The Dream Sponge

Several of our closest family friends had gathered at my home. I was about seven or eight at the time and we had met for a party or a celebration of some sort or another but I don’t clearly remember the event itself. Anyway, I recall my excitement about showing the rest of the kids this…well… wonderful something that I had stumbled upon.

Without knowing quite how to describe it, I led this ragtag band of explorers away to a small, windowless spare room that had been forgotten in the turmoil of renovating a block of offices into our home. Magazines, clothes, gym equipment and all sorts of general waste lay heaped up in towers and so naturally we jumped in and tore apart everything that we could get our grubby little hands on.

Though surely the place would have been a nightmare for those afflicted with OCD, for us it was a sand box, waste yard and playground all in one. But later, once the smoke had cleared and we all felt thoroughly exhausted, we slowly began to build things out of the refuse.

We imagined all the various kinds of magical abilities that might emerge from these objects when combined together. Each item we found became part of a supernatural uniform that we designed and manufactured for one another; a stringy elastic coil from a broken treadmill became a robotic tail, a chipboard from an old games console became an elaborate piece of some futuristic body armour, whilst desaturated Lego bricks became magical gems that could predict everyone’s movements in the dark.

Yet the most interesting object here was a four poster, queen size bed that had been pushed aside and hidden in a dusty corner for years. It was a prehistoric monster that we courageously dug out of the environment and I remember uncovering those nasty chips and dents that unevenly scarred its flank, wondering about their ghostly origins.

Soon enough we had thrown all of our best ideas at this monster, each time hoping to dream it into something more incredible, something more ethereal than our previous efforts. At first it was a legendary sports car, then a boat gliding across the open seas, then suddenly it would transform into a floating fortress. So this dusty old bed quickly became a template, or a boilerplate of some kind as it allowed us to quickly develop our ideas and share them.

But there were moments when our dreams didn’t quite translate, as we were forced to explain to the group why we had suddenly jumped, or dived, screamed, giggled, or gasped. Aliens would be attacking, Godzilla would have climbed out of the sewers, or we might have all tripped upon a mystical super weapon that only one of us could see.

And so I think this was perhaps the first time we realised that we had to explain to one another what we think, what we want other people to do. Those games revealed the complex, subconscious underworld between the thinking and the acting; between the world of dreams and this world, the one we share. We learnt (with no small amount of frustration and anger) that dream-sharing requires a constant, rigorous discipline from us so that we can limit the differences between what is thought, what is said and what’s then sent into the world.