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Dreams (and reveries...)
From: The Mystery of Kasper Hauser ("Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle"), a film by Werner Herzog.
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On his deathbed, Kaspar Hauser asks the persons in attendance if he may tell a story, which request, considering the extremity of the situation, they grant. Kaspar begins by emphasizing that he only knows the beginning of the story. He then proceeds to tell what he knows: A nomad tribe is lost in the desert. Their blind leader, himself dying at the time, correctly points to the group the direction in which they must travel to reach the only oasis. The group had thought the oasis was in the opposite direction. But the group follows their leader's direction, and, eventually, arrives safely to the oasis. This is the end of what Kaspar knows of the story, even though he had thought about it much during his last years. I have retold this story to you from memory, and the value of what I have told does not depend on whether I have remembered correctly. [Go/Return to a quote from Sigmund Freud about the unimportance of accurate reportage for dream interpretation]
On Sunday morning, 06 September 1998, I began work on this page. The next morning [Monday], I read in The New York Times that Akira Kurosawa had died.
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 Key:  Light  waking.  Dark  sleeping. 
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 "Other than chance encounters, we can only
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 encounter in reality what we have previously
 encountered in fantasy." (--Gordon Hirshhorn)
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[ ] Click here, to read about a dream I have described on another page on this website.
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[ ] Waking experience: In the second grade in school (age: late 6 or early 7 years...). One afternoon, the teacher had to leave the room for a few minutes. To keep the unattended class occupied, she assigned all us pupils to write the numbers from 1 to 100. I seem to remember that, while the teacher was away, somehow I stabbed the point of my pencil into the palm of my right hand. (I seem to remember that the graphite mark could be seen under the skin more than 10 years later -- finally I presume it was all "absorbed" into my body, since I seem to have ceased to be able to find the mark when I was perhaps 25 years old -- I may also have "dug out" what was there with finger-nail clippers around this much later time....) Normally, I am frightened by the least bodily injury, but somehow that did not happen in this case: I seem to remember that I felt a quiet and peaceful "space" "open up" around me, in that second grade classroom (by now, at age 53, it's perhaps more like remembering having remembered...).
Interpretation: At the time, this experience must not have made an impression on me, for I do not recall thinking any more about it either that day, or later in elementary school.... For many years -- certainly not during my childhood --, I never again had another similar experience [the next instance was probably when I was about 34 years old, and somewhat better equipped to understand it]. I may have I forgotten about it perhaps until I was in college, and studied things like Heidegger's philosophy, esp. his idea that man is the clearing in the midst of the density of what-is, in which what-is can be what it is. In reading this (at about age 18), it struck me that it described my experience with the pencil stab in the second grade [I could still look at the visible trace of the experience in the palm of my hand]. The experience certainly did not have a transformative effect on me: It was "not much", since it did not take me out of the -- what I now call a -- less-than-life / defective world (Abwelt), into which I had been "thrown" (Heidegger's: Geworfenheit) by birth and childreared, aka "raised" (but not raised up!), all the time before and for many years after the experience. Nonetheless, in the light of later understanding, I was able to see that it had been an instance of something better, an example of the possibility of a form of "life" not only taxonomically but also normatively human (i.e., worth living, as opposed to merely being in accidental ways different from plant, animal, and inanimate substances -- e.g., I did not photosynthesize or have a crystaline structure or feathers or a fur pelt, but I had acquired language and would likely grow up to become a wage worker...). How many times do persons thus unsuccessfully (abortively?) open up to something higher -- almost as if an unconscious hand was reaching up thru them in the chance that another -- unimaginable -- hand might reach down and give the person a hand up? --But when (as in my case) this does not happen, the life in which the experience emerged sinks back into [to use another Heidegger phrase:] the "average everydayness" of the person's encompassing ethnicity (horizon of unreflected habitualities inculcated by childrearing -- back into, to use yet another Heidegger phrase: the "Es gibt", i.e., that which just happens to be there, "without any why".... --There can be no words to really describe that which is beneath description.
Rescript: Someone could have come into that second grade classroom and said to the 6 or 7 year child who was having that experience of quiet "opening" and "space": "Come, let us look at all things, and see whether they are suited to you, and, if not, let us find things -- and people -- who are suitable. Let us see if we can build on what you are right now experiencing, and make it be your life always -- for you to be a calm, peaceful place in which things, including all your interactions with people, present themselves for your consideration, and for you to be able to decide how you choose to relate to them. Things (your parents, school, etc.) will no longer "close in" and impinge on you and push you around as if you were a thing, but rather you will be able to consider all of them from a safe distance. This is a new beginning for you, Brad. So far, those who controlled your life did not even show you what a "new beginning" is. It begins with this -- that instead of just writing out your numbers, you were able to experience the whole situation at a distance, and now we will consider it together, and you will learn for yourself how you should to relate to things, not just what people would have you do.... I will not abandon you back to from where you came from...."
