Eat Your Dreams, the Ultimate Diet

Eat Your Dreams, the Ultimate Diet

“Happiness starts small; learn to recognize it. It’s like a weed we see every day but cannot identify.” Thus begins Small Happiness, an invaluable guide to “all” of human life including such vital subjects as: decorating with books, dancing as medicine, composting, the “Slow Read Movement,” how to conduct a wedding, secrets of invigorated aging (including an interview with Sparrow’s 100-year-old father), the art of aroma, and self-psychoanalysis. After buying Small Happiness, you may guiltlessly burn all your previous self-help books.
I am on a new regime—attempting to eat less in the evenings, so I will lose weight. Thus, I go to sleep hungry. Two nights ago, I had a dream. I was standing in my old apartment in the East Village of Manhattan, which I left seven years ago. A bowl of sesame noodles sat on the table. I began to eat the noodles—without sitting down. They were excellent.
I woke up no longer hungry.
The next day I told this story to my wife, and while speaking to her I realized: I have discovered the perfect diet! You may feast on any food, and never gain weight. The secret is to eat in your dreams.
Of course, in order to benefit from feasting in your dreams, you must remember them. “How do I do that?” you ask. The first step is simple: consider your dreams worthy.
In this culture, dreams are not valued. Why? Because they are, supposedly, not “real.” But who is to say what is “real”?
Consider movies. You spend fifteen dollars (in New York City) to sit in a dark room for two hours. When you emerge, what do you have to show for it? Nothing. (Unless, for some reason, you hold onto your popcorn container.) You don’t even receive a program. Yet you consider this experience “real.”
Meanwhile, when youlie in a dark room and watch movies for five hours—movies which star yourself (at night), you consider these meaningless.
The soft-rock band Bread sang, in 1971,
Dreams are for those who sleep;
Life is for us to keep
in “I Want to Make It with You.” This lyric expresses the typical anti-dreaming sentiment of our culture.
I say: “Defy Bread! Admit that you are one of ‘those who sleep’! There is no shame in sleeping, nor in the nectareous romance of dreams!”
Remember, dreams are shy. Like visitors who easily feel unwanted, they will quickly find an excuse to leave. You must let your dreams know you appreciate them.
One easy way is to have a “dream-friend.” This is someone you write (or tell) your dreams to every day—or as often as you recall them. It’s like a “tennis buddy.” This kind of writing is perfect for email, but you may also use postcards, or velvet-edged stationery.
A dream-friend is not always easy to find. You must test out your acquaintances, to learn who is dream-sympathetic. You may be surprised. Your friend Edna, the potter, may despise dreams, while Frank, the investment banker, might have a juicy, layered dream life.
Work is the enemy of dreams. When you wake up and rush to work, your dreams quickly vanish. One easy solution to this dilemma is to abandon your job.
Simply walk into your boss’s office (you need not knock) and say: “Ms. Fenlap (or Mr. Fenlap), I must announce my resignation! I need more time in the morning to recollect my dreams.”
If your boss seems sympathetic, you may explain that you are following a groundbreaking new diet.
Another option is simply to wake up earlier. Give yourself an hour in the morning to cultivate dream recollections.
One advantage of this plan is that you will still earn money from your job.
For some people, the best way to remember dreams is on a Dream Wall. Choose one wall of your house on which to transcribe your dreams. (Use colored pens!) You may also wish to draw salient images. The task-oriented will enjoy “filling up the wall”—and watching a mural of their Night Tales emerge.
Another dream-mnemonic uses maps. Each morning when you awaken, open your Dream Atlas and circle the city or town where your dream took place. (You may also use colored dots.) On a separate sheet, note the date of the dream.
If you find that you dream often of a particular city—Berlin, for example—buy a map of that locality, to track your dream settings, street by street.
If you travel in dreams, you may indicate motion by a series of dashes on the map.
Often in mid-dream we don’t know exactly where we are. Dream maps encourage you to notice your locations while dreaming. Eventually, you will look for street signs, rivers, landmarks, and other cues.
One problem is that in our culture value is expressed through money. Dwayne (“The Rock”) Johnson receives $23.5 mil-lion for a movie; therefore, he is successful. A fiddler receives $14 for a performance; thus, he is unimportant.
Dreams are unpaid. For this reason, we assume they are worthless.
There is a simple solution to this misperception. Send $100* to a close friend (or your mother). Arrange that each time you successfully remember a dream, your friend will mail you a five-dollar bill. Though this is a small sum—and ultimately your own money—psychologically, it will convince you that dreams are valuable.
*Of course, if you are rich, you can send $100,000 to your friend, and receive $5,000 for each dream.
