Ringo and Bingo

In the middle of their usual chaos and surrealism, I’m always a bit floored and intrigued by two things about my dreams: how occasionally a bit of really solid, structured narrative comes through — which reminds me of the fact that William Rose claimed that the entire plot of The Ladykillers came to him in a dream, whereupon he woke up and wrote it down; and, also occasionally, how the layers of dream knowledge play with and subvert conscious knowledge.

Case in point: towards the end of a dream which included some long chase sequence around downtown LA involving a whole phalanx of identical vintage cars, a short vignette in which someone referred to Ringo Starr — who was, naturally, present also — as ‘Bingo’, whereupon someone else remarked that it was only the second time Ringo had been called that, and that it was a good thing the speaker was a friend of Ringo’s, otherwise — not sure, but something bad.

Now, in the dream I was then taken to infer from what had been said that ‘Bingo’ would be interpreted by Ringo as an insult, and then to wonder why, shortly to realise — still in the dream — that it must be because Bingo was the drummer in the Banana Splits. Not entirely complimentary.

When I woke up, remembering this exchange very clearly, I realised that I honestly wasn’t sure if Bingo was indeed the Banana Splits drummer. I wouldn’t have bet a huge amount of money that Bingo was even one of the Banana Splits, though I did think so. So I did a quick bit of web-searching to find out. And he was indeed the drummer.

The layers here make my head hurt:

As part of the construction of my dream, my brain was sure enough of the fact that Bingo was the Banana Splits drummer to create the vignette with Ringo, and the perceived insult. (We’ll ignore any discussion of why it should have done that at all, never mind why it should have done it last night specifically.)

Within the dream, I could retrieve enough information from my memory to infer the connection between ‘Ringo’ and ‘Bingo’, and the nature of the insult, but it took me some time to do that. Once I’d realised the connection, it didn’t occur to me — in the dream — to question whether I was right or not. It seemed obvious.

Once I’d woken up, I remembered the dream very clearly, but I was significantly less sure about the connection between ‘Ringo’ and ‘Bingo’, and had to go to Google to find out.

The effect is of becoming less sure about knowledge the more conscious the layer of access is: the least conscious layer, which participated in the construction of the dream, seemed sure of the ‘Ringo’/’Bingo’ connection; my consciousness at the dream level inferred the connection, but it took a short while; and my wakeful consciousness wasn’t entirely sure of the connection at all.

It’s a commonplace idea that we actually know more than we realise we do, but it’s unsettling to have it presented quite so clearly.

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