Friday, April 27, 2012

28. A Grasp of Reality (I)

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"To sleep, perchance to dream-
ay, there's the rub."

Hamlet (III, i, 65-68)

How many times have you dragged the images you saw in your dreams into the day’s reality? Where would you set the border between reality and imagination?
[adapted from New Success at First Certificate,
by Robert O’Neill, Michael Duckworth & Kathy Gude]

Early one morning, more than a hundred years ago, an American inventor called Elias Howe finally fell asleep. He had been working all night on the design of a sewing-machine but he had run into a very difficult problem: it seemed impossible to get the thread to run smoothly around the needle.

Despite his exhaustion, Howe slept badly. He tossed and turned. Then he had a nightmare. He dreamt that he had been captured by a tribe of terrible savages whose king threatened to kill and eat him unless he could build a perfect sewing-machine. When he tried to do so, Howe ran into the same problem as before. The thread kept getting caught around the needle. The king flew into a rage and ordered his soldiers to kill Howe. They advanced towards him with their spears raised. But suddenly the inventor noticed something. There was a hole in the tip of each spear. The inventor awoke from the nightmare with a start, realizing that he had just found the solution to the problem. Instead of trying to get the thread to run around the needle, he should make it run through a small hole in the centre of the needle. This was the simple idea that finally enabled Howe to design and build the first really practical sewing-machine.
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Elias Howe was far from being unique in finding the answer to his problem in this way. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb, said that his best ideas came to him in dreams. So did the great physicist, Albert Einstein. Charlotte Bronte also drew on her dreams in writing Jane Eyre. The composer, Igor Stravinsky, once said the only way he could solve his problems in musical composition was 'to sleep on them'.

To appreciate the value of dreams, you have to understand what happens when you are asleep. Even then, a part of your mind is still working. This unconscious, but still active, part digests your experiences and goes to work on the problems you have had during the day. It stores all sorts of information and details which you may have forgotten or never have really noticed. It is only when you fall asleep that this part of the brain can send messages to the part you use when you are awake. However, the unconscious part expresses itself through its own logic and its own language. It uses strange images which the conscious part may not understand at first. This is why dreams are sometimes called 'secret messages to ourselves'.
Salvador Dali, Sewing Machine with Umbrella
(Google Images)
Choose the best answer.

1.   According to the passage, Elias Howe was
A the first person we know of who solved problems in his sleep.
B much more hard-working than other inventors.
C the first person to design a sewing-machine that really worked.
D the only person at the time who appreciated the value of dreams.

2.   The problem Howe was trying to solve was
A what kind of thread to use.
B how to design a needle which would not break.
C where to put the needle.
D how to stop the thread from getting caught around the needle.

3.  The solution to the problem came from something
A the king said to Howe.
B Howe remembered about another sewing-machine.
C Howe noticed about the soldiers' weapons.
D one of the soldiers was wearing.

Salvador Dali, Dreams
(Google Images)

4.  Thomas Edison is mentioned because
A he also tried to invent a sewing-machine.
B he got some of his ideas from dreams.
C he was one of Howe's friends.
D he also had difficulty in falling asleep.

5.   Dreams are sometimes called 'secret messages to ourselves' because
A strange images are used to communicate ideas.
B we can never understand the real meaning.
C images are used which have no meaning.
D only specially trained people can understand them.

Decide upon your own answers and only then go on.