Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dreams of iron and invisible rainbows...

As I may have mentioned before, I don't often dream (as in, sigh, I almost never 'remember' the phenomenal features of neural activity during sleep), but I did want to record just a few recollections from the past few weeks.

Last night I had a dream of violence and anger. I was a surveyor, or maybe a pollster, making rounds to collect data about... well, something. Maybe even doing some recon for making a movie. Hazy. Anyway, I entered a large round-shaped restaurant, nealy all windows, around lunchtime. Despite how luminous and airy it was, the many struts of the building throbbed with a foreboding, iron heaviness. I made my way into the central kitchen/office, where the much of the staff--apparently the owner and some of his kids and friends--were eating and chatting happily. I began to make my inquiry but then felt an increasingly alarmed intuition. Something was not right here. I can't recall if it was the sense that this owner, a large man in a baby-blue two-button shortsleeve shirt, was ominous as a (sexual?) threat to his own children, or if I just previsaged he was an irascible figure to be reckoned with in my own life. As soon as I began speaking, he jeered at me, and led the others on to tease me for my task. I got irritated and told him he could at least be courteous, I wasn't asking for much. Rather than get angry, I pursed my lips and backed down. I told him I would come back to finish my task no matter what he did ("I'll be back"?). For I had been sent by a powerful agency (a movie studio?) and my cog-like role in their endeavor was bigger than him or me; his jeering would not stop me because not even I could stop myself from fulfilling the agency's mission. So I walked outside and headed back to the agency. Apparently, though, this stoic retreat galled the owner, who, I suppose, wanted to show off for his family and friends how macho he was. He followed me out, calling me to stop, to come back and finish it. I kept going. I was just stepping off of the large lawn in front of the restaurant when he finally shouted enough to get me to come back. I realized I should do something to vanquish this oaf and then get on with my task elsewhere, then return when he might be moe compliant. So I turned back and approached him on the lawn. He was smirking, anticipating the tussle to come. I warned him that I was stronger than he realized and he should not go through with this, as it would only embarrass him and slow everything down. Yet he persisted and I decided I might as well really show him up. So I raised my sleeves and opened my collar, approaching him in a stalking judo stance. He was very big, and obviously strong, but I felt a primal confidence in my ability and in my mandate in the field. We locked arms and I quickly brought him to the ground. I then pinned him facedown by locking his arm lengthwise against his neck and face, taking a few heel shots at his belly and rib cage to subdue him. After a few minutes he surrendered and I released him. He was angry but knew not to try attacking me again. He wiped grass from his hair and shirt and made a lot of threatening words about me coming back. I told him I had to come back, so hopefully he would cooperate.

Analysis? I don't always like to think my dreams--the ones I 'remember'--are products of that day's immediate sensations and experiences, since I believe this is too simplistic. After all, if dreams really do stir up our subconscious, who's to say dreams don't express old and obscure data that have nothing to do with the day's experiences? Basically, I think we should be trepidatious about 'interpreting' our dreams and leave a very broad range of contextual options open to their meaning as we reflect on them for a while. That's the only view of dreams that justifies treating them as significant insights into ourselves. For if dreams really are just the backwash from each day's sensory input, why should we be fascinated by them as signs about our larger lives?

Nonetheless, I grant that many details in my 'dremories' stem directly from the day's experiences. For instance, last night I was (wonder of wonders!) studying Chinese, making a few more note cards, and at one point I was reading an entry about three easily confused fo2 words. (This was in a fascinating Analytical Dictionary of Lexical Differences [my own translation for the Mandarin title, which I might add to this post when I get on my Macbook] which I came across not too long ago.) One of the uses of fo2 is in the phrase "to raise one's sleeves and go" []**, which is one of my favorite Chinese idioms, not only because it hearkens to a time when people wore long-sleeve robes, but also because it is so dramatic, sort of like snapping one's lapels or one's shirt collar and storming out in a huff. Presumably this phrase triggered my dreaming about rolling up my sleeves to fight the oaf. I was also listening to some De La Soul last night, and "Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa Claus" from De La Soul is Dead always grabs me. It's a song about a sexually abusive father and his daughter, Millie. Clearly, this could have figured into my intuition about the oaf's malfeasance.

