In one dream, I found myself struggling with math homework. I felt the urge to copy all the homework answers from a smarter friend's notebook. Would I copy the answers or not? That was the "moral test."
No kidding: In the spring of 1996 I had several dreams in which I was faced with clear-cut dilemmas like "fail or cheat." (Sorry, self — I don't remember whether I chose to fail or cheat. I just remember the dilemma.) To cope with the dreams, I wrote a sonnet. Sonnets were my prime coping tool — the writing of sonnets. This is why I didn't have a girlfriend. (I exaggerate.) Was I a pussy? I was afraid to talk to the girls I liked, and I was ashamed of being afraid. What is a pussy and what is a man but someone whose shame about his fear leads him to the discovery of a comforting, idiosyncratic pastime? Some men become successful rappers. Others build and race small radio-controlled cars.
As I lie here awake 12.5 years later — it's very early and I can't sleep — all I remember from that moral-testy-dreamy sonnet is the first line:
Recurring theme of moral tests in dreams.
An hour or two ago I dreamt that I and some coworkers were missing our top rows of teeth. On the bare gums in the tops of our mouths, we wore "reversible" dentures. If we wore the dentures one way, it looked like we had a perfect row of white teeth. If we flipped them around and wore them the other way, it looked like we had a row of perfect off-white teeth. I don't think there was a moral test here; I just wanted to write it down before I forgot.
In the same dream, I dreamt that someone had put three 1970s Hustler magazines on my desk. Was it a joke? I flipped through the magazines unaroused, distracted. I didn't even see any real nudity. I left my desk and walked across the street to a storefront art gallery with soaped-up windows. A sign outside read, "Hustler magazine exhibit curated by Sean Wilsey." Sean Wilsey will probably never see this blog post, but if he does: I'm sorry Sean. And even if he doesn't see this blog post, I'm sorry Sean. Perhaps this was the moral test of the dream: Would I wake up and tell everyone that Sean Wilsey is the Hustler magazine exhibit curator of my dreams? Or would I keep my mouth shut?