Thursday, March 14, 2013

Washing dishes with Obama


I am having lunch with President Obama at a pleasant, contemporary house of wood and glass that matches its environment, an upscale, lightly wooded development. The trees around the house are mostly aspen and birch, leafless in this season. Our meal is simple, just sandwiches and soft drinks. After we eat, Obama washes dishes in the sink while the other lunch guest dries. I grab a dishcloth, wanting to do something useful, but succeed only in drying a glass.
    The other lunch guest is a young man or teen my own age. I am a high school senior or freshman college student and we have been invited to lunch with the President as a special honor. We are dressed up for the occasion in blazers and ties.

    I find a screwdriver and other tools on the kitchen counter. Obama laughs and remarks that Michelle is an excellent "carpenter" and that in another life she would have been a wonderful tailor. As we walk from the house under the trees, there is no sign of security, but surely the guards are there. I would like to ask the President about this, but I feel a little shy.

I woke from this morning dream after dawn, feeling that I had really been there, though not as my present self.  I was moved by Obama's simplicity and modesty. I could still feel my boyish awkwardness, trying to find something useful to do in the kitchen, still hear the soft crunch of grass and leaves underfoot as we walked outside. I needed a moment to review where I was, who I was and who I had been.

I had been up very very late re-reading Far Memory, the autobiography of Joan Grant, the remarkable British psychic and novelist whose novels (of which my favorite is Winged Pharaoh) were based on her memories and dreams of lives lived in earlier times. In her memoir she describes how from early childhood she remembered her lives in different bodies and this sometimes made it hard for her to accept the confinement of an young child's body and circumstances. I was reminded of my own difficulties of staying in the body of a young Australian boy when I was growing up.
    My intention for dreaming, when I finally went to bed, was to explore "far memory" - the memory of other lives. I now want to understand how my dream of being an American teen, in the kitchen with the President, relates to that intention. Perhaps part of the connection is that the dream suggests the mobility of consciousness, and that as humans, we are connected to people in many times and places in nonordinary ways, including in our contemporary world.
    Of course, there are many ways to read the dream as a set of dream symbols, especially if I play the "What part of me?" game. 


The dream and the intention

The first and best game to play with a dream that follows an intention is to explore the ways in which two may be linked. This can require some real detective work! When we set an intention for the night, our dream producers can astonish us by responding in a quite unexpected way that nonetheless turns out to be deeply relevant, on investigation. Sometimes they seem to ignore our intention because they think, maybe wisely, that there is something more important to know that we did not ask for (and may not want). Sometimes our dream self just wanders away from the original set course and brings back memories of other things. 

    Even when it's hard to find the link between the dream and the intention, it's important not to give up on the game too soon. Here others can help, because another person can sometimes spot connections the dreamer cannot see.

Drawing (c) Robert Moss
  

13 comments:

Niels said...

Well Robert, I'll have a go at it, nice interactive dreamgame to play I'd say ;-). If it where my dream, I'd ask myself why is the dreamsource bringing forward such a strong personallity, an authority such as Obama, who is at the same time so "normal and approachable" and how does that relate to the suspicion of a slight feeling of "guards" around this authoritive person? I would say the guards, who give me a feeling of no-go area, are THE area to go and have a look whenever re-visiting this dream. It matches with the being a young boy feeling and personage in this dream, which I would say is interacting in some way with this authority in a way that it is challenged by crossing borders of no go areas. It feels like some deep mechanism, with interconnected parts of myself all playing their role, probably bringing to the dreamstage theater a tension that can be released or dissolved.. I would say if it where my dream it could bring to the surface some early childhood emotions around dealing with male authority. And what a funny game this is, I realise there is always a projection available from my mind to re-tell someone elses dreamstory very subjective perhaps/probably ;-)

Robert Moss said...

Thanks so much for your feedback, Niels. We are almost always projecting when we give our view of someone else's dream. The key thing is to recognize that we are projecting, and that only the dreamer can determine the true meaning of their dream. We do this by saying, "if it were my dream" rather than just laying down a line of interpretation.

For me, in my dream, there is no problem of authority and absolutely no sense of a "no-go" area, at least not for me. On the contrary, my dream self is right inside the President's home, with unrestricted access, and the President himself could not be more simple, modest and accessible.

One thing in what you say does strike a chord for me, however. It's the piece about connecting with the situation of a young boy and childhood emotions. I find, after reporting my dream, that I am writing fast and happily about episodes in my own boyhood. So here I am, back in my own creative kitchen, the place where I cook up books (and sometimes wash and dry dishes).

Barbara Butler McCoy said...

Hi. What struck me as I read this is that one of the things that fixed then Sen. Barack Obama in the consciousness of the American public was his book "Dreams from My Father." It seems both of you give dreaming significant authority in your lives. If it were my dream I would consider this possible connection.

Robert Moss said...

