Thursday, March 3, 2011

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

What a wild card!  Every night we settle into bed, turn out the lights, close our eyes, and calmly invite whatever turns of the involuntary imagination may come to play across our minds.  And we do so willingly. It is as though we regularly acquire a ticket for whatever happens to be showing, without checking the billboard, without knowing beforehand what the entertainment will be.  Yikes!

I am astonished that we invite this.  I am astonished that our progressive society, which seeks to have control in every other facet of our lives, still leaves this completely to chance.  Why haven't we been given a pill to tame or to thwart this variable, this unknown?  Surely we shouldn't be leaving ourselves open to the ludicrous, or the impractical, or the harrowing, or the triumphant, or the frivolous....  It seems to go so contrary to everything else in our lives that is about order and inside the lines and bridled.

I find dreams to be exhilarating.  I welcome this scheduled step into another world.  I see it as an opportunity for self-discovery.  Sir Thomas Browne, of the Seventeenth Century, observed "We are somewhat more than ourselves in our sleeps; and the slumber of the body seems to be but the waking of the soul."

William Hazlitt, of the Eighteenth Century, claimed:  "We are not hypocrites in our sleep.  The curb is taken off from our passions, and our imagination wanders at will.  When awake, we check these rising thoughts, and fancy we have them not.  In dreams, when we are off our guard, they return securely and unbidden."

I have made discoveries in dreams, not always welcomed, but certainly undeniable when faced with the them in the harsh light of morning.  I have expanded my ideas and my thinking.  I have cast off the inhibiting timidity and walked boldly where I wouldn't have gone before.

I find it interesting that we can discuss this idea of dreams with people from previous centuries because dreaming is a universal experience.  Politics change, technology changes, modes of transportation, and agriculture, and exploration all change.  Yet we share a fascination with this other-worldly nightly encounter which noone can really explain or justify. 

In the words of the Nineteenth Century poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who expresses it better than I could:

"Dreams or illusions, call them what you will,
They lift us from the commonplace of life
To better things."

Not all dreams are welcomed.  Some are scary.  Some are disturbing. Some bring the welcome relief of waking.  Yet they all carry the capacity to lift us from the commonplace, to see things with fresh eyes, to explore and take chances without a safety net.  My favorite dreams are those in which I can fly.

And the ticket is free.


Jessica M said...

Loved this post! I love all the quotes you provided...especially the one from Sir Thomas Browne.
I, personally, have a love/hate relationship with dreams...some dreams are exhilerating and I wake up wishing I could take a nap and finish them! Other dreams are unwelcomed guests during the night causing a chill to settle upon me due to their content.
Have you ever seen the move "Inception"? I don't watch too many movies but I enjoyed's all about dreams!

Kim said...

Dreams are so interesting...I agree that many can be helpful, make me laugh, or unfortunately, leave me feeling unsettled for the rest of the day.

I had a dream the other night that I was singing in church and my skirt fell off....I'd rather not have a ticket to that dream again!

neffie said...

The last dream that really helped me out I find hilarious because it was a weird (and I mean WEIRD) dream and then i started analyzing my dream while I was still dreaming. And the analyzing was dead on and gave me many "aha-ha" thoughts about my life. I woke up thanking my dream brain. LOL

Kevin Faulkner said...

The entire short tract by Browne 'On Dreams' proves him to be an embryonic psychologist. It's well worth reading in its entirety.
You're right, dreams are well worth thinking about as a window to our inner psyche. It can be useful keeping a note-book handy to bed-side to write them down on waking. Even better, to learn how to lucid dream, that is, to actually control and manipulate the dream as it happens. Browne was of course, a lucid dreamer. 'Yet in one dream I can compose a whole comedy, behold the action, apprehend the jests and laugh myself awake at the conceits thereof'.

Ardith Haws said...

What great comments today! Thank you to my readers from near and far. Your input adds to an interesting and valued conversation.

Laura said...

I wish I could remember my dreams! When I wake up it's nada, zippo, zilch.