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[ ] A dream I may have had, Xmas Eve (Dec. 24-25), 1999 [Note: I had not had any dreams that I remembered, for several months previously]. An architect has two projects to do: (1) A large building [a medieval cathedral?], which is not something the architect considers to be of much value, but which the architect needs the aid of a white European to do, and (2) A building which is more meaningful and which the architect does not need any help to do.
Associated material: Before going to bed, I had attended a family Xmas Eve gathering, at which: (1) A professional architect had stopped by briefly, and (2) Someone had told a story about Jessy Jackson [the black civil rights leader] having once found himself being followed while walking down a street and he had looked around and been relieved to discover that the persons following him were white. Also: (1) Around 1980 I wanted to become an architect but none of the "prestige" architecture schools (including my "alma mater", Yale...) accepted me in their Master of Architecture program, and (2) I am much exercised about issues of postmodernism, ethnicity versus universal culture, etc.
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[ ] Towards morning, night of Sat 04 - Sun 05 March 2000. Dream has two parts: (1) In the first part, I figure out how to solve a very subtle problem which prevented the challenger's preparation of a certain esoteric culinary dish from being as good as the Iron Chef's. Somehow the scene changes (perhaps due to my having solved the problem?).... (2) I find myself in the second part of the dream: feeling "abandoned", as if as I was once again on late high school or early college summer vacation, with nothing to do to occupy the time. [Such "dead time" is, in reality, as well as in the dream, one of my worst fears.] The dream ends with me in a huge [freight? hospital?] elevator, which is going down and which I want to get off of, even though if I do get off the elevator I won't have anything to do after getting out.... I fear the elevator door will shut before I can get out, thus trapping me in the elevator. I find myself "stuck" and unable to leave the elevator, because there is a toilet in the left-rear corner of the elevator, and suddenly I find I need to defecate, and, when I try to wipe myself with the toilet paper, there is a huge mess which, no matter how many times I wipe myself, I can't get all clean, so I am stuck on the toilet. [The only way I can get off would be by pulling up my pants while I was still smeared with fecal matter.]
Associated material: (1) Before going to bed, I had watched the television program: The Iron Chef (a melodramatic culinary samurai Japanese game show), in which famous chefs: a challenger and a resident master ("The Iron Chef", sic) compete to see who can make better dishes in one hour from a surprise ingredient. (2) I had been, as a visitor, in a hospital, during the previous week, with their large elevators. (3) "Having nothing to do" -- no social "place" --, is a lifelong fear of mine, which is exhibited, in one way [and I think I thought of this somehow in the dream:] by the fact that in the late 1980s, I spent over two years diligently "working" all avenues of finding a partner ("personals", matchmakers, etc.), and found not even one likely candidate; also, as a child, I did endure a lot of time just waiting with nothing to do. I am afraid both of having nothing to do, and also of being "trapped" by unwelcome impingements, such as serious illness.
My interpretation: I'm not sure, but I think the dream expresses my deep conviction that, for me, life is worthless/difficult to endure, if either (1) I lack a secure and nurturing social environment which meets my "basic" life needs, or (2) I am "bound" and restricted to that "narrow world" (Marx's: "reproduction of individual and species life"...), e.g., by having to use up my life doing work which is not creative and meaningful for me; if I cannot simply implicitly rely on such a "holding environment" and be free, but not "disconnected", to devote my time and energies, in personally enjoyable ways, to "high", "universal" cultural pursuits.[fn.25[ Go to footnote! ]] A psychotherapist once speculated that my mother "failed" me at toddler age, when a good mother provides an unobtrusive but also unconstraining safe "holding environment" for her child to adventure out into the larger world.
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[ ] Dream image probably ca. 04:00AM nite of 08-09Oct01. A cat seen from the side (head facing my left), standing straight on all 4 paws. (The image seems to have been very large but it's a regular house cat). The cat starts to defecate (still atanding on all 4 paws, not squatting). Then [it's like] the whole underside of the cat opens [like the bomb bay of a bomber airplane], and a huge mass of gray matter that looks perhaps more like hairball than cat feces comes out of the whole length of the cat's belly [more like a bomber "laying down" bombs, than normal defecation]. There is no indication in the dream that there is anything wrong (sick) about the cat, but I may have thought in the dream that this was odd or unusual.
Associated material: The Russian submarine Kursk was raised during the preceding day (08Oct01). The United States bombed Afghanistan for the second straight day in retaliation for the 11Sep01 terrorist attack on the NYC World Trade Center towers. I seem to have been quasi-asleep thinking about how to differentiate Muslim from Christian (and Jew?) for a long time during the night, and this dream image may have been "embedded" in those quasi-sleeping quasi-thoughts. I have had intermittent constipation during the past couple years (this almost never happened previously).
Next night (again, early morning, ca. 05:00AM?, 09-10Oct01), another dream image: I discover a hole in the wall just above a window in a room where I live. The hole is exactly round, about the diameter of a tin can. I suspect (worry; fear?) that an animal is getting in and out of the house thru the hole. There seems to be a person in the dream, and I think I ask him how can the hole be stuffed up (like with steel wool) or closed some other way.
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