Archive for the ‘dreams’ Category

h1

Losing What Can’t Be Found

January 2, 2012

I have nobody in my life where I can say, “Remember when. . .” • Joan Rivers

I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart so long. If we’re in each others’ dreams, we can play together all night. • Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

My youngest brother died in 1988 and I’ve only dreamed about him once. I still remember talking to him, walking as we did so many times, to Norm’s to share a hot fudge sundae. I didn’t record this dream and although it happened many years ago, I can still recall my disappointment when I awoke. Most dreams are forgotten unless they’re written down, but some dreams are remembered even though we long to forget them.

I had such a dream last night. I do not think I will forget this one either. My Aunt Mildred had died and I was packing up her house. I felt the pain of her death as I worked. My mother and my cousin Sugar—Sugar somehow mobile after many bedridden years—were taking boxes to their cars after I packed them. I never saw either of them, but I could hear their voices, laughing and arguing about what would fit where, reminiscing about my aunt—mom’s sister and Sugar’s mother—telling stories about her life. I shouted to them, but they didn’t answer.

The house was strange, circular with narrow corridors walled yet open at the top so I could hear the other two, yet never see them. The walls were always between us and their voices were always around the endless corner in the endless corridor. I walked toward the voices, hoping to catch the two, but their voices receded as I got closer. I wanted to see Sugar walking and laughing. I wanted to see my mother’s face. I wanted to touch her hand. Talk to them. Hug them. I remember being frustrated but hopeful, sure that I would eventually catch up with them. But I never did.

And I never will. They are all dead: my mother a year ago this month, Sugar in September, Aunt Mildred several years ago, and even in my dreams I cannot find them. Once we were The Four Musketeers and now I am the only one left to remember the fun we had in our matching black watch plaid jumpers and purple shoes. I am the only one who can picture the four of us in gingerbread man bathing suits with ruffled bottoms. The only one who knows about the gardenias we bought at Union Station. Holidays are fraught with memories of what once was and will never be again and it is easy to be sad. But this morning shortly after I awoke, while I was feeling sad and looking for work to distract me, I found this quotation from Patsy Cline in my mother’s handwriting: “You don’t get anywhere wallerin’ in misery.” And that’s the message I’ll remember when I think of this dream.

What have you lost? What have you found?

Pain comes like the weather, but joy is a choice. • Rodney Crowell

h1

You Could Call, You Could Text, You Could Send an Email, or You Could Surprise Someone and Send a Real Handwritten Letter!

May 12, 2010

My subject is beginning to oppress my mind as a nightmare does the body. My head is full of ideas, of which the order is not yet clear to me, and which I must consider singly. I should like to run, but I can only drag myself slowly along. You know that I never take up my pen to support a system, or to draw, whether wrongly or rightly, certain conclusions. I give myself up to the natural flow of my ideas, allowing myself in good faith to be led from one consequence to another. Therefore, till my work is finished, I never know exactly what result I shall reach, or if I shall arrive at any.
• Alexis de Tocqueville in a letter to J.S. Mill, Esq., November 10, 1836, from
Memoirs, Letters and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, 1862 edition, volume 2

I imagine de Tocqueville writing this letter nearly two centuries ago, and because it’s survived the years, he speaks to me today, describing the way I feel about research processes. The open and everquesting search for understanding is integral to the research processes of The Collectory (see earlier related posts). This connection with others whom I’ll never meet is one of the things I love about the written word.

When de Tocqueville describes his nightmare-ish head full of ideas, I think of Byron who wrote that if he didn’t write to empty his mind, he would go mad. I think of another poet, Robert Burns who said, “I pick my favorite quotations and store them in my mind as ready armor, offensive or defensive, amid the struggle of this turbulent existence.”

I think of Steve Carrell in The Office, whose character, Michael, tells his staff, “Too many different words coming at me from too many different sentences.” And I think of myself, awakening in the night with these words so vivid in my mind it’s as though someone is in the room saying them to me: “In the night, words slither from my brain, lie coiled on my pillow, tangled in my hair, hissing my name. Charm us, they say, and we will dance for you.”

I often find it difficult to get back to sleep because of the insistent thoughts that keep watch in the night, just waiting for my consciousness. The notes I make in those waking moments are letters to my self.

