This is one of my favorite times of the year. Coming from an extended family, I have some great, great memories of the holidays. Memories of family get-togethers, eccentrics and their outlandish behavior, scandals, and yes, lot’s of love. But this time of the year is special for me in a very personal way because I celebrate an anniversary of sorts. It was 20 years ago I first began the process of liberation... but I will recount that story over at Subversify this Friday.
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-=[ Dreamtime ]=-
You see things as they are and ask, “Why.” I see things that never were and ask, “Why not.”
-- G.B. Shaw
People think I’m kidding around when I say I used to study in my sleep, but it’s true. I used to take heavy workloads in school. 20-24 credits per semester, plus being married and the primary caregiver to young child didn’t leave me much time, so even my sleep was put to use. According to a Nobel Prize-winning biologist, dreams are nothing more than hallucinations produced as the brain flushes out neuro-chemical waste. I couldn’t disagree more.
I’ve written before how one dream changed my life, and I’ll repost that some other time, but there many forceful arguments against the above assertion. Take the life of Harriet Tubman, for example. After escaping slavery in 1849, she went back (!!!) to organize the Underground Railroad and personally led 300 slaves to freedom. Talk about a power of example. Anyway, what few history books choose to document is the fact that Tubman often relied on her dreams to provide specific information about where to find safe houses, helpers, and passages through dangerous territory. Robert Moss tells the whole story in his book, dreaming True.
There are countless examples of dreams working to change our waking reality in deeply transformative ways. The chemist Friedrich August Kekule von Stradonitz solved his scientific mystery with the help of a dream. In 1865, after numerous unsuccessful attempts to find the precise structure of the benzene ring, he had a dream of a snake biting its own tail. With this vivid image in his when he awoke he finally guessed the solution that had eluded him. What if the six carbon atoms of benzene formed a closed ring – the shape formed by the snake – and not a mere chain, as he previously believed? The resulting research that came after this “Aha!” moment revolutionized organic chemistry.
The Russian chemist Dmitiri Mendelyev worked for years to discover a matrix for classifying the elements, but the turning point in his search came in a dream. It revealed to him the system which is now called the Periodic Table of Elements.
In the mid 1800s, Elias Howe dreamt of being chased by cannibals holding spears with holes in the top. This inspired him to design a sewing needle with the eye in its tip, which in turn led him to invent the sewing machine.
Otto Loewi struggled for 17 long years to prove his hunch that the transmission of nerve impulses traveled chemically and not electrically as was the prevailing theory of the time. In 1920 he had a dream that revealed how to design an experiment to determine whether his hypothesis was correct. The experiment succeeded resulting in his winning the Nobel Prize.
Dante Aligheri finished his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, before he died in 1321. But when his sons tried to assemble the manuscript for publication, they realized parts of it were missing. After many days of searching they had given up hope. Then the spirit of Dante appeared in one his son’s dream and showed him a hiding place in his old bedroom wall. Upon awakening, the son went to the place indicated in the dream and found the lost papers.
The great golfer, Jack Nicklaus, had more major tournament wins than any golfer in history. Of course, skill and practice were the keys to his success, but once he tapped into a different source. In 1973, he was mired in one of the worst slumps of his career. He was at a loss for an answer. Then one night he had a dream in which he experimented with a new grip. When he went to the golf course that morning, he tried the dream’s idea. It worked and his slump soon ended.
I once rocked myself to sleep in the throes of a deep and powerful heartbreak. Actually, I had spent a whole weekend so devastated that I could barely climb out of bed. All I wanted to do was 1) call my beloved, which I knew would be a huge mistake, and, 2) sleep.
Then one night during that weekend, I had a dream that would change my life completely. But that story is for another day.