Ouvertüre

The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.
David Orr

It’s darkness all around me. Deep darkness, surrounding me from above and below, darkness that makes it impossible to see the street going by my childhood house. Luckily it’s winter and heavy snow is covering the entire road, making it visible. Not only does the snow show the path – where the street actually is – but it also makes walking difficult. It is big, up to my knees. One can barely walk on the road and a path is impossible to find. So, one must have the courage to put one foot in front of the other and walk blindly into and through the show, not knowing if there is a safe path available or a hidden hole awaits below the thick strata of snow. One must have faith or one must be foolish. Anyway, one must have courage to step into the unknown that might or might not be dangerous. There are no safe trails and a new path must be found through try and error.

I reluctantly step into the thick snow. Fearful or not, this is the only way and no other. The darkness surrounding me leaves no other option, no shortcut available, no cheat, no possibility to have a different perspective. It’s all pitch-black.

I’m lucky. There was no danger lurking beneath the snow. Or, there were one or more holes hidden underneath but they didn’t cross the path I chose. Or I didn’t cross them. I will never know if I’m lucky or if the road was in fact 100% secure. But I made it to the end of it, only to encounter two ladies returning from an after-midnight party. They looked tired and in the dim light conveniently appearing out of nowhere, I could see that their makeup was damaged and they looked disappointed. I knew they were returning from a wedding and they stayed as much as possible in the night, hoping that they could meet someone there – a future partner, someone who might marry them, a Prince-Charmant, a savior who could offer them a better life – and they failed. They tried in vain, it was futile – again -, so the only thing they was hoping for, was to start their car and get to their home as fast as possible. They were empty-handed. Again.

How I knew that? I don’t know how I knew. I just looked at their faces and this became obvious. I crossed their path and wanted to go with them in their car. But then I hesitated. I covered myself with a soft white quilt so as to keep me warm, I looked again at the snowy road and I woke up.

Do you still dream?

No, I’m not talking about having goals or dreams of professional or personal success. I’m talking about having dreams while you’re asleep, when who you believe you are during this lifetime and this familiar world are replaced by a strange otherworld that is often out of your control or has a life of its own and you are no longer the same.

The quote at the beginning points out something that is increasingly prominent in our world: too much emphasis on success can lead to failure. Why? Because the world becomes unbalanced. It’s not only the fact that, if someone wins someone else must fail. It’s also the fact that, blindly pursuing success, we disregard other aspects of ourselves. And neglected or undeveloped stuff seeks revenge or is sabotaging us. Why? Because we are designed to be complex. Success in its extreme is onesidedness.

The dream-world tells stories, stories told in an ancient language of symbols and eerie feelings. It teaches that one thing can have multiple meanings and the same thing can be seen from multiple perspectives. It connects and manipulates. And it is incredibly accurate. You don’t need specialized books so as to decode the meaning of dreams. You only need common-sense and interest in this subject.

The dream above is described as precisely as possible, with a few extra elements emphasizing the main symbols. At the first glance it is rather schizophrenic; there is no real action, it is not well structured, it has no context, it is weird. Well, it isn’t truly so.

The first element is the darkness. It is easy to recognize the Unknown, that which is not known or impossible to be perceived. Since about 90% of our perception is visual, not being able to see triggers a fundamental emotion – the one of fear, specifically the fear of unknown. The emotion is emphasized in the text when I have to walk through the snow not knowing what’s beneath. In this case the Unknown is what can’t be seen directly, and the emotion of fear appears this time in the form of the fear of losing control (controlling whether I step in a hole or on a safe street surface).

The dream uses lights and shadows so as to highlight what is important, just as on a theater stage. If something is not important, it covers it in darkness. If it’s important, it brings it in light or makes it visible. It selects what you need to see and what is useless in the particular context of the dream. If the street must be seen, it is covered in white snow in the middle of darkness. If the faces of the two ladies must be seen, the dream becomes very precise, allowing me to see their facial expressions by casting light on them. Their car appears out of nowhere even if everything was initially covered in darkness.

In dreams, it is often the case to know things you could not know normally or things that were never mentioned. You simply know. In our usual life we know stuff because we encountered it at least once. It is memory that serves us. In dreams we have something similar to our real-life intuition. Being comfortable with knowing what we are not supposed to know becomes normal. The intentions of the two ladies are therefore obvious although there are no previous elements that can explain them.

Another interesting element is the fact that the dream starts in front of the house where I spent my childhood. So, what the dream says is linked to something that has begun in childhood. One can think about self-awareness or autonomy. The dream does not start with me coming out of the door of the house, so the dream refers to something that happens or happened after I left the protective space of childhood (I’m in the street). It’s probably linked to the moment I started to take my own decisions, or live my life my own way, not asking for advice from my parents or grandparents.

