After dreams

April 21, 2023 at 11:44 pm (By Amba) ()

It’s funny that I can identify some of the random real-world ingredients that went into these scenarios and characters; but, as in writing fiction only even more so, how and why the creating mind chose those bits and transformed them as it did is an unknowable mystery. It’s actually awesome. The creative power is infinite and, in dreams, effortless. All the work of creating awake is heaving the dull concrete of ego out of the way.

(“ego” meant not so much as self-promoting arrogance, though that can follow, but as the executive of our days, the negotiator with survival-simplified “reality.” “What it takes to survive” is an enforced social convention, like gender roles, based on something dimly real, but heavily filtered, interpreted, and then set in stone. It’s also a private superstition based on what we thought it took to survive in our early families. Ego mistrusts imagination because the new can fail.)

(Yet there are people who survive recklessly, seemingly by magic. We sometimes call them “dreamers.”)

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Political Dreams

February 18, 2020 at 12:34 pm (By Amba) (, )

When the public sphere floods your night head you know you are “living in interesting times” and there is no escape.

The New Yorker recently ran an article whose SEO (search engine optimization) title is “How Dreams Change under Authoritarianism.” (I can’t find its print title, so I’ll resist a digression on how the internet sucks all the art and wit out of writing titles and turns them into dull labels.) The article is about an out-of-print book, published in English translation in 1968, called The Third Reich of Dreams: The Nightmares of a Nation, 1933-1939. The author, Charlotte Beradt, was not a psychoanalyst, simply a writer who collected 300+ dreams of apprehension and dread from friends and acquaintances before she made it to New York in 1939.

A small shopkeeper in Vienna dreamt that the lamp in the corner of his room suddenly began to talk, repeating to the police every sentence that he had ever uttered against the Government, every political joke he had told.

(To think that we complacently invite just such “talking lamps” into our homes—Alexa!! It’s not even a stretch to imagine them put to work as household spies surveilling and betraying us. They already keep dossiers of our consumer choices and personal vulnerabilities. Only that last hook-up between the tech corp and the government is unfinished . . . and Zuck is working on it.)

Learning more about this book led to the discovery that there is a Museum of Dreams in London, Ontario, “a hub for exploring the social and political significance of dream-life.” Its founder, Sharon Sliwinski, published her own book in 2018 called Dreaming in Dark Times. Her conviction is that dreams can (again, as they did for our tribal ancestors) reveal truth in times of confusion and denial, and provide insight and guidance not only to individual dreamers but to the community:

[T]he disclosure of dream-life represents a form of unconscious thinking that can serve as a potent brand of political intervention and a means for resisting sovereign power. 

How about that! Show me yours and I’ll show you mine and we can call it Resistance!

Reading the dreams of people under the rising Nazis makes you realize that comparisons of our situation to theirs are still hyperbolic. But does anyone really doubt anymore that “it could happen here” (and has, if you’re not white), that we are on a road that leads there for many more of us if we don’t get off it ASAP, and that we’ve trusted in institutions to protect us that are far weaker than we thought they were?

I’ll show you mine, and maybe you’ll show me some of yours in the comments. Maybe we can get a read on the truth of our predicament.

This dream of a grove of tree trunks with their branches and leaves (and the sky) sealed off by a crude concrete ceiling, cemented out of sight—trees painfully choked off from their own upper reaches—seemed to me a political dream though there is nothing overtly political in it. I still don’t know how to “read” it. Any thoughts?

Yesterday Twitter was flooded with posts on the hashtag #PresidentWarren, a vigorous pushback against the media’s “erasure” of candidate Warren. Like most such tweetstorms, it was clearly orchestrated and coordinated, yet some unknown proportion of the participants also seemed sincere. It’s hard to tell the operatives from those who are there in all innocence. Anyway it was effective in blasting Warren back onto the radar and creating the perception that she still has lots of ardent, enthusiastic support. (This morning there’s no sign that the mainstream media noticed.) (UPDATE: One day later, they noticed.)