I know that audio and video capture things, but for me they are less accessible. Even the written word overwhelms me now that so much of it looks alike. An email is an email is an email and once they’re printed out, even when they’re collected in labeled file folders dedicated to their senders, they maintain an unappealing anonymity of appearance.

When did you last write a letter to someone? Not just a birthday card or a quick note, but a real letter? I’m reminded of the value of genuine handwritten letters because I recently received one. I picked up a business envelope from my mailbox at work and put it with things to take home. I get such envelopes often and they’re pretty much always filled with work-related forms. I was surprised to find a letter inside, handwritten and many pages long.

I’d forgotten what a joy a letter is and how happy it could make me to get one. I do get letters from my mother and I love them, but getting one from a friend was like having her visit. Her thoughtful words gave me a glimpse into her mind, and like de Tocqueville’s words, reminded me that I am not alone in the world of my ideas.

And finally, it especially delights me to find a connection between writing letters and procrastination. Here’s what Hemingway had to say: “Or don’t you like to write letters. I do because it’s such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you’ve done something.”

Procrastinate. Write a letter to someone. Not an email. A letter. Use pen and ink. Mail it.

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.
• Phyllis Theroux

h1

If an Idea’s Worth Having Once, It’s Worth Having Twice.*

May 6, 2010

Author’s note: I come back to read this post and I cannot find it. Yesterday’s is there. I know I’ve seen today’s, but May 5 is the latest post. I wait awhile, come back again and May 6 is still not there. I repost and come back later to find that I now have two May 6s. Thus computers confuse and confound me. I leave this second version. Because of the title I cannot resist and I wonder if the spirit of Salvador Dali is playing with me. Further note: I come back again to Zinnfull and this post–the second with appended note–is not there. It’s here again, gone again. If you’re reading this, it’s there. If not, it won’t matter.

Ideas that escape are fast and slippery and not likely to be hunted down.
• Carrie Latet

Every composer knows the anguish and despair occasioned by forgetting ideas which one had no time to write down.
• Hector Berlioz

Do you ever wonder where your lost ideas go to and why it’s so difficult to retrieve them? I’ve had several today that escaped me due to the lack of pockets in my clothing and my reluctance to carry a purse. No cards. No pen. Without pockets, I’m also without a place to keep my phone, another handy idea-capturing device.

When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools.
• Michael Leboeuf

I’m sure these lost ideas were brilliant, at least they seemed so as I was thinking them. Surely they must at least have been serviceable ideas, worth looking over. Now they’re gone and I’m left wondering if they will sneak back in if I quit looking for them. I wonder too if I will recognize them or if they will seem new and I will still mourn the loss of those I failed to save.

Everyone is in love with his [or her] own ideas.
• Carl Gustav Jung

Losing ideas while you’re awake is like dreaming and awakening to the loss of something you know was wonderful but is no longer there. I often capture my dreams, but many of them are gone before I can grab a pen. Their loss is tantalizing, but less frustrating than my waking failures.

You’ll always get an idea if you think and don’t panic.
• Norman Vincent Peale

Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali was fascinated by the creative possibilities of the hypnologic state between wakefulness and sleep and tried to capture its imaginative powers by awakening himself just as he was sinking into sleep. He’s been reported to have experimented while sitting up in a chair, often after a large meal, holding a spoon to his chest which dropped into a metal mixing bowl in his lap as he drifted off or holding marbles or ball bearings in his hands which fell into pie tins on the floor.

You do not know what is in you—an inexhaustible fountain of ideas.
• Brenda Ueland

I lose ideas every day. I’m distracted by other things and ideas flitter through my consciousness so quickly that they are gone before I can record them. Some days there are just too many and I am too slow. But I love them, they represent endless creative possibilities. Pythagoras said that a thought is an idea in transit. I like this. There are flocks of thoughts forever circling in my brain, but it is the ideas ripe with creative potential that I want to capture and cage so that I can eventually release them into the world as something more.

Everything of mine is permeated by my love of ideas—both big and small. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it grabs me and holds me, fascinates me. And then I’ll run out and do something about it. . . I write for fun.
• Ray Bradbury

I do not “get” ideas; ideas “get” me.
• Robertson Davies

Is there an idea that’s captured your imagination? Something you’re wondering about? Something that fascinates you? Where has your mind taken you lately? Have you recorded any of your wanderings?

