Saturday, June 03, 2006


I wanted to write a story once called "The Man Who Made His Living Out Of Dreams". But - typical writer's strategy this - it would have been far too nakedly autobiographical to have made a good story. In a sense that's exactly what I've been doing all these years: making my living out of dreams. Because it's my dreams that made me a writer in the first place.

The first story I ever wrote - this must have been when I was about fourteen or fifteen - was simply the transcription of a dream I'd had the night before. It earned me a startling 18 out of 20 from my sympathetic English teacher, and became the first of many to earn me these high marks. I don't remember all that much about it, except that it involved time travel in some way, and a little boy in shorts with grey socks - even then I was relentlessly autobiographical in my writing - and had the motto: "Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells and Time and Space all in a row..." Don't ask me what I meant by that. All I remember about it is that as I wrote the words “silver bells and cockle shells“ I heard a distinct tinkling of bells in my head, and that the words “Time and Space” seemed to be resonant of some deep meaning.

I was obviously wiser and far more imaginative at sixteen than I am now.

But there's a quality to dreams. An aura of myth. A mixed up kind of fairy-tale romance that, somehow, seems to shed light on the state of your emotional life. How else can I put it? If you wake up from a dream exhilarated or fearful it is because the dream touched upon some ancient part of you that knows exactly those feelings and why those feelings are there.

One early dream I remember involved flying on the back of a swan with a girl I was in love with at the time. I was all of eight years old. And before us there was this powerfully familiar mountain landscape that seemed to resonate within me, as if it was the landscape of my own heart. I cannot describe it better than that. The dream was a visual representation of a feeling: the feeling was love.

It is a much more stunted being than that expansive eight year old who is tapping away at his desk in front of a computer screen right now. I no longer go on midnight journeys on the backs of mystical swans. But my memory of that dream and of the feelings it encapsulates makes me more than certain that there is such a thing as love and that it is still worth striving for. That much at least I owe to my dreams.

Of course this view of dreams is a lot different than the reductionist views of the psychoanalytical school which - as I remember it - makes everything vaguely longer than it is wide a phallic symbol, and everything wider than it is long symbolic of the female sexual organs.

I kind of get why bananas might be viewed as penises. But tables? Since when did a table resemble a vagina, that’s what I’d like to know?

It has always puzzled me why Freud had it that dreams encapsulate sexual feelings in such a disguised way when, in fact - as my dreams seem to make clear - when you dream about sex you dream about sex.

Not tables. Not chairs. Not buildings. Not bananas. Sex!

So my advise to you is - if you want to understand your dreams - throw away your dream analysis books and concentrate on the feelings that the dream engenders in you. If you are fearful in your dreams, then it's because something in your life has made you fearful. If you are confused, it's because you are confused. And if you dream of flying to some exhilarating mountain landscape full of vertiginous love, then - lucky you - it is because you are in love.


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