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Dreamed before 1983 by Paul Friedrich

This is a snippet from a long essay by Paul Friedrich on using dreams in art (in his case, poetry) and on how he interprets dreams. He analyzes (for nearly ten pages) a single short dream:

Gangs of young toughs are cruising deserted streets pelting each other with pieces of keen-edged, abrasive quartz. I am one of them and I quit--an insult. Quartz cuts my kneecap and I turn into the paved courtyard of a synagogue and through tunnel corridors to the major room hung about with paintings--orange and green, loud colors on white--and a youngish artist in a yarmulka. He begs me to judge them and I do and saunter out again like Walt Whitman in his floppy hat onto Italianate squares and uneven bending streets lined with sycamores and telephone poles aslant, with single wires--the hooligans watching from a distance.

A green heron--the green of earth, greener than green, which I call "Sharonne"--starts up out of a different hardwood to perch on a wire and a stone cracks its wing. It flits up, then swerves back to the corrugated bark of the locust tree to cling and claw, and then drops straight to me. It tips its head to one side, it flaps. I am weeping with outrage as I peg rock after rock at the gang fleeing in all directions down and off the street.

Friedrich's analysis is exhaustive (and exhausting) but the conclusion's revolutionary for 35 years ago: this dream's not Freudian, not Jungian, not random--it's political. As an American Jew he'd like to support Israel, but the synagogue, yarmulka, and that word "Sharonne" (almost certainly referring to Ariel Sharon) all hint that his dreams view Israeli treatment of Palestinians (in Sharon's case, massacres) with dismay. A heron might mean life, peace, or nature, but... green? In the Mideast, green means Islam; hard to avoid.

Friedrich concludes that pre-Freudians may have neglected the personal side of dreams that Freud and Jung examined, but we've swung too far toward "dreams are always private".

My conclusion--and suggestion for the future--is that a dream such as the above and a large fraction of other dreams are fundamentally political. They are about ethnic and racial conflicts, war, the vendetta, threats of fascism, and so forth...

For the interpreter of such dreams--of dreams in politics and of politics in dreams--to recur to infant experiences, sexual fantasies, mythic-universal archetypes, perceptual clues, and the like, does yield much insight but it may be a collateral insight and should not help us avoid the political gist of many dreams and their relation to political problems in the world.

This was at the time I think still a minority view, but Friedrich was right, as proven by the hundreds of political dreams here at the World Dream Bank.

SOURCE: Dreamworks: an Interdisciplinary Quarterly (v.4, no.4, 1984, p.267 (dream) & 277 (conclusion))

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