Dreams within dreams
When my three year old grand-daughter came to wish me ‘good night’
and I said ‘sweet dreams’, she asked her mother, ‘Amma, what are
dreams?’ To her perhaps reality and dreams are the same, and sometimes,
for all of us till our last breath, some reality could be a dream, and
some dreams a reality.
Not just a three year old kid, but many of all ages, among them
philosophers and psychologists have asked the same question, and man is
still searching for the right answer.
Dreams are of many types. We have thoughts, images and emotions
during sleep. We also have ‘daydreams’ which have been called visionary
creations of our imagination. A reverie is said to be a ‘state of mind
marked by abstraction or release from reality'. But they are all dreams
by any other name.
We can dream while remaining awake, we can shut ourselves inside our
own dream, shut out the world outside. We can use dreaming as a form of
meditation. Prof. Rosalind Cartwright, Rush University Medical Center in
Chicago, believes that dreams are the mechanism whereby the brian
incorporates memories, solves problems and deals with emotions. She
maintains, that dreams are essential for our emotional health.
When we are poor dreamers, or when our dreams dry up, we borrow other
people's dreams, through their aesthetic creations, their novels, poems,
paintings, sculpture or films. When Harold Robbins gave the title ‘Dream
Merchants’ (1949) to his book about people who sell dreams to millions
of viewers, he picked the right name for the Hollywood, and now also
Bollywood, film moghuls. There are other individuals and organizations
who mint money by selling instant dreams (of wealth) by way of lotteries
In 2004 Matthew Wilson at MIT's center for Learning and Memory
claimed after a long study, that ‘animals are dreaming and their dreams
are connected to actual experience'. Margaret Atwood wrote in her poem
‘Animal Dream’, that “Mostly the animals dream / of other animals / each
according to its kind ‘
Even if animals can dream, they may not have a way to communicate
their dreams with their fellow animals, or that is what we like to
believe. We do not yet know if animals have their own forms of
communications, then they too could be sharing their dreams with others,
and creating their own art forms.
A normal dream can develop into a lucid dream or a dreamer can go
into a lucid dream while he is fully awake. A dream is lucid only if the
dreamer has control over it to some extent, and probably these dreams
are what gets converted into fiction. A lucid dream is also a way of
escaping reality and easing stress. “Lucid Fiction” is a collection of
short stories ‘exploring the concepts of lucid dreams, consciousness and
alternate realities.’ Yet by that definition all fiction has to be
considered as lucid dreams of the authors, unless the stories are based
on real life incidents and characters.
In the Alagagaddupama Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya, sensuality is
compared to a dream, and also to a skeleton, a burning grass torch etc.
Tibetan Buddhists talk of ‘Dream Yoga’ instead of Lucid dreams. In the
Bible we find, “For a dream cometh through the multitude of business;
and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words” Ecclesiastes 5:3.
“You dream you are the doer, you dream that action is done, you dream
that action bears fruit. It is your ignorance, it is the world's
delusion that gives you the dreams” (Bhagavad Gita 5:14). Edgar Allan
Poe, in his poem said “..All that we see or seem / is but a dream within
a dream” (1849)
Man has been able to convert his dreams into pseudo-reality. Akira
Kurasawa had written and directed a collection of short films, titled,
‘Dreams’ (1990), which he claimed were tales based upon his actual
Joanne Rowlings (calling herself J. K. Rowlings) was on a train to
London from Manchester, and the train had stopped for a few hours for
some reason and she was just staring out of the window. To amuse
herself, Rowlings, who was in the habit of daydreaming from her
childhood, dreamt of a boy wizard who did not know that he was a wizard.
Today she is known as the Princess of Dreams, and to quote her, “In
dreams, we enter a world that's entirely our own”.
When John Ronald Reuel Tolkein, while teaching English Language and
Literature at Oxford, “one day while grading papers, had written on a
blank page, ‘a hobbit lived in a hole’, for reasons not even he
understood”. That is probably how Tolkein's own daydream materialized in
“The Hobbit” in 1937.
Beverly Jenkins has listed five famous novels based on dreams.
‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley (dreamt of the monster one night in
1816), ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ by Robert Louis Stevenson (woke up with
a dream about a doctor with split personality disorder), ‘Jonathan
Livingston Seagull’ by Richard Bach (heard a disembodied voice whisper
the title in 1959 and 8 years later had a dream of the seagull, and the
book sales surpassed the ‘record set by ‘Gone with the Wind’),
‘Twilight’ by Stephenie Meyer (17 million copies, 9 weeks on New York
Times Best Seller list, 4 movies), and ‘Misery’ by Stephen King (dreamt
of it while on a flight).
I would like to end this dream with two quotes.
“You are never given a dream without also being given the power to
make it true. You may have to work for it, however”. Richard Bach.
“So there you have it - dream big! You never know from whence you'll
get your next flash of inspiration.” Beverly Jenkins (with 30 published
novels to her credit).