10 Sep 2007 1 pm eastern

How to make love to a ghost

Sunday morning, while dreaming, I began receiving messages from the other world. They covered matters of etiquette when interacting with the dead, and even offered glimpses of what the spirit life is like:

  • Do not accept food from a ghost.
  • Do not make love to a ghost, even if she is your wife.
  • Don’t ask ghosts questions about time. They don’t understand them.
  • Fill your eyes with tears. That is how a ghost sees.

These messages were conveyed clearly, and with authority. Although I knew their origin, I was not afraid. So matter-of-fact was my acceptance that I began framing what I was learning within a normal workday context. Specifically, I realized that these messages made the perfect Tweets.

For while Twitter may reduce the immense possibilities of communication to single-line banalities of 140 characters or less, it is paradoxically the perfect vehicle for distilling and broadcasting profound, irrational truths, such as those the dead share with us while we dream.

This dream also involved Robert Benchley and so many cartoonish implausibilities that it is possible that the messages I received came only from my own mind. But is that not equally infinite?

(The dream’s plot involved a luxury cruiser, torpedoed in World War II. Benchley, urbane in middle age, piloted a series of unlikely rescue vehicles, including a school bus that somehow managed to navigate the ocean and deftly avoid smacking into large chunks of wreckage. It was night, and raining, and black and white. A young Michael Keaton, who was sometimes a young Jack Nicholson, also played a role in the endless and pungently fraught narrative.)

[tags]ghosts, afterlife, twitter, webapps, robertbenchley, michaelkeaton, jacknicholson, dreams, death[/tags]

Filed under: Applications, Community, Design, dreams, glamorous, Tools, Zeldman

35 Responses to “How to make love to a ghost”

  1. Lisa Firke said on

    I saw the tweets and wondered what kind of day you were having, Jeffrey. Too bad you don’t write novels…

    I want to steal them. Perhaps not for a novel, but perhaps for a blockbuster post. Mmmm.

  2. Morten Liebach said on

    That’s one kick-ass dream. I wish I had that kind of dreams, or even could remember my dreams for that matter.

  3. Matt Robin said on

    I wonder what sort of cheese you ate before you went to bed!! :D

  4. Eric Meyer said on

    As I read them, I strongly felt the touch of Spirited Away.

  5. Dave M said on

    You have GOT to lay off the absinthe.

  6. Greg Bulmash said on

    I’d say Jeffrey wasn’t drinking absinthe, but rather that he had a cold and either took some DM cough syrup or some NyQuil (which has DM in it).

    Dextromethorphan, a.k.a. DM, is a common over-the-counter cough suppressant. But, apparently, in large doses, it’s also a psychoactive hallucinogen. I heard many a tale in high school and college of how if you drank two or three bottles of DM cough syrup, you could trip.

    Never tried it, but it explained why my dreams were much more vivid and weird than normal after taking some NyQuil.

    OTOH, could be that Jeffrey had a dinner of hotlinks and chili fries.

  7. Greg Bulmash said on

    BTW… not accepting food from a ghost could be considered closely aligned with the myth of Persephone.

  8. Bridget Stewart said on

    Dreams of ghosts? That’s too Patricia Arquette. It’s better to interact with them while awake, Jennifer Love Hewitt style.

  9. Ian Lloyd said on

    Have you heard/read about the SE Asian preoccupation/fear of hungry ghosts? I thought of that when you said about accepting food from a ghost:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungry_ghost

  10. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    You don’t accept food from a ghost (it was explained in the dream) because if you eat it, it will become real food instead of ghostly food, and you will have caused transubstantiation to occur on a non-sacred object.

  11. Dave Mohrman said on

    I think Mr. Z was just enjoying one of his subconscious’ gifts of fantastic, sub-logical story telling.

    I will however theorize, based on personal experience, that I doubt he was under the influence of either cheese or cough medicine, but rather an over-full bladder.

    Whenever I get those kinds of dreams – vivid, realistic and while you are experience them, perfectly logical in an odd, twisted and often entertaining way – it’s usually because I have to pee REALLY bad, but my rational brain isn’t aware of it.