The air is full of ideas. They are knocking you in the head all the time. You only have to know what you want, then forget it, and go about your business. Suddenly, the idea will come through. It was there all the time.
• Henry Ford

* Thanks to Tom Stoppard for the title quotation.

h1

If an Idea’s Worth Having Once, It’s Worth Having Twice.*

May 6, 2010

Ideas that escape are fast and slippery and not likely to be hunted down.
• Carrie Latet

Every composer knows the anguish and despair occasioned by forgetting ideas which one had no time to write down.
• Hector Berlioz

Do you ever wonder where your lost ideas go to and why it’s so difficult to retrieve them? I’ve had several today that escaped me due to the lack of pockets in my clothing and my reluctance to carry a purse. No cards. No pen. Without pockets, I’m also without a place to keep my phone, another handy idea-capturing device.

When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools.
• Michael Leboeuf

I’m sure these lost ideas were brilliant, at least they seemed so as I was thinking them. Surely they must at least have been serviceable ideas, worth looking over. Now they’re gone and I’m left wondering if they will sneak back in if I quit looking for them. I wonder too if I will recognize them or if they will seem new and I will still mourn the loss of those I failed to save.

Everyone is in love with his [or her] own ideas.
• Carl Gustav Jung

Losing ideas while you’re awake is like dreaming and awakening to the loss of something you know was wonderful but is no longer there. I often capture my dreams, but many of them are gone before I can grab a pen. Their loss is tantalizing, but less frustrating than my waking failures.

You’ll always get an idea if you think and don’t panic.
• Norman Vincent Peale

Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali was fascinated by the creative possibilities of the hypnologic state between wakefulness and sleep and tried to capture its imaginative powers by awakening himself just as he was sinking into sleep. He’s been reported to have experimented while sitting up in a chair, often after a large meal, holding a spoon to his chest which dropped into a metal mixing bowl in his lap as he drifted off or holding marbles or ball bearings in his hands which fell into pie tins on the floor.

You do not know what is in you—an inexhaustible fountain of ideas.
• Brenda Ueland

I lose ideas every day. I’m distracted by other things and ideas flitter through my consciousness so quickly that they are gone before I can record them. Some days there are just too many and I am too slow. But I love them, they represent endless creative possibilities. Pythagoras said that a thought is an idea in transit. I like this. There are flocks of thoughts forever circling in my brain, but it is the ideas ripe with creative potential that I want to capture and cage so that I can eventually release them into the world as something more.

Everything of mine is permeated by my love of ideas—both big and small. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it grabs me and holds me, fascinates me. And then I’ll run out and do something about it. . . I write for fun.
• Ray Bradbury

I do not “get” ideas; ideas “get” me.
• Robertson Davies

Is there an idea that’s captured your imagination? Something you’re wondering about? Something that fascinates you? Where has your mind taken you lately? Have you recorded any of your wanderings?

The air is full of ideas. They are knocking you in the head all the time. You only have to know what you want, then forget it, and go about your business. Suddenly, the idea will come through. It was there all the time.
• Henry Ford

* Thanks to Tom Stoppard for the title quotation.

h1

In the End Antiblack, Antifemale, and All Forms of Discrimination Are Equivalent to the Same Thing—Antihumanism.*

May 1, 2010

America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, it is the other way around. Human rights invented America.
• Jimmy Carter

If discrimination based on race is constitutionally permissible when those who hold the reins can come up with “compelling” reasons to justify it, then constitutional guarantees acquire an accordionlike quality.
• William Orville Douglas, who served 36 years on the United States Supreme Court

For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person. •Arizona Immigration Law SB 1070

The recently-passed immigration law in Arizona requiring law enforcement to ask for the papers of those whom they suspect to be illegal immigrants is not a political issue. It is a human rights issue. I know that I do not understand all of the implications of this law, nor do I understand the law itself fully, but what I dislike most is the tenor of much of the discussion surrounding it

The diversity of this country is vast and is represented not only by our varied ethnic heritage and the colors of our skin, but by regional differences, by the cultural constructs with which we were raised, by religion—or its absence, by gender identification, by all the many things that bring us strength as a nation. Our very differences—and the way we embrace them and even adopt them in an ever-swirling stew—are what make this country appealing to many who come here from outside its borders.

