Last night I had one of my reoccurring dreams: Waking up (while I am still asleep) and panicking about which class I am going to be late for.
Not exactly the most manly of dreams, I know, and I haven't had this one in a long time. I imagine my not-too-far-away departure for grad school has me on academic edge. Usually, the dream goes something like this:
"*GASP* It's 10:30 and I have no idea what my class schedule is for Tuesday/Thursday! I'm fucked." Then my mind races trying to remember if it's Math class or History class, and what part of the (fictitious) building it is in, and if I had a test that day. Finally, after flirting with cardiac arrest, the dream concludes with me realizing that I am, indeed, no longer in school and haven't been in school for a few years. I have no class schedule. In fact, I have no classes. Tuesdays and Thursdays are like all other days. I am an idiot.
But then I got to thinking. What is the equivalent dream for, oh, let's say- a Neanderthal? Did they have the "naked in the middle of school" dream? Well, considering that they were a loin cloth away from a birthday suit, I doubt it. What about the "my teeth are falling out!" dream? Eh, I doubt Cro-Magnon man was known for his superior dentistry. Zombie dreams? Nope. George Romero was still 11,000 years away.
Did ancient man dream? If so, what about?
Probably lots of sex.
I suppose some things never change.
But most other things that we dream about, they lived! Except maybe the zombies-- but gaps in the fossil record may prove otherwise.
Here's a theory for you: Maybe our (when I say "our", I mean Western, comfortable, high living standard people--whatever that means) lives have become so danger-less and, dare I say, boring, that dreams are our biological way of keeping our minds ready for action. They are Nature's equivalent to the military's war games.
Hell, let's face it: I'll never do battle with Six Legged Hell Toads bent on global domination. But my body and mind should be biologically ready for the inevitable invasion. Dreams prepare me. They keep my numb mind active, because if I can't do physical battle, my brain might as well fake it-- just in case.
An interesting experiment might be to track the content of dreams (as best and as accurately as they can be remembered) across different cultures and levels of "civilization". Do those of us who live less danger filled lives have more violent dreams to compensate? Are the natives of the jungles of Papua New Guinea spending their nights dreaming about things like dancing penguins, pretty flowers, and carefree marathon orgies?
Just a thought.