So I dreamt of a cityscape that looked like a Maurice Sendak children’s-book illustration—something like the city skyline of baking soda boxes in In the Night Kitchen, in cozy brownstone colors. In this cityscape, Elizabeth Warren’s already largish figure was to be cut out, made larger still, and reinserted into the scene so that she would stand out more—if not quite bestride the city like a colossus, a political Godzilla. I was somehow to be one of the participants in this effort, or at least an implicated bystander, and I was very confused about whether it was a good thing or not. Clearly you could do that, you’d better do it if you wanted to be visible at all . . . but should you, really?

My best political dream to date, in terms of giving me heart, was more than a year ago, maybe even two. I thought I wrote about it, but that was probably on Facebook.

I was out shopping, carrying some bundles and a paper cone of flowers, and I had to pee. I stopped in a deserted corner of some mall or train station or bus terminal or Starbucks and went into one of those big one-person, all-gender, family-and-wheelchair bathrooms. Sitting on the john and reading a magazine, I fell asleep in the dream.

I woke up and Donald Trump was looming over me.

He had on a cheap-looking royal-blue suit—it could have been an expensive suit but it still looked cheap—and a red tie. His face was flushed (or blushed), his eyes were a hot blue and his expression was challenging and overbearing. There was no iota of a #MeToo situation. His intent was simply to intimidate.

I was not intimidated. He was ridiculous. I would have burst out laughing if I weren’t so annoyed at the intrusion and incredulous at his rude bloody nerve. I rolled up the magazine and started whacking him with it, shouting with every blow, “GET – OUT – OF – HERE! . . . GET – OUT!!”

I kept on whacking him until he slunk out the door.

I woke up lighthearted, freed from the burden of fearing or even hating Trump. He is a joke. I remain very afraid, but not of him—of the forces that are filling him like a poisoned Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon and using him (as long as he’s useful) as the front and figurehead for their takeover.

(Credit where credit is due: this dream may have been enabled by Nancy Pelosi, at one of their early meetings, shaking her finger in his face.)

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Strange tree dream

January 21, 2020 at 8:21 am (By Amba) (, , )

A grove of tree trunks is standing deathly silent and still in a dim, shadowy place that is somehow indoors. I don’t see beyond the trunks, but the feeling is undergroundish, like a parking garage or deserted warehouse. The trunks are close together, and the darkness thickens between them. They’re a deep brown, very straight like pillars, more than twice as thick as my arms would go around, with regular, vertically grooved bark. Thinking of it now they could be redwoods, but in the dream I thought of them as elms.

My brother is with me and I’m calling a report back to him. I find myself climbing one, or find that I have climbed it. At first I thought of grasping the grooves, but it’s easy to shinny straight up because the bark is almost sticky, not in an icky way but in a pleasant, textured way, like rough fabric (burlap? corduroy?) with a rubbery coating, conferring on me the sense of having sticky pads for fingers like a lizard. It welcomes climbing; it has a gravity-canceling effect, so that climbing is almost effortless and feels safe.

But before I can climb up into any spreading branches, I am stopped. The upper part of the tree has been sealed off by a badly made cement (concrete?) ceiling that closes in tightly around the trunk. I can see cracks and nails and corners in it, it’s not form-fitting—made with brutal indifference—but no light or air or sight can squeak through. And it’s certain that as the tree continues to grow the cement will press into it.

Above this ceiling branches must still spread and wave, there must be leaves to feed each tree and air and sky, but all that is sealed off from the trunks. It’s been done with the assumption that trees don’t “know” or “care,” but how could they not?

Other than having been surprised to read in the course of work that robust sequoias are dying, and that there are elms in coastal wetland forests being inundated by salt water from sea level rise—they were the trees of my childhood street and I thought they’d all been killed long ago by dutch elm disease—I have no associations to this and no idea what it “means.” But it feels like life now, public and private, they can’t be separated.

UPDATE: Speaking of trees, Republicans want to plant trillions of them. See, says House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, “we care.” In the words of one of his colleagues from Arkansas, “Trees are the ultimate carbon sequestration.”

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