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Chapter 5. Templates

You may have noticed that the mind loves to use familiar templates to shape our dreams. The entirety of the dream is made up of memory fragments. Any city in a dream is assembled out of the hundreds of cities we've visited or seen on TV. Passers-by are bound to be mixtures of types of people you've met in your life. Dreams cannot exist without your memories, but the quality of the memory doesn't matter. Often enough, my dreams have used fragments of computer games that I had played. What amazes me most, however, is that I often find myself in the exact same unreal places that I've already dreamed up before. Oftentimes, I'll recall a similar dream, with a slightly different plot, in which I was on the exact same street, but in a different store. In my waking life, I would have never remembered these dreams, but in my sleep I had a full memory of the dreams I had experienced in this city. And so, with this knowledge, I could walk along adjacent streets or inspect buildings from all sides, if they interested me.

The cities of dreams always change in small ways, as if they had an existence outside of my dreams. In one place, a house would be built, in another place, a new store would open up or a tree would grow. There are many familiar places in my dreams. Sometimes, to my surprise, I will discover that these places are connected. For example, I found that one of my favorite cities from my dreams was situated close to a familiar mountain range, in which I liked to walk and soar like a flying squirrel, nearly touching the slopes. Dreams are like a dynamic constructor that will create something new every time while retaining old features.

One place I rarely see in my dreams is Germany, even though I've lived here for more than six years. My mind is unwilling to add new textures and objects to its dream archive. Dreams love to skimp on novelty. I still often dream of the streets in my home town, just how they were in my childhood. As if, somewhere on the hard drive of my brain, detailed records of my first memories were stored.

As with landscapes, the dream creates the people around us. The acquaintances in our dreams are only like prototypes of people. They retain merely what we remember, and our recollection is, you may imagine, very conditional. Their approximate features are assembled like a composite sketch, forming an image that, unfortunately, still often remains only vaguely similar to the real person.

During one dream, driven by curiosity, I asked a woman in front of me to undress. This had an interesting outcome. The woman obediently undressed, but since she had been created from the general body template of the dream, her features were blurred and shapeless. However, then, as if assembling fragments from my memory, the neck and shoulders became distinct (after cycling through various options for skin texture, the dream finally chose one). Then, the hands, chest, belly and so on were selected via the same process. It was not unlike the process of an artist using photo editing to assemble a collage from existing images. At the same time, however, the product was rough, with clearly visible inconsistencies.

Between dreams, I would often lose sight of the moment of transition. I would simply find myself in another place, watching new events unfold. The dream would often resort to this slight of hand to confuse me and reassure me that my experience was real. One day, however, I had been focusing so much on my own awareness that I took note as the dream transformed. You might say, I got a backstage pass to the dream. The walls and backdrop suddenly began to move and be replaced, as happens with a theater stage. The city around me was turning into the interior of a huge cathedral. The houses became pillars and walls, and above, the sky was replaced by a Gothic ceiling. As I looked around, the passers-by had already turned into a Catholic procession led by a bishop.

I laughed. I laughed heartily as I witnessed the absurdity of the dream's attempt to draw me into a new plot. And still laughing I told the dream:

- You are not trying hard enough, I can still tell that this is a dream!

My words visibly upset the procession, and they hastened to leave.

With the help of lucid dreams, I began to understand how the world around me was formed. The dream existed only around me and was often drawn in gradually, adding new streets to the city or a landscape in the distance. The same principle was at work when scrutinizing objects up close. Every time I picked up stones or other objects, I was amazed by their details. The quantity and quality of minute details was similar to real life, but in a dream it is very striking because you can tell from further away that the objects look slightly fuzzy. Really, the details were less striking than the contrast. The only things that will disappoint when seen up close are books and inscriptions. If you're giving them a cursory reading, everything appears clear and sensible. However, when you try to read something a second time, you start to notice that the text is always changing, always taking the form of your thoughts. It makes books in dreams rather useless. It is a completely different effect to the communication with "Snovids"...

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