Monday, September 17, 2012

Go to sleep, find your lost objects

 If you’re like me then you may find times that you’re obsessing over something you have misplaced. It can be infuriating to look for car keys, a checkbook, wallet or TV remote, knowing you put it down…but where?

I have been reading the 1907 book, Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death by F. W. H. Myers. In a chapter called “Sleep” Myers prints affidavits from people who have used sleep as a psychic tool, including this man who found a lost item after dreaming about it:
In September, 1880, I lost the landing order of a large steamer containing a cargo of iron ore . . . she had to commence discharging at six o’clock the next morning. I received the landing order at four o’clock in the afternoon, and when I arrived at the office at six I found that I had lost it.

That night I dreamed that I saw the lost landing order lying in a crack in the wall under a desk . . . in the Custom House.

At five the next morning I went down to the Custom House and got the keeper to get up and open it. I went to the spot of which I had dreamed,, and found the paper in the very place.

Herbert J. Lewis
That affidavit reminded me of my own experience with finding something in a dream. In the early ‘70s my wife gave me a Christmas present, a new Rapidograph (technical) pen. It cost about $8.00 at the time, which was a lot of money for us. I promptly lost the pen.

I searched the house for two days and couldn’t find it. I was very upset. I’d asked her to give me the pen for Christmas and I had a specific use for it, so I went into obsessive overdrive, looking again and again in the same places, as if it would mysteriously appear somewhere I’d already looked.

That second night I dreamed that I woke to the sound of a signal, a high-pitched “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” sound, coming from under the refrigerator. I woke up from the dream, went to the refrigerator with a yardstick, put it under the appliance and out popped my Rapidograph pen. We had cats, and I assume one of them had knocked the pen off a countertop where I’d set it down, and doing its cat-thing, had been playing, batting the pen around until it rolled under the refrigerator.

Unlike Mr. Myers of the 1907 book, far from thinking of it in psychic terms, I thought of it as a way the brain solves problems, even while sleeping. In retrospect I think of it as being like the search feature of my computer. I type in a file name and the computer goes through every file on my computer looking for the file. I believe my brain had done much the same thing, just a lot slower than my computer.

Wonderful thing, the brain. Wonderful thing, sleep. I’ve used the technique of “sleeping on it” many times to solve similar problems. I've also learned to keep things out of the reach of my cats.

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