Dream Metaphysics

Who designs our dreams anyway? Isn't it supposed to be ourselves? That's what I thought, but here is a dream excerpt that made me question that.

I was having one of those drama, suspense, action, thriller dreams where there was perceived danger and I was running to fix some problem and it was occupying all of my thoughts and I was totally engaged.

I ran into a mostly-empty nightclub and saw that there was a DJ booth at the back with a DJ doing whatever she does to prepare or clean up or whatever. I barrel up to the chest-high partition in front of and to the side of her and do one of those parkour vaults over the partition and land a bit to the side of her. Keep in mind that I'm on a mission and I can't be bothered with asking permission or using doors or walkways. I have to fix this now!

All of a sudden the mission is totally forgotten and the DJ is gone and the bartender walks over to me and says, “I've got a joke for you.” He paused for a moment and then said the joke which was something about “monitor pronouns.” I remember not getting the joke and wondering why I was so dense.

Then I either woke up or stopped dreaming or both. The only thing that stuck in my head was not getting a joke about “monitor pronouns.” Then before I could think of the words of the joke, I got it. I understood the joke.

So the question is: who designed the joke if I, the dreamer/observer didn't get it? Sure, you could say that the dream script included me not getting the joke. That assumes that dreams are linear and there was a script, and that I didn't just dream the whole script in a single time-slice.

Maybe the phrase that I remembered wasn't a joke in the first place, and was only filler text which aligned with me not getting a joke, and only after waking up could I think of a joke about the phrase to make the possibly random phrase into actual, sensical dream content. I know, sensical dream content is probably oxymoronic.

But the thought remains: are the characters and scenarios in our dreams designed by ourselves, and if so, then don't we have the capacity to understand them? Or are they random and we make sense of them the way we look at a square made of dashed lines and we understand that it is a square even though it isn't complete? Or, are they designed to be compartmentalized and one character's thoughts are as walled-off as the thoughts of IRL people are from each other. Are the characters on a level playing field? Are there different rules for NPCs in a dream? Who writes those rules and content?

BTW: the joke, as it was told or later filled in by me, was something about the HR department at a company sending an email to the IT department stressing the importance of being aware of monitor pronouns, and suggesting that users take a moment to write down their monitor's pronouns on a sticky note and attach those notes to the monitor. Not much of a joke really. The fact that it was framed as a joke probably shows some deep-seated transgender phobia and/or disrespect, although I can surely blame that on the bartender, right?

After I got the joke, I wanted to go back into the dream and explain to the bartender that I got his joke, and that the reason I didn't get it right away was that I was thinking only about tech since he mentioned IT and monitors, which was also presumably more aligned with that important mission that I was on, and I was not thinking about zeitgeist. Now I'm left with the disappointment of thinking that he's probably judging me out there in dreamland. Actually that's probably a better joke.