Our differences are an integral part of the American dream because difference, however it is defined, means that whoever I am, there is possibility here for me. I can look around and see not only those with whom I identify as being like me, but an abundance of others who are not like me and are not alike, even if their physical appearance is similar.

Regardless of the imperfections of acceptance and burgeoning intolerant talk and the multiple kinds of prejudice and bigotry that still exist in this country—however much we might like to imagine that we are open and accepting—we remain hopeful that the ongoing struggle for equity will continue and benefit us even when we fail to see the irony of actions that diminish such possibility for others. We are human.

In a world where I hope teachers-in-training will learn ways to insure that all participants in the life of the classroom have a right to a voice and a perspective and to an honoring of the fullness of who they are, this legislation provokes serious concerns. I believe I have a right to say so.

I also believe that others, regardless of how I feel about what they do or say, have rights as well. And I believe that name-calling and uncivil talk accomplish very little that is productive. Hearts are hardened and people are polarized when voices go unheard or are silenced altogether. M.P. Follett noted in Creative Experience, (1924), that “what people often mean by getting rid of conflict is getting rid of diversity, and it is of the utmost import that those should not be considered the same.” Get rid of our differences and the possibilities disappear as well, for all of us.

When he was president, John F. Kennedy said that “it is not enough to lend your talents to deploring present situations. Most educated men and women on occasions prefer to discus what is wrong, rather than to suggest alternative courses of action.” This is where it is easy for educators to get themselves into trouble. We see injustice. We see political acts that concern us. We see acts that reason tells us will lead to unintended consequences. How do we express outrage or sorrow or concern without proselytizing? Is it possible to be a caring, thinking human being without expressing who one is in some way or another?

I do not want to determine the political party with which my students affiliate. I do not expect that they will share my beliefs. I find myself to be a curious blend of things anyway—liberal on some issues, conservative on some, and uncertain on a myriad of others whose complexities I am still exploring. I want my students to maintain independent and thoughtful minds and hearts, open to possibilities, willing to listen to other perspectives, yet also determined to uncover truths of living for themselves.

In the introduction to her 1995 book, Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott said that “hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work; you don’t give up.”

I do have hope, a very stubborn hope, that I will influence my students, that from their time with me they will recognize their own unique creative idiosyncratic worth as human beings and thus come to understand that all of the people with whom they will be working are also such beings, whether they are colleagues or students or parents or members of a larger community. I hope that they will see that standardization and accountability movements are difficult to impose because of the differences among us. It is my hope that our differences will be celebrated and that each among us will be able to live within the fullness of her or his hopes.

What is your hope for the world?

Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away, and that in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
• Martin Luther King Jr.

* Shirley Chisolm, the first African-American woman elected to the United States Congress, gets credit for the title quotation.

h1

The Dreams I Cannot Forget

April 12, 2010

I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.
• Emily Bronte

I am a dreamer—figuratively through daytime dreams of hopefulness—and literally. I often capture my nighttime dreams in a journal, writing while still half-awake. Dreams not captured quickly are evanescent, evaporating once I’m fully aroused.

Most of my dreams are quickly gone. I write them down and when I read them even a few days later, it’s as though they were written by someone else. I don’t remember them at all. Except for a few: the dreams that color my mind. The exhibit I’m working on, The techNObots, was inspired by such a dream, one I captured in the late 1980s while I was going to school and working as a graphic designer, spending nights and weekends alone in a room with a hulking computerized typesetting machine:

I am walking down a long, featureless corridor, chilly and dim.
It is always cold here, for Their comfort.
Their comfort is more important than mine.
Despite my sweater, I shiver.
I do not want to be here.
I want to leave and never return.
I cannot.
The craft I once enjoyed now imprisons me, because of Them,
Machines that lack just one thing to make Them perfect,
The human element.
And that is me, and others like me.
They still call us artists, but our work is no longer our own.
Passing countless doors, I reach my cubicle, a tiny blankwalled room.
The room is even colder than the corridor.
And there He is: my partner and my nemesis.
I dread the coupling.
Each time the neckshunt is connected I fear that we will never disconnect.
I dread the ghastly coldness that invades me as we join.
My blood becomes His, flowing over His circuitry.
I am alone here, in a room designed for Him and not for me.
I could keep Him at home, but I don’t want to.
Coming here is bad enough.
Living with Him would be unbearable.
He is efficient.
Images I envision appear instantly.
Colors I imagine burst forth brilliantly.
It is wonderful and horrible.
He is wonderful and horrible.
Second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, we work.
He monitors my thoughts.
Only my artthoughts are paid for.
My private musings, my daydreams, my feelings are captured in His memory.
Retrievable.
And worse than this, I can feel Him, an invader in my blood,
Touching, exploring, searching for something.
I do not know yet what He seeks.
Artistry could not be built into these machines, so I am here.
Attached by silicone fangs to a vampire who drinks my creativity,
Wondering how long until it’s gone.