Another element which I think figured into the dream, is how distorted my sense of physical strength has become by teaching small children. No matter how many times you do it, there's still someting uncanny about 'being able to lift a person' or seeing their hands deflected so easily when being playful, or seeing how ineffectually they try to pry an object from just a few clenched fingers. What I mean is that, to the brain, it must be slightly incongruous to combine "attack" and "defend" impulses with such comically tiny sensory input. I remind myself I'm "not actually that strong" just because I can lift kids up or hold crayons from them. And yet... it also sometimes dawns on me just how strong I am that I can lift kid after kid over my head, and so on. Just yesterday, to be exact, I had swung one kid past me as she jumped up for a hug/attack and I was stunned to realize my stomach was like an iron board. I know it sounds silly and I'm not trying to boast--I well realize how vastly weaker I am than many truly strong people--but I think what appeals to me about gongfu is how it trains one in meekness, or "strength under wraps." So even though I exercise regularly and am stronger than people usually perceive, I enjoy the feeling of restraining my power with children. Maybe that is what surfaced in the dream: a chance to "flex" my strength for real with an opponent rather than just with my weights and ropes. (I guess I need to get back into judo!)

As for the dream's larger significance, I think it conveys something of my inner determination to overcome some obstacles I have faced in the past year and more. I have great confidence in my 'mandate' to overcome them and 'redeem the past' but I also realize how hostile and tiresome the terrain ahead is. It would take me more time than I have right now to list all the sources of inspiration I've catalogued within to inspire me to "Never Give Up" and the like. Suffice to say that in my "heart of hearts" I, apparently, have no other choice than to give everything I can to resolving and restoring what I value most, conflicted though it may be.


Another dream I had, weeks ago, was about me pulling into a gigantic parking lot at a restaurant at the foot of some small mountains in central Taiwan. It was a rustic teahouse-style restaurant, with a basement section for cooler, quieter eating, an open ground floor level with the grass prairie, and a second floor looking out at the creek cutting through the valley. I exited the car and inhaled the crisp air as I beheld the mountains. Then I made my way into the restaurant. I can't rememeber if I was with someone, whom I'll call Esther, or if she was already inside with her family. In any case, I met them at their table on the ground floor. It was about 11 AM and the sunlight was dully fluorescent due to the fog and tree cover. Very vital and serene. This Esther's brothers and parents were already perusing the menu when I joined them, and we exchanged warm greetings. I wasn't sure where Esther had come from, but all of us were very happy. Not a lot of talking, which is part of why things were so amicable. Acceptance. A peace without words. "That's what was missing all along," I said to myself (my dream-self to my sleeping-self?). "This is how it could have been. This is how it still could be. So simple. Why didn't I see it before?" While I was thinking all this to myself, Esther and her family had finished eating, so they got up and went out to ride their bikes in the mountains. I bid them farewell and was left to myself. I made my way outside and breathed deeply as I beheld the scenery again. "This is good and it should be." Alas, while it was a rainbow that had always glimmered there, I had never seen with my waking eyes. Or maybe once.

I have heard the big music
And I'll never be the same
Something so pure
Just called my name
I have drowned in the big sea
Now I find I'm still alive
And I'm comin' up for ever
Shadows all behind me
Ecstasy to come
I have
Climbed the big tree
Touched the big sky
I just stuck my hand up in the air
And everything came into colour
Like Jazz Manna
from sweet sweet chariots
I have seen the big mountain
And I swear I'm half way there
(You'll never get there, you'll never get there,
You'll never get there)
But I will
I will always climb the mountain
I have heard the big music
And I'll never be the same
Something so pure
Has called

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