Actually, the title of this column should really have been My first (and only) Lucid Dream, because this happened to me only one time, but – suffice it to say – it’s an occasion I shall always remember. Before we plunge headfirst into the fray with gusto and abandon, however, let’s start by making sure that we all agree on what the term “lucid dream” actually means…
According to the Wikipedia, a Lucid Dream is any dream in which one is aware that one is dreaming. The term was coined by the Dutch psychiatrist and writer Frederik (Willem) van Eeden (1860–1932). In a lucid dream, the dreamer may be able to exert some degree of control over their participation within the dream or be able to manipulate their imaginary experiences in the dream environment.
So here is my lucid dreaming experience…
My degree is in Control Engineering; a four year course that I took between 1976 and 1980 in Sheffield, England. This was organized as a “central core” of math and control theory with “surrounding subjects” in electronics, mechanics, and hydraulics and fluidics.
As an aside, our hydraulics and fluidics lecturer was a young ex-NASA scientist, strangely reminiscent of the tall thin gangly lead in the TV program The Big Bang Theory. He would stride into the room and immediately start covering the whiteboards in the lecture theater with the most unintelligible equations whilst happily chatting away. When he had filled the last whiteboard he would erase the first one and carry on without pausing for breath. As we approached the end of the lecture, he would finally look up and cheerfully say “So there we have it – are there any questions?” He must have been under the mistaken opinion that we had a clue what he was talking about because no one ever asked a question. Instead, we would simply look at each other in bewilderment with “What the heck just happened?” expressions plastered all over our faces. Having said this, something of what he told us must have stuck in my brain, because…
…but we digress (I shall return to this in a future tale). As usual, I’m in danger of wandering off into the weeds. My degree course was of a type known as a “Thick Sandwich” (referred to as a “co-op” course in America), which meant that we spent a year in college, then six months working for a company, then a year back in college, then another six months out in the field, then a final year at the university (by comparison, a “Thin Sandwich” course involved a greater number of shorter placements).
My second industrial placement was at the Research and Development center for a large glass manufacturer. One of the first tasks they gave me was to create a 3D drawing of a forthcoming glass factory. There were several tricky aspects to all of this, not the least that the only data I had was in the form of the 2D plans for the various floors in the factory. First, they wanted a true perspective drawing, as opposed to a simple oblique projection or an isometric projection. Second, they wanted the outside of the factory to be shown, with parts of the roof and walls (exterior and interior) cut away to reveal the areas of interest, including the main furnace and the various glass forming machines.
The end result of all of this was that (a) it was going to be a real pain to select the optimum point-of-view (POV) for the drawing and (b) it was going to be an even bigger pain to actually create the drawing itself. Of course, this sort of thing would be relatively easy to achieve today using today’s powerful computers and sophisticated CAD packages, but this was in the late 1970s, so the only equipment I had at my disposal was a drawing board, rulers, set squares (triangles), paper, pencils, and a ratty old pencil sharpener.
When I was presented with this task, I spent the rest of the day mulling over the 2D plans of the factory trying to work out where to start. That night, when I went to sleep, I had my lucid dream. In this dream I was at my drawing board creating the 3D representation of the factory. On the one hand I knew I was dreaming, but on the other hand it really felt as though I was at work. I started to draw my first attempt, but it soon became obvious that the POV I had selected wasn’t going to allow me to show all of the required portions of the factory as well as I would like, so I pulled the paper off the drawing board, scrunched it up, and threw it away (I was still in my lucid dream, of course, but it felt like I was working with real materials).
Next, I created another version of the drawing from a slightly different perspective, but this new POV introduced its own problems. And so it went through the night – I must have created 20, 30, or more drawings in my virtual world before I finally arrived at the perfect POV that allowed me to cut away parts of the ceilings and walls and interior floors while still leaving enough to indicate their locations and still being able to reveal all of the special details that were required.
The next morning I strolled into work, took my seat at my drawing board, and captured the perfect illustration in a single sitting. I remember the other engineers and technicians being amazed – coming up to watch me while I was working and then all gathering around at the end to see the final result. They couldn’t believe that I had captured this “off the bat” in a single drawing – what they didn’t know is that I had effectively spent weeks of work preparing for this moment in my dream the previous evening.
Nothing like this has ever happened to me since. I occasionally have dreams about work, of course, but these are invariably nonsensical and never result in anything useful. To be honest, if this hadn’t happened to me, I would find it difficult to believe, but it really did occur.
Many times over the years since then, whenever I’ve been involved in a particularly tricky project, I’ve wished I could harness this power in my dreams at will, but sadly it was not to be…
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Editor's Note: It would be great if – in addition to commenting on my articles – you took the time to write down short stories of your own. I can help in the copy editing department, so you don’t need to worry about being “word perfect”. All you have to do is to email your offering to me at max@CliveMaxfield.com with “How it was” in the subject line.
I can post your article as “anonymous” if you wish. On the other hand, what would be really cool would be if you wanted to add a few words about yourself – and maybe even provide a couple of “Then and Now” pictures – for example:
On the left we see me as a young sprog – I was still a student at this time, poised on the brink of leaping into my first position at International Computers Limited (ICL). On the right we see me as I am today – a much older and sadder man, beaten down by the pressures of work and bowed by the awesome responsibilities I bear (grin).
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