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BETRAYING DREAMS

Dreamed 1987/11/6 by Chris Wayan


I'm on a grassy plain, in low sun. I was plopped down here by a god. We have this bet...

The wind is cool and the tussocks of grass around me are boggy. I think this is tundra! I don't know why; it just feels polar--an uneasy feeling that the cold and dark are lurking under the horizon, ready to clamp down like big jaws. The wind picks up slowly...

The god implanted a post-heavenly suggestion: I'm supposed to walk south or southwest, over that range in the distance. My goal for this first day looks like 20 miles, though it's hard to judge scale here, with no trees, rocks, buildings, animals.. . just grass and silence. Can I do it? Behind me and to the right stretches the sea, below fifty-foot cliffs. I walk along the cliff edge, as it seems drier. The range to the south which I must cross dwindles to the right into a cape. I sense the land beyond the ridge will be profoundly different. Trees? People? Food? As I walk and jog toward the unknown land I think "Even 15 miles would be acceptable, the first day out." But there's absolutely nothing out here for shelter, and what do I know about night here? I better reach the next country, and soon!

I cross a silver sea-grass meadow by an inlet, and find myself on a path. As I walk, my mind drifts to an article by a woman researching psychic and shamanic dreams. She said her colleague, a Frenchman, has philosophical differences with her: "he believes in dream symbolism." I wasn't sure what she meant. Apparently, neither was her editor, because she added "He's a symbolist writer." Is that some European movement among dream researchers? What's her position, in contrast? I puzzled over it a while. Suddenly, walking through dune grass and tundra, I realize that if I replay the passage in my head naively, as if it's a bar conversation I was overhearing, instead of credentialed experts writing for publication... then it's horribly clear. He's merely asserting "dreams mean something" as opposed to her still more primitive (but common) view: "dreams mean nothing"! I confused myself by overestimating the writers. Their grasp of dreams and ESP is rudimentary. I'm mistaking ignorance for subtlety.

As I totter inland, tired now, I chant "think two drunks, just two drunks..."

As I start up the gradual slope toward a pass about five miles off, I picture myself talking to another writer on dreams, Celia Green. "If you just listen to your dreams, TRY to find meaning in them, your dreams respond by getting clearer. If you don't, like most Euro-Americans, your dreams try other symbols which are less obvious, since they picked the simplest first. But they keep trying, thrashing around trying to find a language you'll grasp. And if you willfully won't? I'm not sure our dreams can BELIEVE in a conscious mind that not only doesn't want to understand dreams but thinks the unconscious is an idiot. After all, it's hard to admit that someone you know and love doesn't think you're a person...

"But 'dreams mean nothing' and 'dreams mean only what this expert says' are merely the most common perversions. There are more advanced ones. If you write your dreams and study them, but somehow never act on their overall message, that's betraying them--pretending to love and respect them but never really listening. Treating them as mere entertainers--like minstrel show artists in blackface. Exploiting your dreams like a natural resource! This is what you do, at your worst."

I stop, realizing this is true--and not theoretical. Lately, I've been doing just that--and that's why my dreams have been short, frustrated, confused, even nightmarish, which is rare for me. I'll write them down, but I really don't want to know. And they sense it.

The sun's setting now as I climb the ridge, the border of the warmer lands to the south. The path steepens. Muddy clay. My feet sink in, and it crumbles. There's a low clay bank at the very top. I reach up and grasp the top, but I can't pull myself over, it's too soft. I try to stamp steps into the cliff face, dig a ladder... tiring work. Maddening to be at the top yet unable to quite see over into the new land.

The sun touches the horizon... and I still don't know if this counts, if four fingertips over the border mean I've won or lost my bet.

Blinded by the glare, I heave myself over the rim, into the unknown land.

2001 NOTE

This quiet, anxious, self-referencing dream came near the end of a slump. For months I'd been limping around on an untreated broken foot, unable to dance, not dating, barely working... Turning inward, except that inward, for me, usually means dreaming, but THIS time I was doing just what this dream warned. Writing them down, but not very well--the smallest, stingiest, scrawliest records I've found in thirty years of old journals.

It was like I was half-listening to a friend and saying "Uh huh..." while my mind drifted. Not really writing... not really listening...

But taking very real care never to really act on them.



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