enlightening, transcendent, transpersonal or transformational. They’re what some call “No Account Dreams.” Some dreams don’t require our attention; in fact they can hardly keep our attention — while others won’t let us forget.

I’ve dubbed my “No Account Dreams” of the variety described above: “Rat in a Maze” dreams. These are the dreams that don’t look too different from what you were doing all day.

For example, on the night of April 15, after cramming last minute calculations before sending off your tax forms, you might drift into sleep dreaming about adding up numbers . Or maybe you dream of ocean waves crashing on the beach after a day of building sand castles on vacation with your kids.

Robert Frost’s poem “After Apple Picking” is a great example: Frost describes dreams of “magnified apples” that “appear and disappear” as a farmer slips into sleep after a day spent on a tall ladder in his orchard.

I call these “Rat in a Maze Dreams” because scientists actually studied the dreams of rats who spent their days running mazes … and guess what they dreamed about? You got it: running through mazes. To be honest, I’m a bit skeptical of this research. How could they possibly know what rats were dreaming? Did the rats type up dream reports? But, yeah, I get the point: A certain percentage of our dreams simply replay the events of the day.

But, as Robert Frost has shown us, even so-called no-account dreams can be transformational … that is if you transform them into beautiful poetry.

(Let me know if you manage to get some lilting verse from your dreams of raking leaves, doing laundry, or washing dishes … or if you create a poem from any other dream, for that matter.)