Another way to remember dreams is to begin a dream club. Invite a number of acquaintances to gather every two weeks and recount their dreams. Each will begin a dream journal—plus, perhaps, a dream sketchbook—and will take turns reading.
In a more advanced dream club, you may choose certain dreams to act out, as performances.
Here is an interesting project for your Dream Club: give the assignment to write a fake dream. At the next class, read both real and counterfeit dreams. See if you can guess which is which!
For example, below are two dreams: one true and one false. Can you distinguish them?
I must catch a plane to Paris. I am already late, and now I await a subway to take me to the airport (perhaps in New York City?). A large number of people lounge on the platform.
A subway pulls into the station. I run toward the open doors and realize—I have no shoes! I took off my shoes while sitting, and forgot them.
Looking down at a shelf below the platform, I see numerous shoes, and boots, in rows. Should I reach down and grab a pair of boots? What if they don’t fit? And isn’t that stealing, besides? And what about my shoes? Should I abandon them forever?
I awaken.
I am in the Crusades, fighting in an army of Christians just north of Jerusalem. I wear an iron visor and chain-mail, and carry a halberd.* A large, angry Turkish man lunges at me. I duck, then strike him.
Suddenly someone calls out: “Break!”
It is 3:00 p.m., time for our break. My enemy and
I stop fighting, and sit down to tea.
*A weapon with an axe-like blade and a steel spike.
A bed is a shrine to the Unconscious. Like a sailboat, it can propel you to Madagascar—on the wings of sleep. If you take special care of your bed, your bed will reward you with memorable dreams.
When you make your bed, bow or kneel reverently. Offer your bed helpful support, or prayers.
Once or twice a day, walk into your bedroom and thank your bed.
Notice if this improves your dreams.
“How can I arrange for food to appear in my dreams?” I hear you next ask.
One simple answer is to sleep on a cookbook. Place a collection of recipes under your pillow, before you don your pa-jamas. Quite possibly, the entrées will seep into your dreams.
Begin with basic cookbooks with which you are familiar, and move on to more exotic fare, such as Victorian Picnic Salads.
If, one Thursday, you are in the mood for Mexican food, lay Viva Mexico! by Salvador Escumar under your pillow. If there is a particular food you’d like—for example, barbacoa tacos—place a bookmark at that page.
Remember to be adventurous while dreaming. Try new foods! Dishes you may not enjoy in real life can taste wonderful in sleep.
If cookbooks don’t work, try takeout menus, or even business cards from restaurants.
Another method is to simply write the name of the food you wish for on a slip of paper, and place it beneath your head. Or if you are more visually inclined, draw a picture—or cut out a photograph of the dish from Family Circle maga-zine, or Gourmet.
Warning: You may not always receive the food you want, in your dream life. Despite sleeping on top of Szechuan Holiday, you may find yourself eating spaghetti with olives. Dream-eating is not an exact science (at least not yet!).
Which brings me to my next thought: fasting. I fast every week, from Thursday at 6:00 p.m. to Friday at 6:00 p.m. I have been following this practice since 1975. Fasting becomes easy, if one pursues it regularly, I have found. Your body begins to think forward to the next fast.
Nonetheless, I cannot recommend fasting to you, the reader, legally. You must choose, with the aid of trusted medical supervisors, on your own.
But if you do fast, it seems likelier that you will eat in your subsequent dream!
Here is our slogan (the slogan of the Dream-Eating Movement):
“A hungry mind makes tasty dreams.”
There is a long tradition that overeating before sleep can lead to distressing dreams. (Many early comic strips utilized this plot.) But the inverse has never been stated—skipping a meal makes lovely dreams. This is the first book to propose this logical thesis. Another slogan:
“Undereat—you’ll be grateful tonight!”
The food we eat by day builds our bodies. The food we eat at night builds our dream-bodies. Both bodies are valuable. Our day-bodies allow us to live, work, converse. Our dream-bodies enable us to visit old friends—some of whom are dead—and to travel through the world (and to other worlds)!
Our dream-bodies seem to require very little food. We only eat in dreams once every few months. Dream food must be much more nourishing than earthly food. (Certainly, it is often vividly colorful.)
So don’t delay! Throw out all your other diet books, and start eating your dreams! (But wash your hands thoroughly first, especially if you’re in the midst of a pandemic!)
Reprinted with kind permission from Small Happiness & Other Epiphanies by Sparrow, published by Monkfish Book Publishing Company, Rhinebeck, New York.

About the Author
Sparrow lives in a doublewide trailer in Phoenicia, N.Y., with his wife Violet Snow. He has been published in The New Yorker, The Sun, American Poetry Review, and Chronogram, and he was once quoted in Vogue. He is the author of eight books of poetry and prose, regularly runs for president, and plays flutophone in the voluptuary pop group Foamily.

Cynde Meyer

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