On a pleasant day in late summer, Liese is strolling downtown in a small city in the American Midwest with her young son. As they pass a tall glass-walled bank building, they pause at the unexpected sight of a giant panda ambling around an enclosed atrium, snacking on bamboo stalks. Delighted and amazed, they watch the panda through the glass as it starts to climb. Then Liese realizes that above them, a panel is missing in the glass wall of the bank, and the panda, moving quite fast, no longer seems so cute. As she starts to lead her son away, the panda erupts through the gap in the bank wall and morphs into a Godzilla-like monster. Opening its great jaws hungrily, it flies at Liese and her son, apparently intent on devouring them. Gripping her son’s hand, Liese breaks into a run….and wakes, still terrified, not sure whether she and her boy managed to get away.
Liese’s dream dates from August 31, 2008, two weeks prior to the collapse of a famous investment bank, Lehman Brothers, that threw the world financial system into upheaval and quickly erased trillions of dollars worth of personal assets. If you know anyone who has faced foreclosure, or had other credit problems, or difficulty getting a bank loan, or if you have simply watched the value of your savings shrink, you’ll have no trouble understanding the symbolism of the panda in the bank that becomes a monster – Panzilla! You may hear a further level of meaning in the audio pun; “panda” sounds like “pander”. And if you are interested in getting a feel for the future, you may want to consider how the Panzilla dream may presage events that have not yet taken place. Where do pandas come from? China, of course. Is it possible that the dream foreshadows a possible future in which a change in China’s banking and investment policies could cause even worse grief for Western economies? Perhaps.
Great events, as Goethe observed, cast a shadow before them.
Dreams rehearse us for how we may behave in the context of future collective events, as well as for events themselves. On September 23, 2008, I dreamed I was driving down a narrow road that plunged down, almost on a vertical incline, for miles. There was no way of turning around, and no point in trying to step on the brakes or shift the gears. In the dream, I was amazingly calm. I took the plunge. I noticed that all the way down the road was lined with floats – large orange cubes that would keep something afloat in the water. When the road finally descended to a body of water, the descent bottomed out and the road became a bridge that ended at an upscale retail complex that reminded me of the international duty-free zone at an airport terminal. I was a little nervous that my speeding car would not be able to stop before it crashed into the glass wall of this are. But it came smoothly to a stop inches away from the glass. Nattily dressed sales assistants popped up, offering luxury wares. Business, it seemed, was back to normal.
This dream guided my personal responses to the financial crisis. It's hard to miss the relevance of the theme of the seemingly unstoppable, near-vertical descent of a car today, in the context of the threatened collapse of the auto industry. I take comfort from how my dream self succeeded in getting through by “masterly inertia”, and that after the scary plunge that went down and down, a terminal crash was avoided. May it be so!