Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What's in a Dream?

Last weekend our national TV station here in Finland broadcasted Arizona Dream, a movie by Emir Kusturica. I'd seen it before but it remains a powerful movie and it made me thinking about the two totally different meanings of dream. The movie actually clearly plays on both meanings.
First, and foremost, we humans (but apparently quite many animals too), have, or rather "see", dreams, in our sleep. Those dreams can be difficult to describe, although many experience vivid details. There isn't always a clear "plot"; and the setting or situation may feel surreal; like that movie. It seems that most of our dreams are about more or less frightening situations; that's definitely true for myself. Antti Revonsuo proposed an interesting evolutionary psychology based theory for dreams: in our dreams our brains prepare themselves for dealing with dangerous situations.
The other meaning is to have a dream, as in having a vision or goal. An epitome of this meaning is the concept of the American Dream. In the movie several characters express their dreams of this kind. I realized that in Finnish there is actually a different verb for having-a-dream of this kind (wish, goal): unelmoida.
In the movie Elaine dreams of being able to fly. Interestingly Elaine not only talks about having the wish to fly but also about seeing dreams in which she simply steps of a roof and flies away. Revonsuo's theory now inspires me to engage into some speculation. In many dangerous situations , that our dreams simulate, a pretty effective tactic is to flee. And flying is, or would be, the ultimate way to flee. So perhaps dreams induce in us humans the strong wish to fly. Perhaps this also explains the great excitement and satisfaction that free-flyers (hang- and paragliding pilots) experience; they almost fly like birds, just stepping of a mountain or cliff.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Reasonably Happy

Friday, so this must be cultural!
Today biked into downtown Helsinki; the weather was nice and it was Friday, when several city musea are free. In the morning read that Sweden yesterday celebrated its annual Kanelbullens dag, i.e. "Cinnamon Bun Day". So a good excuse to step into one of my favorite cafes, Cafe Esplanad, famous for its buns. After reading some foreign papers headed out to the Helsinki City Museum for Modern Art but that was closed as they were building up new exhibits.
Next target was to see some art and design that I'd read about. I thought it would be outside at Kamppi, but it actually was an excellent full blown exhibit inside the old bus terminal (at Kamppi). The exhibit is titled Kohtuullisen Onnellinen, which is Finnish for "Reasonably Happy". The exhibit showed a great variety of art and design made from very creatively recycled objects. In addition there were exhibits that provoked thinking about our perceived reliance on materialism, with its associated environmental impact, in order to be happy.
My favorites were the artwork in the picture above; made from old capacitors, and the magazine rack made from old wooden skis shown below. But there was a lot more interesting stuff; such as the beautifully done "anti-advertisements": parodies on famous advertisements, but this time seducing the audience into not buying something. Several are for display on the web, but to fully appreciate them you need to know Finnish. This one bring us back to Sweden, but without cinnamon buns....