The winter is another element. It is the general background. Since it is commonly the last season of the year, it points out that I am at the end of something – a period, an era, perhaps my own life. I’m “in the winter of my life”, not “in the spring of my life”. Spring can also have periods of snow, but the dream states clearly that it’s about the end of something and not about an accidental period of winter in the midst of a warmer season. Remarkably, the snow reveals the path to be followed. This is exactly what happens often in life: we understand many things when we are “in the winter of our life”, when it’s late in life, maybe too late, or late enough for us to be able to understand. We often see the road at dusk.

The snow signifies also the life’s hardships, the obstacles. We’re not talking about a thin layer of snow – enough to highlight the path – but we’re talking about heavy snow. Snow causes struggle. As the old Zen saying points out, “the obstacle is the path”. The path is not simple; I am being challenged. It is no easy road. But it is the only one. No possibility of avoidance. No negotiation. No cheating.

The solution I find in the dream is a resource I use in real life as well: the courage. The dream is again very precise; the courage is not the absence of fear but rather the advancement despite being afraid. In the background, a second resource I use can be inferred: the persistence. I put one step before the other and I keep going. And, from the entire process, one can deduct a seemingly defensive mechanism being used: the foolishness. I walk “blindly”, in a chosen and voluntarily manner. One could say this is denial. But it is not. I don’t deny the existence of danger because I can’t see the danger (the possible holes under the snow). Others could see that I dissociate my emotions (the fear) by refusing to feel it. But it isn’t so for a simple and perhaps unexpected reason: there aren’t any defensive mechanisms in dreams.

The dreams show situations and emotions “as they are”, without protection, without defenses. That’s why nightmares exist. Anxiety is felt directly. So does sadness or anger or joy. The dreams are deeply authentic. Sometimes we become uneasy when we (in our dreams) feel things we should not feel (judging with our ordinary daytime minds). But the dreams are always right and they teach us something or open one or more (emotional) perspectives.

The end of the road proves what we already know about fear: it is often groundless, unjustified. No holes under the snow. But the end of the dream also crosses the second main theme: the pointless struggle (or the thirst for control?). The two ladies took their lives in their own hands but they failed to understand what they are doing wrong. They are exhausted after unfruitful male-hunting. They pursue something that is beyond their control or, more disturbing, something that they are not destined to have. I don’t know why they failed and the dream remains silent versus the reason(s).

One interesting question could be: Who are the two ladies? The answer is simple and straightforward: they are also myself. Why? Because “I” am the dreamer. How’s that? The dream is like a stage on which I dissociate several parts of myself and I let them play the action of the dream. For this reason, each character in the dream is also myself. And one way through which dreams can be efficiently interpreted is to narrate again the dream from the perspective of each character, not only from the perspective of the main character (which holds the illusion of self). So…

“As we were returning from (again) one more lost night, while walking to our car, we encountered a strange man with a blanket on his shoulders, just as a child who woke up from his dream and is wandering the streets in his pyjamas”.

First, when retelling the dream from the perspective of the two ladies (why two?), one can finally feel (through empathy) their anger (frustration). This feeling is concealed in the dream, it is never felt when telling the dream from my perspective as the main character. Second, the feeling of awkwardness is stronger: “a man acting like a child”. So the dream teaches something not only about anger (originating in the unfairness of life), but also about a refusal to grow up (my refusal). Equally, the dream “seems” to give a hint to the two ladies: If (some, at least one, perhaps all) men in town behave like children (are immature), who do they want to marry? Additionally, I could ask a second question: Why do they need someone to “save” them or someone to make them feel complete? Remember, their makeup was disintegrating. The makeup conceals or makes people look better or younger. It deceives others. And that’s not exactly fair (fairness being flashed above) and definitely unauthentic (one could bet they’d say they’re searching for true/real/genuine love).

And, since we’re here (and remembering the quote at the beginning)… Can we see today’s successful people embodied in the two ladies? Those “successful people” who force things? Chasing success has its price: few win but many more lose. In a dynamic of extreme competition, encountering “the other” (person or human being), possibly a future partner, is replaced by hunting for a “male”, seen more or less as a pray (an object?).

The dream leaves unknown things behind, such as the soft white quilt. Its symbolism ranges from child-like behavior to being dead in a coffin. It can mean anything. It can also have meaning when combined with other dreams the dream had or will have. It remains a mystery.

And mystery is also part of this (dream) life.