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.