What strange things dreams are... images that emerge and stories that are written somewhere deep in our psyches, that come out and roam unfettered like ghosts in the night. I awake each morning trying to recapture those images and remember those stories. I also awake each morning with a fresh song in my head. I spend half the day humming it. Today’s tune is “You Haven’t The Right” by the Catalinas from 1967. 1967! Often, like that, the songs with which I awake are tunes I haven’t heard in years, but they are stored in my subconscious, and at night they are allowed to sing.
The stories we see in our sleep are often the working out of the issues with which we are struggling in our waking hours. And so we dream our dreams with all their symbols. Typically interpreted, being chased = the fear we have of something we’re trying to escape in real life... returning to school (and especially being unprepared for a test) = a gnawing suspicion that there is a lesson of importance we have denied or failed to learn... nudity = vulnerability... flying = spirituality and the desire to soar above the existential drudgery that too often holds us captive... food = knowledge (as in “food for thought”) or energy (as in “hungry for a new endeavor”), etc. I had a friend years ago, a gifted psychotherapist, who used to say: “Tell me your dreams, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Carl Jung said sleep is when we do our best internal work and, also, is the time when God can get through to us because our defenses and cynicism are down.
The Bible also talks about dreams. Sometimes God comes to someone in a dream, bringing a message that calls or transforms. Sometimes the dreams extend past the sleeping hours, as is the case in the text from Hebrew scripture: “The aged shall dream dreams, and the young shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28)
Occasionally all of us, at whatever stage of life we occupy, should ask ourselves: “What are my dreams? What is propelling me into the future?” I don’t think we grow old because we get tired as much as we grow old because we quit dreaming. And by that I don’t mean the nighttime stories that are our inner self’s effort to sort through issues. Instead, I mean our spiritual aspirations, our goals, our hopes of doing or contributing something that (a) makes the world around us better and (b) makes the life within us more satisfied. So, what are your dreams? What pulls you up from the muck and mire of daily existence? Is there something that would bring you joy if, at the end, you could look back and say, “I did (or at least attempted) that”? And what disappointment might you feel if you look back and say, “If only I could do it over, I would do (or attempt) that.”
I love examining my nighttime dreams in the mornings, trying to sift through the images and stories, wondering what they really were telling me. It is an exercise in self-understanding that brings clarity and insight. But, probably more important is having conscious dreams... something to strive for... something to attempt that will make the world and myself better and stronger... some new windmill at which to joust... some cause to champion … some noble or kind or invigorating reason to get up in the morning. It’s what keeps us alive all our lives!