I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of escape. Escaping from a horrible situation is necessary and not room for much debate. But what opens the door to contemplation is you can never escape your own mind. Wherever you go, there you are. Fresh surroundings can alter your mind. That’s good. You might travel to another planet after this one has suffocated in carbon dioxide. Also good. But when you talk about your altered mind you aren’t talking about escape but neurology. Same mind, different neural configuration. You haven’t escaped, you have transformed.
That’s the idea at the center of the lead story, “Dreaming Is Like Taking LSD,” of our new issue. Dream researchers Antonio Zadra and Robert Stickgold offer a new model for why we dream. Freud’s notion that dreams tap into forbidden desires, and Jung’s idea that dreams emerge from a collective unconscious with a universal message, haven’t weathered the neuroscience age well. Brains don’t work that way. But Zadra and Stickgold don’t buy the neuroscientific view that dreams are meaningless, neural networks gone wild, given the brain’s cortical editor is off duty during sleep. Rather, the dream researchers explain there’s a method to our brain’s overnight madness. Dreams introduce strange neural networks to one another, making connections where new ideas and possibilities—offline during waking hours—may take flight.
This issue, though, is not limited to our gray matter. Escape is a theme that runs through evolution, anthropology, cosmology, and other avenues of science. What unites the articles, though, is the idea that escape is not about getting away, it’s about transformation.
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