Friday, 20 February 2009

902 - In Which I Go All Mulder (2)

A handful of dreams, the common denominator being that they seem to involve experiences of the future.

Perhaps these fall into the category of random coincidences. Or perhaps both dreams and subsequent events are part of a single delusion. Maybe there is a conspiracy of friends (or aliens) planting ideas and 'arranging' events - as someone once suggested to me on Richard Dawkin's site - so that I'm caught in a kind of human or suprahuman Truman Show (I desperately hope not! Far too much effort...). Maybe I'm in a two-way (though feels pretty one way) conversation with a God with a penchant for plot-spoilers. Or maybe (seriously) there's something about consciousness and the nature of reality that gives everyone unity across their lifetime - some personal, or even interpersonal, vantage point, accessible in dreams, in which content from past, present and future intermingles.

See what you think.

In the dream from my childhood I return to, I stand this side of a vast river, which itself sweeps across shelves of rock, and is edged on the far side by mile-high cliffs. A strong wind picks up and carries the water flow, driving it faster, if this were possible. There's a sense, which I had the day I dreamt it, that the other side of the river is beyond this life, and for another time.

Then, at university, caught in the expectation that a Christian God brings truth in dreams, I decided, in 1992, to talk about a couple to friends, when they seemed particularly sharp (the dreams, though the friends were, too, of course...) and when I had nothing else to say. The two I spoke about were, first, of a print of a portrait of the queen - this one, I think - in a student common room, with a presentation label beneath it from a particular reverend gentleman; second, of two trees - one a mural dessed in handprint leaves, and the other, small, of fir-cones stacked three or four high, tied with red ribbons, and held stable by an arrangement of wooden struts which criss-crossed one another at the tree's base. The handprints and the ribbons had names written on them.

What was remarkable was that, on each of the two occasions, subsequently, that I spent a night in communities I had never been to before, expressly to determine whether I might join them for a while, I found these objects where I was staying. The portrait was hidden at the back of a wardrobe in the disused former student's room I was given prior to an admissions interview at St John's College, Nottingham, in 1994. When I turned it around, I found on the back a label, with presentation details and the name of the donor written on it. The tree mural and the fir-cones were both used by L'Arche Zacchaeus, a house in Bognor Regis, to symbolize, firstly, all the current and former members of the whole L'Arche Bognor community, and secondly, specifically, those of the members in the house where I was staying, current in the summer of 1992.

Finding these objects, in the context of a religious decision-making process, was, on both occasions, uncanny, but it seemed sensible for me to take them to mean that, whatever decision I made about whether to join the communities or not, I was at least, at point of decision, at the 'right' place. And on both occasions, subsequently, I chose to join the communities.

I didn't always tell my dreams to others. One freaky dream, which unrolled just as I dreamt it, was of a young male stranger, arms swinging, who walked up to me on Barnet High Street, thumped me on my arm, said something like 'You're one of us now', and walked on. This chilled me. I had just walked away from Church. It was 1995. I was in something of a trance-like state as I searched for some sense of normality in the weeks following that decision. Joan Didion, I think, captures the state beautifully in the title of her book, on grieving, 'The Year of Magical Thinking': I was thinking magically. Then this event - dreamt of, again, a long time previously - manifested itself like a moment of real and fearful magic, out of the blue in broad daylight. After years of evangelical thinking, it seemed to me that the young man, in some form of insanity, was mouthpiecing demonic voices to me, pressing the consequences of my decision to walk away from Church upon me. And I kept walking.

And finally an inconsequential dream, of Doctor Who books in a newsagent, glossy covered, in sharp focus. Doctor Who was a childhood hero and I'd collected all the Target books as a boy. This was in the early 90s, after the series had been discontinued, and the stories were no longer fresh in my mind. Again, in the weeks after leaving Church, I came across a run of these books - new ones, freshly covered, written by fans perpetuating the myth, and looking just as I had dreamt them. Kind of embarrassed, I didn't know what to make of such a dream, though perhaps, now that the series is continued again, and my passion for narrative and deliberate myth-making awakened, the story's power to inspire, and the nature of the Doctor as a strange embodiment of kindness and infinite possibility, gives this experience of dream and twinned event greater resonance. Dunno. ;)

Actually there was another dream, I think - though because I spoke to no-one about it I am less sure - more recently, of a trip to a mattress factory and a high building with tropical plants growing up its centre. Of me and E and peacocks amongst the plants. On our trip to Majorca last year we stayed in this building - a hotel - and were invited as part of the holiday package to just such a factory. This time, trusting that there was no right or wrong decision a God might be asking me to make, and not unduly concerned I'd be missing a demonstration of mattress-construction, I decided not to talk E onto the trip. Instead we walked to a high promitory, overlooking the resort, and I read Marina Warner on Signs and Wonders as E slept in my lap.

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