I Dream in HTML (or, A True-Life Story of Solutions in Sleep)

radwebhomepage2Little-known HTML/CSS factoid: If you immerse yourself long and deeply enough in web coding, you’ll start to dream in iframes. Another factoid: answers come in dreams. That’s what I found out anyway through November and December of 2014 while working almost every waking hour on my final project for the Dreamweaver portion of Digital Media studies at Conestoga College. I had to design and build a fully functioning eight-page website. All graphics, photos and other media elements had to be original, and in the lengthy prep portion of the project, I imagined Dreamweaver would make final assembly almost an afterthought. Yet as great as the software was, much immersion was still required in the editing and tweaking of HTML and CSS. At some point, sleep slipped away as a respite from the ‘round-the-clockness of the work, and where dreams had perhaps once been of magical green fields flowing over low rolling hills, those same hills soon became flowing fields of code. It was always a bit disorienting to awaken from such dreams and wonder, “Did I just sleep or did I just finish class?” Yet if puzzlement is the gateway to wonder, it was to the latter that I awoke one morning with solutions to problems I hadn’t been able to figure out while awake.

In choosing to build a site for a podcast I’d been doing for some while, I found myself tangling with all sorts of layout issues I hadn’t previously encountered, and in ambitiously envisioning pages complete with playable audio both local and streamed in from the web, I soon felt I was in way over my head. Eventually, I got to a point through much research and hard work where the site looked and worked well enough but “well enough” wasn’t the place I was looking to reach. The project represented a major portion of what final grade I’d receive in Dreamweaver. Moreover, I had to present the site to the class during the first week back from the holidays, meaning I ate more than my share of shortbread and other treats over the holidays in an effort to remedy my fretting, and while food might not be the best long-term solution to worry, it was enough of a distraction to finally take my mind completely off of things. And therein was the irony. In endeavoring to not think about web-coding issues, I fell into a deep sleep one night in which the answers presented themselves.

There was none of the strange symbolism that’s the normal language of dreams. Across the main stage of my mind that night, the web-code editing program Sublime Text opened as a backdrop, and across that black canvass, code began to unfold. Upon waking, I felt I’d been shown coding solutions to some of the layout problems I’d been having, and sure enough. When I later sat down to re-work my website based on what I’d dreamed, the site practically shot into shape. It was magical and mystifying all in the same breath, and larger in scope. Some days later while chatting with fellow Conestoga students before class, I shared the experience I’d had and two other students shared similar experiences of dreaming and applying solutions to web-coding problems they’d been having. As crazy as such things can sometimes sound in the waking world, we likely came off odd to other students as we laughed that day, and in afterward thinking about how the clockwork of dream-inspired solutions to real-world problems might work, I decided such thinking was unnecessary and ultimately counterproductive—that beyond the building blocks of study, work and all things consciously done, there was a transcendent point open to all where departure happens by firstly getting out of our own way.

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