Thanks, Barbara. This is a very significant connection for me, because right now I am writing about my dreams and memories of my own father. I read Obama's "Dreams from my Father" and wrote about two moving dream experiences he included in the book, when it came out.

Savannah said...

In my dream I would think the questions my dream character is asking about security are likely relevant to my author and leader self - how to be in the public eye and negotiate boundaries/security while remaining approachable. I would be thinking about what information I choose to dish out and how, and about the need for discretion and diplomacy. The president would be better prepared to handle the dishing and the cleanup in that sense than the average teen boy (the drying task brings the expression "wet behind the ears" to mind).

I would also think I might be revisiting the memories of my own boy self through the eyes of my present day dream character for the purpose of seeing more clearly something about the mentoring relationship itself. I would think back to leaders and mentors who were important to me in my own school age years and in what ways I might now feel called to be a mentor to young people in general, and young men in particular.

Robert Moss said...

Thanks for these most interesting suggestions and associations, Savannah. I'll think about all of them. My main interest, right now, is to link the dream to the intention. Yes, I am drawn into memories of my boy self - from which I've been writing today - and beyond his immediate story into "far" memories of other life stories. I also suspect that the American teen in my dream is not only (or even primarily) a mask for an aspect of myself but a transpersonal figure whose situation I entered for a short time, perhaps to help answer questions about the nature and the range of "far memories" across time and in Now time....

palimpsest said...

Behind the force of your dream intentions, you give a central place to Joan Grant's failure to entertain the idea that separate lives, distant in historic time, might have a sort of causal or "moral" simultaneity. Although you were reading "Distant Memory," and employing the phrase in your intention, you recall and note that "Winged Pharaoh" was her most compelling work. Perhaps that phrase is also in play.

It has been my impression that Obama has the natural unforced authority and distant mien of a pharaoh, along with the obvious physiognomy, and while I've heard others speculate that he may be the reincarnation of Lincoln or Kamehameha, I would more readily suspect he borrows from an incarnation, like Joan Grant, as a pharaonic figure. (Barack, with its Egyptian ring, can be reduced to "Ra" as the central element, and "Back," suggesting one who brings the Sun back into the center of our understanding of our place in the cosmos. Interestingly, the "New Sun"--inaugurating the 4th or 5th or 6th World, the 14th or 15th Baktun, or what-have-you--dawned at the very center of his tenure, as Potus 44, with his twin 4-year terms stretching like wings to each side; the "Winged Pharaoh" spanning the Ages, inhabiting dual realities...)

You do not explicitly address the other young man in the scenario, so I might entertain his presence as a balancing figure, one that points up your relative shyness by his more assertive manner. The two of you could be seen as reflections of Obama from an important passage in his life, as embodied in "Dreams of My Father," experiencing the communion that he lacked, and restoring it to him by allowing him to play out the father role. But, if there are two of you, you have a further role, that of his "wings," both extending his power and evoking his protection.

The fourth figure is no less powerful for being absent. Michelle is the secret power behind this innocuous, domestic arrangement. There is an implicit reversal of roles represented by the tools, which does not appear unusual or threatening to any of you, least of all to Obama. That is a fair reflection of their actual relationship. Presumably, Michelle is off with her two daughters, presenting an implicit distaff, shadow symmetry to the masculine scene represented by the President with his two young "wing men." There would, under normal circumstances, be others present (an official "honors luncheon" would involve dozens and be much more formal, surely at the White House), including Secret Service, and so your dreaming self remarks on that but assumes their "presence" so as to preserve the simple "sacred triangle." If you and your cohort represented surrogate sons, Obama himself suggested, almost wistfully, after his tragic death, that Treyvon Martin could have been his own son. (T. M. was an Aquarian with almost the exact opposite birth degree from Obama's, a classic mythic father-son arrangement, and fitting Obama's rising Aquarius rising in this dawning age...)

(...continued in comment below)

palimpsest said...


It is natural to have qualms about Obama's security. He is under greater protection than any former President for good reason. He lives under a shadow. I have noted that Michelle and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, have names that combine the same consonant sounds, leaving "Barack" and it's more "masculine" elements aside: the girls only share his "ah-ah" vowel sounds. Shared elements in names are like shared aspects in astrology, suggesting common power sources and natural affinities. Now this may sound odd, but it does suggest a feminine triumvirate with their own "power" source, in some sense independent from him, allowing him to pursue his own agenda more freely. Although this implies a certain lonely role for him, even within his family, it also empowers them apart from him, and, in the worst case scenario, beyond him.

Returning to your dream, you and your young correspondent, on the cusp of adulthood, having just graduated or about to, and undergoing a very relaxed symbolic coming of age with a father figure of a very new kind, represent his "wings" every bit as much as Sasha and Malia may be viewed in that role for Michelle. We have all seen the First Lady emerge grasping her daughters' hands at the conclusion of his major speeches. The image is always powerful and moving, as they unite with the "father," but remain insulated from the "pharaoh" at the same time.

