When I was a child, I saw an episode of the Batman cartoon in which Bruce Wayne was trapped in a dream created by a machine made by the Mad Hatter. In this episode, Bruce discovers that he is dreaming because he can’t read. He claims that dreaming and reading are functions of opposite hemispheres of the brain, so it’s impossible to read in a dream. I always remembered that episode because I knew it was completely bogus the first time I saw it. I remembered reading in dreams. I knew it was possible. This was just another example of script writers who don’t do proper research.
I was just reminded of this episode when I awoke from a strange dream of my own. In this dream, I was part of some sort of competition. I think it was some sort of church activity and each of the congregations were competing against each other. I believe it was an academic competition. There were several parts to it, and each congregation had to select just one congregant to do each part. In one of the parts, we were asked to write a eulogy for a dead dog. Whoever wrote the best one would win. For some reason, I was selected to do this part. I was given biographical information, including a newspaper article that was written about him while he was still alive. There was something famous about this dog, but I don’t remember what. Part of it was his advanced age. He was 19 when he died. As I was working on this eulogy, I wanted to figure out how old he was in dog-years. There was a blackboard in the room they gave us to work, and so I wrote 19 × 7. For some reason, I couldn’t do the math. It didn’t make any sense. I screwed it up, so scratched it out, and started calculating again. I still couldn’t do it. I erased it with my hand, and wrote it again. This old man from one of the other congregations was walking by the room, and saw my difficulty. He came in and tried to help. He pointed to what I was doing wrong, but he couldn’t figure it out either!
Then I woke up. This inability to do elementary school mathematics forced me out of my sleep. As soon as I was awake, I did the math in my head, and learned it was 133. Just to make sure I wasn’t crazy, I checked it with a calculator. Of course it was right, it’s a simple calculation, but I couldn’t do it in my sleep! It made me think of poor Bruce being unable to read a book. Though unlike Bruce, who couldn’t even make out the letters, I could clearly see and understand what the numbers were (I wrote them), I just couldn’t do anything with them. It was nearly the most frustrating experience of my life.