Capturing Weird Dreams & Detroit Black Rock City

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Listening to another person inarticulately describe their dreams to you is one of the most tedious experiences you can have in this incarnation. So, fair warning, this blog is about dreams and my dream in particular, which will have almost no interest to anyone other than myself. However, it’s also about dream journaling, which can be interesting to creative types.

The visions you have when your eyes are closed have little meaning outside of your skull and for the most part, you just can’t capture the details, unless you practice. The only way I know to practice describing dreams is to either give someone a horrible ear beating each morning or keep a dream journal. Dream journals are popular in esoteric practices. I got the idea either from some corny Judy Blum style Wicca manual or from Aleister Crowley. I don’t remember well because it was around the age of 15 I started keeping them. It doesn’t matter.

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Keeping a dream journal is simple. Just have a notebook and pen near you when you wake up. The moment your eyes open, just start writing anything you remember. When you start, they’re going to look pretty lame: “I was in a car dealership with my boss and maybe a raccoon army was trying t get in?” As you stick with it, you start to recall way more detail. I haven’t really done this since my early 20s, but I recall getting into as many as seven pages of descriptions of certain dreams.

I think this practice is a great alternative to the early morning social media binge everyone seems to be engaging in these days. I know I’ve gotten into a bad habit of opening up my phone (which is my alarm clock) and going right to facebook and Instagram. It’s fun to see what’s going on in the world, but the conspiratorial part of my mind can’t help but feel like we are all being slowly programmed and conditioned, having our thoughts slowly molded by memes and videos. Days that I resist the urge to look at my phone often start off better for me. It could be coincidence, but images are powerful.

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I’m fairly agnostic on where dreams come from or what they mean for everyone. I’ve always found dream interpretation books to be incredibly lacking. How would an alligator possibly  mean the same thing to me, a Louisiana native, than to someone from Afghanistan? Mass culture has probably created a certain amount of homogeneity, but even still, it’s absurd to think you’re going to get one size fits all interpretations. I’ve read Jung and Freud on dreams and I just don’t buy the collective unconscious stuff for dreams.

One reason for that is how I dream. No matter how psychedelic or weird my night time travels are, they are almost always easy to hook up to a live concern or anxiety. Or even a movie I’ve watched.

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For instance, last night the setting of my dream was clearly a semi-ruined Detroit. Where did that come from? I got super high and watched It Follows again. The movie has a dreamlike quality and I imagine my subconscious found the imagery very easy to integrate. The dream was also focused on communal living, which has been on my mind a lot over the last year or two. So I have a setting, and the setting is populated with a bunch of impressions of people I’ve met in the last year up in Humboldt. Many of this group grew up on a commune in Tennessee, which I find endlessly fascinating. But my friends weren’t in my dreams, just the impression of them.

This morning I wrote down my dreams for three pages. Normally if I’ve been indulging in the Devil’s cabbage I have no memory of my dreams. This is one of the main negatives for me. I have very surreal, fun dreams and I hate to miss them. This weird side effect is one of the reasons pot can help people with PTSD, especially those with nightmares. It’s unclear if the plant is stopping the dreams or if they are happening and you just can’t remember them. Either way, a significant percentage of cannabis users experience dreamless knockout sleep. This can be huge for people who have trouble staying asleep through the night.

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Anyway, in my dream, there was a counter culture element that had decided to have a sort of Burning Man festival (I’ve never been) but in the ruins of Detroit. When I woke up this actually started to seem like a cool idea. What if instead of pouring all those resources into a temporary place, like Black Rock City, people came to the areas of Detroit where you’re supposed to be able to buy houses for $500 and started building crazy art neighborhoods?

I know there’s already some noise about Brooklyn types invading Detroit to do this, but it isn’t organized. Imagine if each Burning Man camp was responsible for a few houses or even a block. It would definitely make for a gloriously weird looking area.

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I’m aware of some of the complaints a plan like this might generate. Rich techies and hippy-yuppies taking over poor neighborhoods has stigma. But turning ruined buildings into art spaces ad revitalizing abandoned neighborhoods is cooler than letting them rot.

People are already doing similar things. The Heidelberg Project does neat art house stuff. I don’t know a lot about them. Their pictures are cool.

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The content of my dream is irrelevant. What is relevant is that instead of waking up and blobbing out before my day even began, I was thinking about the world in a different way. I can’t say I would’ve ever thought about this sort of plan if my brain hadn’t jumped a horror movie, my friends, and Burning Man into a temporary psychedelic experience made just for me.

I’m willing to bet anyone could do this and benefit from it. I’m going to try and spend the first 30 minutes of waking up on dream journaling. I don’t think there’s going to be anything magical or mystical happening, but I do imagine shifting the start of my day will have some effect on how the hours advance. Even on work days.

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