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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

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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 and scams.

Dream big!

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 dreams.

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).

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