I have had other related dreams.. On November 25, 1994, I dreamed that I woke up because my arm itched. I looked down and steel wires were growing out of it. Only a few at first, but they kept popping out all over my arm. I couldn’t pull them out or cut them off. They kept getting longer. I talked to my husband, but he just said I would have to go the doctor. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to hear that I was becoming a robot woman. I got panicky and I woke up.

Eric Fromm (1990-1980, social psychologist and humanist philosopher) said that “men and women are growing more alike every day because they are both growing more like machines.” The techNObots explores the costs and benefits of human’s increasing dependence on—and romance with—machines, to us and to our human relationships.

Even as I wordprocess this and get ready to post it for the world to view, I think fondly of the days when it was not possible to do so. When email did not dominate my days in ways I find difficult to escape. When I did not have multiple phone numbers and multiple voicemails. When it was not so easy to be accessible. I do not want to be a slave to technology, a prediction Fromm did not know he was making when he said that “the danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.”

It does not require a metal body to turn human beings into extensions of their tools.

What do your dreams tell you?

In our dreams (writes Coleridge) images represent the sensations we think they cause; we do not feel horror because we are threatened by a sphinx; we dream of a sphinx in order to explain the horror we feel.
• Jorge Luis Borges, “Parables”

h1

The Power of Negative Thinking

March 19, 2010

Post for Monday, March 15, 2010

I often dream in words. I hear them or read them and then awaken and try to capture them quickly, before they’re forgotten. Last night, here’s what I heard:

There is the past, that time before. The imagined perfection of the neverwas. The reality of hurt and sorrow. Ephemeral delights. And there is now, the ever-futuring present that creates a hoped-for future—no guarantees.

Once I get these things I’ve heard or read onto paper, I try to puzzle out their meaning. They’re often a bit odd and sometimes just plain silly. (Note for those wondering how I can remember and record something this long. Many years of capturing quotations from movies, television, and the passing crowd have trained me. As long as I am not interrupted or distracted, I can briefly—long enough to get them written down—recall as many as forty words. More than that and I’m lost.)

I’ve been visiting with my mother and my cousin Charlie, sharing family memories, and I realize as I think about what I heard in my dream and reflect on our recent long conversations that all of our stories are happy ones. There are many unhappy memories we could have focused on. Resentments that could still be made to fester years later. Unfairness. Offenses. Unkind words that still echo if we listen for their hurtfulness. When the conversation veers in those directions, we try to steer away. We’re part of a family and no matter how families might appear to outsiders, I suspect that most of them share both happiness and all the varieties of its opposite.

Whether you’re in school or in a family or working or volunteering or whatever it is you’re doing there are likely to be positives and negatives to any involvement. After I wrote the dream-remembered words, I went on to write that although I try to mine the past for nuggets of understanding, I do not want to live there, hunkered down with resentment and regret, polishing the painful millstones of memory. Those negatives are always there. Always available for obsessive visiting and revisiting. Always ready to hurt me anew should I choose to let them. I try not to choose.

Instead, I prefer to polish diamonds of remembered delight that remind me of who I am and who I want to be. Those memories are harder to find. The power of negative thinking seems easier to access than its positive counterpart. I find this to be particularly true in relation to any of my creative work, whether it’s as a student or as a teacher or as a poet and artist. I find it much easier to remember the times when others told me what I was not and what I could not be than I do to remember moments of encouragement and validation. If I get ninety-nine positive evaluations, I am prone to remember the one disapproving one unless I deliberately determine that I will not dwell on the negative.

Perhaps you are better at the game of life than I am. Perhaps you find it easier to access the power of positive thinking. I hope so.

What techniques do you use to help you stay positive in the face of discouragement?

I’m a happy person. I like to be happy and I’m determined to stay that way no matter what happens.
• Doris Day