Issue May 20, 2014

Sweet dreams

Last week, German researchers announced they’ve unlocked a way for people to control their dreams by zapping their sleeping brains with electricity. The sensation of being aware that we are dreaming — and directing what happens in our dreams — is known as “lucid dreaming.” Many people are able to do it naturally. Now there may be a way for us all to join in the fun.

Researchers at Frankfurt University applied 40-Hertz electrical currents to sleeping volunteers’ frontal lobes for 30 seconds, triggering lucid dreaming, according to the journal Nature Neuroscience. (I let my subscription lapse, but the story was widely retweeted in the media by Tripping Balls Quarterly and other prestigious publications.)

The research could lead to devices people can use at home to make their wildest dreams come true — at least while sleeping. The study might also lead to breakthroughs in consciousness while awake and could be used to treat post-traumatic stress and other cognitive disorders.

But for now, I’m mostly interested in designing my own dreamscapes. For instance, I have this cool idea for a dream where I’m at a beach party with Keith Moon, Kurt Vonnegut, Simone de Beauvoir and King Archelaus, and we are discussing the patriarchy, the military-Internet complex, unorthodox time signatures and the top stories of the day, which are dominated by a recent culinary discovery that cheese is the new bran.

Elton John is there on the beach, hammering out “Teacher I Need You” on his piano, and my freshman Spanish teacher Ms. Miller is twerking ironically to the lines She was long and she was lean/she’s a middle-aged dream. There is a massive wedding cake on the beach with two brides on top. Gov. Steve Beshear pops out of the cake, wearing a shimmering gold lamé business suit, and admits that his preposterous logic that “only man-woman couples can naturally procreate” was an intentional trick to throw the case and get the fair outcome. He hopes this maneuver will become known by the verb “to Beshear.”

Suddenly, we are flying, but Keith Moon is now Frances McDormand, nine months pregnant and speaking with a Fargo accent, but still more beautiful than any skinny woman in Hollywood and able to improvise on the drums while consuming epic volumes of brandy and downers. Grace Kelly is there, doing spot-on impersonations of January Jones as Betty Draper (“I’m not sad; it’s just that my people are Nordic,” she whines, and we laugh like hyenas).

We fly with our hands in front of us like Superman, but our arms get tired and we begin to lose altitude. Fortunately Neil deGrasse Tyson picks us up in that envelope-opener spaceship from “Cosmos,” which morphs into a flying, metallic-blue Hot Wheels car I cherished when I was 7.

Off we fly to Vienna, where it is 1913 and the world premiere of “Pygmalion” is about to begin. Shaw himself is directing, but the play is in German and the sarcasm is lost in translation. When the actor playing Col. Pickering forgets his lines, I step in, daring Henry Higgins (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) to teach Eliza Doolittle (played by Ian McKellen) to speak properly.

When the curtain reopens for Act Two, it is no longer “Pygmalion” but is now “The Passion of Jesus Christ” (played by Rand Paul), as performed in the church where I grew up. I am 12 years old, sitting in the front row eating my mom’s (played by my mom) fried shrimp and using the tails to bookmark the songbook at “Someone’s laughing, Lord, Kumbaya.”

After Mass, I step out of church and into Dickens’ London, specifically Doctors’ Commons, just as David Copperfield (played by me) and Mr. Spenlow (played by Mitch McConnell) are having a discussion about justice. Mitch says there is good and evil in the world and that is all part of the system. I argue that “we might improve the world a little if we got up early in the morning and took off our coats to the work,” but he advises me to “dismiss that idea from my mind, as not being worthy of my gentlemanly character.”

So I fly my blue, metallic Hot Wheels to November 2014, arriving just in time to see Mitch lose his bid for re-election because, after all, this is my dream. And then I wake up, lean over, grab my brain zapper and jolt myself with 40 more Hertz of sweet, sweet electricity.