Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What Dreams are Made of

The Mythology of Creation and the Creation of Mythology

“The Mythology of Creation and The Creation of Mythology: The very act of creation (and is that not what myth making is), is a shared act. When I write "the sky is blue", there is a world of meaning behind it, but more importantly, there is a world of meaning still to be created by those that read such simple words”
All dream...but not equally

There is a strong connection between dreams, storytelling and myths. If myths and the making of myths (and is that not what storytelling is?) are a way for humanity to resolve its existential dilemmas, dreams (unconscious mythmaking) could be said to serve the same purpose. We make meaning of our world by the mythmaking process. In dreams, as in storytelling, we make meaning not just of the world, but of ourselves.

Imagine having a difficult problem, tossing and turning and wracking your waking brain for how to solve or resolve the dilemma, but then you wake up and somehow, you’ve dreamt of the solution.

Dreams afford us a means of resolving our existential dilemmas while safely cocooned in slumber. There’s safety in dreams. All humans dream. Dreaming is essential. REM sleep, which facilitates dreams, is critical for the body to recharge and rejuvenate itself. Removing a person’s ability to dream, by depriving them of REM sleep can have devastating effects, madness being only a mild one.

The same is true of storytelling. We all have something to talk about, stories to tell. Remove a person’s ability to make myths, to resolve, in their waking moments their existential crises and you remove their humanity. But is it enough to merely be able to create a story? The answer lies in the term itself: “storytelling.”

The great writer and memoirist, Primo Levi, in his seminal work “If this is a man?” spoke of wanting to live, if only to tell his story of the holocaust. It was an obsession, and one of the only things that kept him alive during what must have been difficult and trying times. But his will, his desire to chronicle what he had seen, to make sense of what had happened to him by writing about it, was a consuming passion After surviving, he wrote his memoirs (and I highly recommend you read them: “If this is a man?” and “The Reawakening”), but in his later writings, he said interestingly, that the mere act of writing was not enough, he wanted the world to listen, to acknowledge and to believe. He wanted to not merely write his story; he wanted to tell it, with all that entailed.

While we can all write myths and create our own stories, there is a shared element to stories. Stories are worthless if the rest of the world does not listen or if we cannot tell them to anyone. Stories lack utility if bottled in; if repressed by an unyielding world that denies space to tell a story or disbelieves the stories it is told.A great myth is that writing is solitary. It is, but only up to a point, for writing is bound up in mythmaking and storytelling. While writing can be done alone, the creation of mythology is not a solitary endeavour. To have storytellers, there must be listeners, too. This is critical to human development on an individual and collective level. We create society, by collectively participating in the creation and acknowledgement of mythmaking and storytelling. To do so, we must also acknowledge our diverse and varied realities.

It is not enough for humanity merely to dream, to work out its existential dilemmas in the comfort of slumber, we must also channel those dreams into our waking moments, we must create a waking world of stories that gives our lives meaning and purpose. This is a fundamental human need. We can only make the realization of this need possible if we take a moment to listen and acknowledge the importance of the stories that each one of us has to tell. In doing so, we further our own humanity, and we further humanity.

1 comment:

  1. Here is one for the collaborative writing process! And one for the power of storytelling to create ourselves as we are. As much as storytelling is what brings us into society and allows us to tolerate, understand, appreciate and build each other, stories are also where we draw templates for our own self-development. Which, can be a problem when we stop asking 'why' and mindlessly style ourselves in pre-packaged archetypes. Enter dreams! Completely agree - dreams are crucial to our narrative precisely because in dreams our pre-frontal cortex (planning and inhibitions) exhibits decreased activity. We have to allow ourselves to create our own narrative from the many, right?