Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Starting the Day in Dreamland

Another document from a future society known as Dreamland has come into my possession. On February 10, we posted a report on "Doctors in Dreamland" that appears to have been the work of someone engaged in the healthcare industry a century or more ahead of our time. The new document, by contrast, appears to have been written by a child. It would be a good guess that the author is a sixth-grader, in our terms (although school terminology may be different in Dreamland). He reports, perhaps for a school project, on the daily customs of dream-sharing in his family. His just-so, colloquial account of how you start the day right in a dreaming culture has a charming insouciance. It is also highly provocative. It may lead us to reflect on how deeply adrift our mainstream society has become - in its estrangement from dreams - not only from the ways of our ancestors of the past, but from the ways of our enlightened descendents. The Lightning Dreamwork Game is apparently standard daily practice in the future society known as Dreamland.

“Who has a dream?” That’s the question that starts our day, at the breakfast table or earlier, when the dream won’t wait.

The dream might be something that happened during the night, when you went traveling or received a visit, or got chased by monsters or chased them back. The dream might be a memory of the future. It might be something the world gave you, something you heard in the voice of a bird or the whistle of the wind in the leaves.

My dreamwork teacher says that dreaming isn’t really about sleeping. It’s about waking up to the things you need to know. Dreaming is traveling. You do that in your sleep, but you can do it by stepping inside the world of a tree, or walking the path of moonlight on water or – as my little sister says – by just punching a hole in the world. When we go dreaming, we step through the curtain of the world into the world-behind-the-world. Out there are beings who are dreaming about us. Sometimes they come poking or tickling through the curtain of our world to help us wake up. This is called coincidence, and if you want to get good at dreaming, you watch it the way a cat watches a bird.

In our house, when there’s breakfast on the table, we take turns to tell dreams and coincidences. Whoever has the strongest feelings gets to go first.

Every game requires rules, and we have rules for dream telling. The first rule is about time. When we start a dream telling we set the egg timer (ours looks like a bear) for ten minutes. You get five minutes to tell your dream, and then everyone gets five minutes more to talk it over with you and help you figure out what to do. Then the egg timer goes off and everything stops, or else the bear gets really really mad. We go on to the next story, or we head off to work and school.

We set the timer even on lazy days when we could take hours and hours to hang out with a dream. We might do lots of things with a dream after a telling, like making a picture or logging on the meta-library to check out a funny word, or letting a neighbor know how to avoid an accident next Tuesday, or traveling back inside the dreamspace to play with a friend or deal with an enemy or get the words of a song. But we want to do the first sharing fast, because it’s fun and that way you don’t lose the energy. “Like lightning!” my dreamwork teacher says, sawing his hand down like a lightning bolt. “Do it fast and feel the power!”

A big rule is that we must tell our dream as a story and everyone present must listen up. It’s okay to act the dream out as you tell it, slithering around the floor or turning pirouettes of fire. You want to give your dream a name; stories need titles.

When you’ve told your dream, the other people get to ask you a few – just a few – questions. The first question is always, “What did you feel when you woke up?” What you feel about a dream in your heart or your tummy is the best guide to whether the dream is good or bad and whether it’s about something in this world, or another world, or one of the messages coded in symbols that bring the worlds together.
Another question we always ask is, “Could anything in the dream happen in the future in some way?” We search every dream for clues to the future, because in dreams we are time travelers who can scout out the roads ahead for ourselves and others. When a dream opens a door on the future, we want to figure whether out the event on the other side is fixed or squidgy. A squidgy future is one we can push or pull like play-dough, so things will come out better.

After the questions, everyone who is playing the Lightning Dreamwork Game gets to say anything they like about the dream as long as they say it politely. To do this, we begin by saying “if this were my dream” and then add whatever pops into our heads.
We’re watching the egg timer, because we’re not done until we get to the Action Plan. Dreams require action.

Lucy (she’s my sister, and she’s four) is jumping up and down now, so I have to let her speak. I hope she’ll be quick.

Lucy (aged four): I want to tell them what we do with S-C-A-R-Y dreams.
Me: OK.
Lucy: You spit out the bad stuff right away, on the ground or down the toilet. If there’s something in your dream that was chasing you, you go back inside and you chase it back.
Me: But what if it’s too scary?
Lucy (holding up a teddy bear as big as she is): Then you take a special friend with you – we call it an ally – who can scare it back. When you brave up to what was scaring you, sometimes it becomes a new friend.
Me: Anything else you want to tell us about scary dreams?
Lucy: They show you bad stuff that can’t be stopped unless you tell Mommy or Daddy and they make it right. Like when I dreamed the crash.
Me: Right.
Lucy: And I told Mommy and we didn’t go on the red shuttle that went BOOM.
Me: Thank you, Lucy.
Lucy: No, wait. Tell them if you’re falling you should stop flapping and start flying.

That was Lucy. She’s taken up all the time I had left. I have to prepare for my Prevision final at school. I dreamed the questions last night, of course, but I have to go over my notes.


Robin O'Neal said...

Love this!

Nancy said...

Since I dreamed about being in a boring classroom last night with a pedantic droning "teacher", where my true learning was going on doing something X-rated with a classmate , I really want to go to the school these kids attend!

Robert, I love your children's stories best of all.

Savannah said...

Sweet. I want to wake up to a household of squidgy futures and pirouettes of fire too! Oh and next time you meet Lucy's dream teacher, please tell him how much I love the work he's doing for children of all worlds, would you?

Seashore said...

Out of the mouths of babes....
This reminded me of my daughter's favorite childhood doll..."Lucy". Thanks Robert.