Monday, December 17, 2007

Larceny Week: Gwydion on Dreams

One of the great things about having had a dear friend for thirty five years is that you can steal one of his really good blog posts and know that he won't get too angry at you. Now that Gwydion has taken his blog dark for a while, there's a wonderful post from a little while back that I've not been able to shake and would love to revive here if he doesn't mind (and if he does...sorry, love ya, man). It's about dreams.

Do dreams just happen to us, you think, or do we create them?

Let me ask the question again in a different way, because it has seemed rather critical to me this morning.

Which of the following descriptions of dreaming seems more accurate to your understanding, to your reality, to your experience of being a dreamer?

While sleeping, the “you” of who you are becomes passive or receptive while some part of your mind over which you have no control creates a story – the dream – and reveals to you.

While sleeping, the part of your mind that inhibits your thinking (or that edits your decisions) when you’re awake gets totally shut off, leaving you free to create whatever stories – dreams – you want.

Which is it, do you think? Is it either? Is it both?

Let me say that I’m not particularly interested in what scholars (especially Freud) have to say on the subject – I want to know what real, thoughtful people believe. I want to know what I believe, too, but I can’t seem to figure it out.

Why do I ask?

I ask because I’ve always thought of my own plays as dreams. All the characters, all their conflicting desires and personalities and speech rhythms and wounds and hopes: they’re echoes of parts of myself. All the symbols are very much dream symbols, laden with meaning. I really can’t see it any other way. And lately, as I’ve been working through the last scene of my latest play, I’ve noticed that I haven’t been able to decide yet how it’s going to end. How it’s “meant” to end, I should say. This isn’t usually true for me. Usually, by about halfway through the play, I’ve got the end in view, at least roughly, and the closer I get to it, the clearer it becomes, until the final notes of the play just seem inevitable. But not this time.

This time, even though I’m right up on it, the end is still quite blurry – sort of like the end of a dream in half-sleep, when something wakes you up before you’ve completed your REM cycle. Any good psychologist worth her salt would tell me I just don’t WANT to see it yet, that as soon as I’m ready it’ll come into focus, and hell, that’s probably at least half-true. But I do want to see this ending: I want to finish drafting the play. It’s very, very important to me, for many reasons.

Let me clear: I’m not actually feeling blocked at all, not in any way, not even a little. I’ve been writing quite smoothly and steadily all along. The play is emerging from me the way (when the biology’s perfect) a baby emerges from the womb. It’s painful, yes, and more than a little bit bloody, but the body’s been honed over hundreds of thousands of years to do precisely what it’s doing, just as my mind has been honed to deliver this story.

It’s just that for some reason, I cannot decide how to end it. I feel as if I want the end to happen, instead… which brings me right back to the question of dreams and what makes them. Will the end of the play just create itself, or do I have to make it?

Or is it both?
Now I know at least a couple of the regulars here are able to have lucent dreams where they can control them, but is this a difference in kind or just degree?