The Stuff of Dreams
by Barbara Crafton
In my dream, I was dancing. An annoying little man kept turning up wanting to partner me -- he wore white tie and tails, and reminded me of Jigs, the American comic strip character from years ago, whose battle-ax wife Maggie was always after him with a rolling pin.
I think I know who he was: he was my arthritis. My knee was especially painful in the night, after a day of sitting in meetings -- the unarthritic will be amazed to learn that sitting is often much more painful than walking. Here is what it's like: someone is very carefully inserting an ice-pick into your kneecap and up into your thigh. I will spend another nine or ten hours seated today. I'd rather be dancing. The dream was a modest something in the way of a protest.
I kept eluding the annoying little man of my dreams, slipping out of the various ballrooms in which he searched for me, dancing alone in gardens outside, away from the party -- dancing beautifully, supple and strong, without pain. Dreams are a fine thing: in them, we triumph over that which oppresses us in real life.
Some of them aren't like that. In some dreams, we encounter fearsome things from within us, costumed to seem as if they came from somewhere else. Our own monsters and bloodthirsty demons pursue us in dreams, and we barely escape with our lives. But we do escape, if only by awakening with a gasp. Who are they, really? It behooves us to find out, sometimes, in hopes of getting a decent night's sleep.
And sometimes there are dreams of love that survives the grave. The beloved dead return to us, sometimes. But I thought you were dead, we tell them, weak with delight and disbelief, and they smile at us, calm and happy, reassuring, wiser than we are and loving us still. We awaken in such joy that it seems for a few moments as if it is the dream that is real, not our ongoing loss.
And who is to say what is real, and where truth lies? It lives in more places and more ways than we think. There is a truth of history, that journalistic who-what-when-where-how of whether something did or didn't "really happen." A fundamentalist reader of scripture approaches everything in it as if that were the only kind of truth available. But it is not. There is a truth of the spirit also, the truth of divine message that transcends mere facticity, that lives outside the categories of history but can, if we will allow them voice, inform them at every turn.
The ancients believed that God spoke to people in dreams. I think that, too. To find out what is the capital of Montana or the melting point of gold, it's best to look it up in an encyclopedia, not wait for a dream. But to find out where your heart of hearts is, what is your true longing, what you're really afraid of, what might be possible in the future and in the here and now, sleep tight. And then watch. Listen. Remember.
Discouraged because you never dream, or don't remember your dreams? Everybody dreams -- we just forget. Try this: before sleeping ask God to allow you the dreams that will be best for you. Tell God you'll be open to them as best you can, and tell yourself, as well. Be sure there is a pad of paper and a pencil next to your bed in easy reach, and touch it with both hands before you go to sleep. When you awaken from a dream, reach for the pad and write down what you saw, even if you can only manage a few words. They will help you remember more.
This helps people remember their dreams. Don't fear them. All will be well. There is nothing you can dream that is not already within you. Your dreams cannot hurt you. They only help to explain you.
Copyright©2004 Barbara Crafton
From The Almost-Daily eMo from the Geranium Farm, e-mail messages sent by Episcopal priest and writer Barbara Crafton. Crafton's eMo's are published in book form by Church Publishing. Visit her Web site at http://www.geraniumfarm.org