Monday, June 23, 2008

Don't Forget Your Dreams

There are some dreams that are destined to remain as just dreams. There are other dreams that are destined to not remain as mere dreams, but to become part of the fabric of what we call reality. We know these realized dreams for what they are not, rather than for what they are, since they have lost their dream-like quality, and are now part of our ordinary reality – that part of our consciousness that we take for granted, that we might occasionally ruminate over or despise for its dreary ordinariness.

We all have examples in our lives when things that were hoped for and seemingly out of reach were eventually revealed and found to be fulfilled, only for us to be left with a sense of disappointment, as if the resolution of the once-desired thing has not brought with it the degree of satisfaction that we had anticipated when the dream was yet to be realized. It could have been a book, a toy, an electronic gadget, a friend, a lover. It matters not what it was, but that it has imparted to it the intangible substance of our dreams and desires.

This intangible essence of dreams that comes to inhabit otherwise inert objects and concepts we may recognize as the thing that writers, dreamers and philosophers for ages have called ‘magic’, a word that is less than entirely successful in describing the essence of that which is, by definition, indescribable. This word ‘magic’ is also less than adequate because of other, irrelevant, connotations with the field of the black arts and showmanship. So we will stick to calling this thing the essence of dreams.

Here we find it necessary to make a Rumsfeldian-like statement: that there are dreams we know; there are dreams we don’t know; there are dreams we know we don’t know; and there are dreams we don’t know we don’t know. Some of these dreams rest on our sleeves as obvious as the sun is in the sky, that we carry around with us as we would a favorite article of clothing, something that has come to be a part of our very personality. To give these dreams up by seeing them fulfilled would be the equivalent of giving up a part of one’s self. These are the sorts of dreams that are the most difficult for us to see realized, for we have come to rely upon the intangible nature of their disappointment as an artifact of our very personality.

The answer to these burdensome dreams is to come to the place of fully understanding where they come from, what they really mean to us, and what about their being realized that threatens our self. This is the process of letting the dream die, allowing it to die; permitting one’s self the liberty of being released from its hold.

Sometimes things come into our lives that we don’t see until later, sometimes much later, as being like a dream realized, except that the dream was unknown prior to its appearing, fully mature, into our lives. These are the sort of dreams that we didn’t known we didn’t know. Like the blossoming of a special friendship or relationship, fully mature, when it seemed least likely, and mostly unwanted, that then becomes a thing of extraordinary beauty and satisfaction.

I am reminded of the H.P. Lovecraft novella “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath”, in which a man, the dreamer, desires so deeply to revisit a long-lost dream-city, Kadath, that he embarks upon a dream-quest, by spending more and more of his time in sleep. These sorts of dreams, the stuff of REM sleep, we so often discard as either random neural noise, or post-Freudian symbolism working itself out like a tape loop, being played over and over in constant repetition and gradual evolution.

I wonder, however, how much of our REM dreams relate to that other kind of dream that we come to know as fond hopefulness, an expectation of some specific thing in the future. We may dream of living by the beach, or running our own business, or becoming a chef. Where did these ideas come from? Is it possible that they originated in that alternate reality within which we find ourselves spending nearly a third of our lives; yet somehow we succeed in completely erasing their memory and relevance from our wakeful state? Here is a valid argument to support the idea that to achieve total consciousness and awareness, aside from whatever else may be required, one must be aware of, during the waking state, the status of one’s dreamlife.

Many people find, as they begin to monitor their dreamlife for those patterns of rationality so important to one’s waking state, that one’s dreams have a repetitive nature to them, or that there are a series of overlapping patterns where one dream will blend into another, their period of overlap becoming eventually the seed for an entirely new sort of dream that then repeats, night after night, yet not always with the clock-like precision and regularity of diurnal time. These dreams start out making little or no sense, yet eventually become their own reality through no other reason than their repetition, and our post-waking rumination upon their meaning.

Speaking and writing about dreams is intrinsically confusing, for they seem to relate both to the past and the future. Our REM-state dreams seem to be related to, or seeded from, thoughts, experiences and other inputs from the past; yet when we speak of dreams in the sense of hopeful expectation we are obviously speaking of the future.

So, which is it: past or future? Yes. It is both, and it is neither. Being strictly literal, dreams are intangible, imaginary and cannot be dissected, weighed or analyzed in the sense that one can study the structure of a complex molecule, for instance. Dreams lack the nature of self-evidence. They only become tangible – ‘real’ – when the thing dreamt of has come to pass, has awakened, now resides in some corporeal body of evidence, at which time the dream has ceased to be. Dreams only become real when they die, which may be why the dream-state was so revered as a portal to the other side, the after-life.

Dreams also seem to demand that they be shared with others. Like many aspects of our internal life, they take on some body of solidity when spoken about aloud to others, as if our speaking is an act of creation, bringing into being the things that are not, that were not, like a silent act of faith.

Being a dreamer can be both good and bad. “He’s just a dreamer,” someone may declare, imposing some valuation upon what, to him or her, seems to be a time-wasting activity of no consequence. Yet we can also see and hear Dr. King’s resonating statement “I have a dream.” It should puzzle us, contort our conventions of mental order, to consider that dreams can simultaneously be the things we despise the most and the things we absolutely, most desperately, need the most.

Perhaps they’re merely biological, of no metaphysical or spiritual significance. My dog dreamt. She would lie on her side, fast asleep, her legs kicking as if in a joyous chase, little yelps and other guttural noises emanating. Baptist preachers would tell us that animals, having no eternal soul, couldn’t understand the things of the spirit. That dogs don’t go to heaven. Yet they dream, as we do. So, perhaps dreams are just biological, neurological oddities; see page 256 of your textbook for more information, thank you. One could also argue that poetry, therefore, is merely biological, neurological, that one cannot find the weight of the human spirit.

Einstein told us that mass – weight – is what limits us to the finite boundaries of this physical universe. Things that possess mass are bound to the time & space continuum, to the eroding laws of thermodynamics and celestial mechanics.

But dreams, they have no mass, they weigh nothing; therefore they are not bounded by the same laws that our sagging, aging and decaying bodies and world are bound to. Dreams are aethereal, ephemeral, not of this world. They are a portal, a doorway.

Don’t forget your dreams. Don’t forget to dream. Don’t forget.


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