The Cinematographer’s Apprentice

My first memory is of an illness. I am lying in a room with a political world map on the wall, and a big blue hot water bottle is being brought for me. My second memory is of moving. We are going by taxi from the grandparents’ house to a new place. I am proud of it being the first taxi trip where I don’t throw up. My third memory is of faking having a dream. I desperately want to be dreaming dreams, but I’ve never had one. If I could have dreams, it would show how grown up I am. I am deathly jealous of people who do get them. All I get with sleep is the faint feeling of lost time. Dreams sounds much better. But what are dreams, and what can you have dreams about? I had asked mom, and she named some things you might see in dreams: rainbows, horses, balls, that kind of thing. So I wake up, and I tell mom: mom, mom, I’ve had a dream! — What was the dream about? — It had a horse in it!

Looking back, I have to admit that I just don’t get it: what was the hurry? I am glad that my thinking makes no sense to current me, because this is a clear sign that something changed about me in the intervening years. And that’s very reassuring. It would be a shame if I had remained the same person for the last 29 or so years.

There is a narrative explanation appropriate to the first memory: “he was a sickly child”. There is a narrative explanation appropriate to the second memory: “his family moved around a lot”. Is there a narrative explanation appropriate to the third memory? I don’t know. I hope it isn’t “he was always a liar”. Is it “he was always into imagining things”? That doesn’t seem right to me, either. It’s only after I started having dreams for real that I became interested in how to translate them to waking life. It’s only after I started having dreams for real that I realized their power.

I have never been in a dream where I was bored. I have never been in a dream where I was sleepy. If you can recreate dreams, you can command your audience. That’s not necessarily a good thing. You also probably don’t hear “I was in North Korea and I was bored” very often. But within the context of time-limited entertainment, it’s worthwhile. terror for two hours isn’t like terror for the rest of your life. It’s actually an impressive achievement. And yet if you recount dreams, everyone gets bored pretty fast. And so trying to understand dreams, and trying to recreate them, rather than just recount them, is the interesting part.

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