If the missing "conceptual" ingredient in "Far Memory" is an understanding of the reciprocity, or parallelism, of our "consecutive lives," then for an exploration of this theme to land you in a low key encounter in a domestic idyll "out of time" with the most powerful man on the planet is an illustration of our souls' availablility to all purposes at all times. I think Joan G. knew this, insofar as she was prepared at all times to serve as psychopomp for those with challenging crossings, esp. during the war. In the wake of "Lincoln," who foresaw his own demise, as well as his lying in state unprecedentedly in the White House, perhaps you, among others, wait in the "wings" to be of similar service to Obama and therefore serve, paradoxically, to protect him, above and beyond the offices of his earthly bodyguard. (Kennedy and Lincoln's 50th and 150th anniversaries of "graduation" occur in the coming two years. There are too many parallels between Abra... and Bara... to be ignored--including their presidential numerology...4x4 and 44, and their opposite signs and races, which naturally balance in powerful, self-examined, souls...)

To summarize this overlong string of speculations, maybe your overt dream instructions were modified and to some degree hijacked by other thoughts, concerning the "Winged Pharaoh," for example, and the idea of how lines of power, chronology and identity are meant to be crossed, at Will and by Grace, for purposes of healing and wholeness and protection.

As in Jung's memoirs, also conservatively cast, much more was hinted at in his liminal experiences than was explicitly explored. Remarkable how such pioneers--historically and intellectually--of a metaphysics that is just gaining currency again through the efforts of teachers like you, can be seen simultaneously with almost cowed respect and with a degree of indulgence and benign condescension, as we might view the original but incomplete thoughts of a precocious child.

Robert Moss said...

Dear Palimpsest - I can't help smiling at your choice of a screen name, given all the prolix, scholarly and most intriguing reflections which you have laid over a short and simple dream report. You are certainly aware that the most valuable layer in a palimpsest on parchment is very often the undertext, concealed or obscured by layers of subsequent writings. The energy of this dream is what is primal and most important, and it has stayed with me all day and is with me now.

By all means continue to offer us your thoughts. But you may want to introduce yourself. If you choose not to do that in your profile, feel free to send me a personal email.

palimpsest said...



Glad you're a fan of that choicest of words. Palimpsest is my favorite-ever-image, describing everything I am and everything I know or wish to know, and the shape of it, on the page and on the tongue, is nonpareil.

It's magical properties were laid bare in the way it entered my life some 25 years ago--as had happened before with words and numbers, but never more sweetly. It came as a gratuity, presented to me as the last piece of a poem which I wrote on the subject of an unmade bed.

The entire poem went down as if dictated, save one, final, mystery word. It's ghostly absence left that same metrical space that Paul McCartney famously nick-named "scrambled eggs," before he came up with the lyric to "Yesterday."

I knew that the poem was the vehicle for the word; a sort of semiotic syllogism, and I knew that it was a word that I knew and would surely find; but not by trying, because it was not strictly in my vocabulary. So I got up from the white scribbled rectangle on the desk that faced my white muddled rectangular bed and proceeded to the kitchen to chop carrots.

Within minutes, to the beat of the chopping blade, the word descended, accompanied by a strangely open feeling through the roof of my head. I had only to return to the page and put it down.

And look it up.

Love at first sight.

brodahl jahren said...

Glad du er en fan av det beste av ord. Palimpsest er min favoritt-noensinne-image, som beskriver alt jeg er og alt jeg vet eller ønsker å vite, og formen på den, på siden og på tungen, er nonpareil.

snekker moss and snekker sarpsborg

Nancy P said...

If it were my dream, there is one phrase I would take as confirmation that the dream heard my request about far dreaming: "in another life she would have been a wonderful tailor." I would think, "In this life, apparently she is not a tailor, or at least not a 'wonderful' one. What does a tailor do? Stitch things together. What does a wonderful tailor do? Stitch things together wonderfully. Arrange them to fit perfectly. 'Tailor' them to the individual. Perhaps a 'wonder'ful tailor stitches things together so beautifully it seems magical." So Michelle in the dream has a potential for being able to do all that, but does not presently do it, at least not to a wonder-ful degree in this life.I might also ponder the differences between carpentry and tailor-y. Perhaps, one soft and quiet, the other hard and noisy.

I don't know what "Michelle" is to you in your dream, and it doesn't seem worthwhile to go into what she might mean to me if it were my dream. But if if WERE my dream, I'd pay attention to that little phrase uttered with such apparent affection and pride by the gracious older man to the two young men.

Thank you for the opportunity to do this. It's very generous of you,in the manner of Obama sharing a simple lunch with the boys.

Nancy P said...

p.s. And the I Ching suggests Hex. 39, Line 1, which seems to me to describe the obstructions in Obama's presidency and his manner of facing them. (Wilhelm edition)Perhaps that has some pertinence. I offer it because if it were my dream, I would confer with the I Ching.