    The way I figure it (in web-geek terms) is that since I’m in a subconscious state of REM/dream sleep my bladder has temporarily lost it’s connection to the rational server in my brain that would normally send a pop-up message to get up and take a leak. Instead, it hacks it’s way into my subconscious server, where every image and story I’ve ever seen or heard is stored, and starts streaming bits and pieces of random and not so random images and story-lines from my subconscious server to my dream-time browser. Since the bladder is under control of basic, instinctual subconscious intelligence, this explains the often bizarre and contradictory dream images and stories. In fact, I have noticed a direct correlation between how bizarre the dream is to how really bad the urge is to pee. It just keeps ramping up the bizarre-O-meter until you awake and take care of the bladder’s issue.

    Anyway, that’s the way it works for me. You may agree and view it as an insightful connection of seemingly unrelated phenomena, or you could might disagree and consider it way too much info from a complete stranger.

    Or, Mr. Z was talking to ghosts, which is definitely just as probable and valid a theory any of the cosmic-debris above.

  12. Gail Dedrick said on

    I don’t think I get Twitter. I’m too old.

  13. GK Nelson said on

    Twitter is a great place for writer’s calisthenics. I see it as an opportunity to tell a whole story in 140 characters or less. Reading the ghost tweets, though, I honestly thought they were things your daughter was telling you about ghosts. They sounded like that sort of innocent wisdom. It’s interesting to get the real story.

  14. Mark W. said on

    Sounds like a pitch for a new TV series.

  15. Jonathan Dawe said on

    you will have caused transubstantiation to occur on a non-sacred object.

    Are you sure you weren’t visited by St. Thomas Aquinas and warned against committing sacrilege?

  16. Kim Krause Berg said on

    Hilarious! I just read the whole post to my husband, who is alive but we made a pact that if he goes first, he should yell at me the following words from the other side: “STOP STARING AT ME!”

  17. socrates said on

    I fear Mr. Zeldman is just having a bit of marital problems. The wife may have become a ghost: she is there, but not in a pleasant way – if you know what I mean…

    Rapid intervention by a counseling professional is required. Absent that, a new, younger and prettier girlfriend would do the trick.

  18. Terry Tolleson said on

    I wonder which movie house will buy up the rights to these dreams of yours, cuz they is juicy.

    Ghosts freak me way out. The tears thing sounds like it could be an actual axiom for ghosts.

  19. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    @socrates, you are off-base and out of order. But I suppose I invited it by sharing something as personal as a dream.

  20. Johnny Amos said on

    I thought from the tweets that you had been reading something of Dickens or Poe. Little did I realize that you had your own bit of undigested potato.

    More please.

  21. socrates said on

    @Zeldman:

    My comment, just like your “dream”, was not meant to be taken seriously.

    Seriously.

    But then again…Freud would probably disagree!

    :-)

  22. Sea Bass said on

    I advocate tables for layout, so you are my nemesis.

  23. Greg Bulmash said on

    Can you really call it “transubstantiation”? Transubstantiation is traditionally turning wine into the blood of Christ and crackers into his flesh (once they’re in your stomach apparently).

    But transubstantiation, in all its definitions is the transformation of one substance into another. Ghostly food is spiritual and thus has no substance, nor is it a substance. To transform something from ghostly to physical would require a different mechanism than transubstantiation.

  24. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    Not according to my spirit guide.

  25. Ben Saunders said on

    I hope this isn’t insensitive, but I wonder if the impending September 11th had any influence on the themes of your dream?

  26. Ben Kendall said on

    Transubstantiation is traditionally turning wine into blood and whatnot, however the word deals with changing the underlying reality of an object or substance, so some ghost food becoming real food would be transubstantiation.

    Also one can’t really say that because ghost food is spiritual it has no substance, there are plenty of religions that view the spiritual as only being another level of existence that we know next to nothing about.

    Since we know so little about it, the best course of action is to follow any and all spirit guides present and don’t ever drink the water. And while on the topic of spirit guides, is yours some sort of sentient tome on good web design or the spirit of the internet? It would explain a lot of your greatness over us normal people if you had some supernatural advantage.

  27. Birgit said on

    glad you share this!

    I once dreamt kind of a world formula, that was reeeeaaally cool too :-)

  28. free sms said on

    What a crazy dream. I remember only seldom my dreams.

  29. Jam said on

    ya, terrible dream, but the way you speak like a poem.

  30. Jack said on

    It happened to me. It is beyond belief. I am go over the details constantly and
    there is more to it as I think about it. I never imagined anything like it. There is more to reality than we can imagine. I do not want to go into detail here because of the ridicule of the ignorant.

  31. Gratis SMS said on

    What a crazy dream

  32. Tim said on

    What a horror …crazy dream!

  33. bloggy said on

    oh my god. totally crazylicious!

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