Do you dream of technology?
I mean literally. When you close your eyes at night, do you drift off to an ethereal mindscape of computer screens, smart phones, social media platforms and the like?
Despite the ever-presence of those things in my daily life, I almost never do. In fact, I’m not sure I ever have.
I awoke from a dream this morning – again, a dream without technology – with this question on my mind: “How come I never dream about virtual reality?” Lord knows I spend enough time there.
I picked up my iPhone – on my bedside table, natch – and consulted Google to see if this was normal. I do that far more often than I care to acknowledge. Googling to see if I’m normal.
The jury is still out on that, but it turns out I’m definitely not the first person to wonder about dreams and technology. I immediately found a short article in Popular Mechanics entitled, “Do Humans Dream of Smart Phones?” Apparently, the answer is: almost never.
This seems odd, given their ubiquity, and nobody’s quite sure why, but there are lots of fun theories floating around. Here’s one I like from the Popular Mechanics article:
According to one theory of dreaming called the “threat simulation hypothesis,” our dreams exist to help us navigate anxieties and fears in a low-risk environment, essentially letting us practice for real life. It’s an evolved defense mechanism, and it means that generally, our dreams are more closely tied to fears that have been around for a long time, fears that could be relevant even to our ancestors. “People tend not to dream quite as much about reading and writing, which are more recent developments in human history, and more about survival related things, like fighting, even if that has nothing to do with who you are in real life,” Alice Robb, science writer explains…
I’m not sure I’ve ever had a “fighting” dream. My dreams about “survival” are typically more along the lines of “surviving” that final exam I forgot to study for, after a semester of forgetting to attend the class . . . or “surviving” that conversation with a cute guy at a cocktail party while my teeth are crumbling in my mouth. I’m not exactly accessing my inner cave girl in these survival dreams, but the fear factor is real.
Speaking of dreams and technology, last week was a technology nightmare at our house. First, Jeff’s essential MacBook Pro died. Like, all the way dead. Toast. RIP, little laptop. A day later, my beloved Kindle Fire flamed out, but I managed to revive it – whew! – and a reliably stalwart PC at our office, the one we use for accounting, suddenly had “issues” that took a while to resolve.
After this trio of tech traumas, I got on my iPhone (still functioning, knock on wood) and Googled “Mercury in Retrograde 2021.” Sure ‘nuff, we were smack dab in the middle of it. Still are, actually, until October 18th.
What does that mean, you ask?
For those who believe in astrology, it means that human communications will tend to go awry during this period, and communications technology will likely go kerflooey. For those who don’t believe in astrology . . . well, that stuff will still happen, but you won’t have the cosmos to blame.
You know that famous saying, “You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you”? That’s how I feel about astrology. I’m not exactly a believer – I’m a Presbyterian! – but the broken computers are piling up over here . . .
As I write this little essay, early on a Friday morning, I find myself surprised and amused at the direction it’s taking. Sometimes I sit down at the keyboard knowing exactly what I want to say – albeit not exactly how I’ll say it – but this is not one of those times. This piece started with a question – a quirky, predawn germ of a notion – and now I’m just riffing. Noodling. There’s no end game here.
But I’m struck by the strange brew of subject matter that’s wormed its way onto the page. Technology . . . Astrology . . . Religion . . . Evolution . . . Dreams . . .
The writer Madeleine L’Engle was younger than I am now when she wrote, “I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be. This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages – the delayed adolescent, the childish adult – but that they are in me to be drawn on; to forget is a form of suicide . . . ”
Might not this same idea apply to humanity? As a species, we are no longer in our infancy, or even in our childhood, or adolescence. Or maybe we are. Who knows how far we have yet to evolve? How much growth and change awaits us? As a species, we are not who we were. And yet, we remember. Deep in our DNA, we remember. We are still every age that we have been.
As a 21st Century woman, I have roots that run deep and wide. The whole universe speaks my soul’s language. I find meaning everywhere. In constellations and cathedrals, giant swallowtail butterflies and baseball. In Greek philosophy and June bugs, the Holy Bible and the Celtic fiddle. In painted buntings and Beethoven’s 9th, Stonehenge and Springsteen and Instagram.
Which brings us back to where we started. One thing experts seem to agree on is that our technology is evolving much faster than our psychology. Along with our political, economic and social systems, our dreams can’t keep up!
One day in the future, we humans may regularly dream about Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok and the like.
But for now, I’m just glad I can close my eyes and catch a break. Crumbling teeth at a cocktail party may sound like a harrowing experience, but you should see some of my Facebook threads.