A cranky and comic rant that has some truth to it and also says something important about human recall, Why I Hate Dreams
I hate dreams. Dreams are the Sea Monkeys of consciousness: in the back pages of sleep they promise us teeming submarine palaces but leave us, on waking, with a hermetic residue of freeze-dried dust. The wisdom of dreams is a fortune on paper that you can’t cash out, an oasis of shimmering water that turns, when you wake up, to a mouthful of sand. I hate them for their absurdities and deferrals, their endlessly broken promise to amount to something, by and by.
[ ]…Whatever stuff dreams are made on, it isn’t words. As soon as you begin to tell a dream, as Freud reminds us, you interpolate, falsify, distort; you lie. That roseate airplane, that wide blue arc of cold water: no, it wasn’t like that, not at all. Better just to skip it, and pass the maple syrup. (emphasis mine)
Unlike that author I have a higher tolerance for listening to people recount their dreams. I do have two big conditions. Let’s not ramble on all day. I realize that it may have meant a lot to you in some way, but not every little detail matters to me. Learn to edit. The gory details of sexually graphic dreams are as best kept to oneself or if you must, one’s therapist. Chabon is right about trying to capture a dream accurately. Even fifteen minutes afterwards many of the details become nebulous, lost in the fog of recall. Since dreams are not bound by social conventions they frequently include details that are left out by the now conscious mind that is well aware of social conventions. Even best friends and the closet family are going to find parts of your tale, icky.
One of the first steps in becoming a cynic is the day you figure out that your parents hedged on some larger truth when they told you to never lie. It is always best to tell the truth. Children as young as four years old lie to avoid punishment. Though they are not completely aware of the disconnection between what parents say and the consequences. It takes a while to figure out that telling the truth means punishment for doing the thing you did not lie about because lying is wrong. So very early on we make the decision between two conflicting narratives – lie, which is wrong or tell the truth and suffer the punishment. Or lie and get away with it. The cost benefit scenario: Why We Lie, Go to Prison and Eat Cake
Ariely: If you thought that crime or dishonesty is driven by a cost-benefit analysis, then you have some very basic solutions — for example, put people in prison. And people who were going to commit a crime would say, ‘Okay, I’ll go to prison, not worth it.’ I’ve been talking to big cheaters, including people who have been to prison, and I tell you, nobody I’ve talked to has ever thought about the long-term consequences of their actions. How many people who did insider trading thought about the probability of being caught and how much time they would get in prison? The number is incredibly close to zero, maybe exactly zero. What will happen if we increase the prison sentence? Basically nothing, because it’s not part of their mindset. What we need to understand is the process by which people become dishonest.