Aug. 21, 2006
August 21, 2006
Lots of commentaries are coming out about the Israel-Hezbollah war. Click here for an interesting one from the Jerusalem Post. It would be intriguing to save a bunch of these and reread them in, say, two years to see which of them holds us.
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I HAVE A DREAM -- BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
The other morning my wife was describing to me an odd dream she'd had about riding a planetoid in space with friends.
Neither of us could make much of it. But it reminded me that dreams occasionally -- regularly, in fact -- show up in the Bible and are understood to be a way in which God communicates with us. I think immediately of dreams Joseph. husband of Mary, had, telling him not to divorce Mary. Or dreams the Three Wisemen had warning them not to go back to see King Herod. Or dreams of Jacob's ladder and him wrestling with an angel. Or the dreams Joseph, son of Jacob, interpreted for the Pharoah.
And I sometimes wonder what difference there is between a dream and a vision, such as the vision the illiterate Muhammad described of the Angel Gabriel telling him to read. Or the vision John of Patmos had that became the New Testament book of Revelation. Or the repeated visions people report nowadays of seeing an image of the Virgin Mary on a water tower or in a taco.
The Internet is full of sites that talk about religion and dreams, and you have to be pretty discerning about the world view of the people who create the sites. Click here for an interesting one, for instance. And when you do, I invite you to read this site's "About Us" section, too.
And here's a site that can educate you about the benefits of sleep (and maybe dreams). This next site describes some dreams found in the Bible, including one by Pilate's wife. Finally, here's a link about how to avoid drowsy driving -- a link that could save your life.
A now-dead woman who was a member of my church always took dreams seriously. She didn't live in what a Buddhist friend of mine once called Woowooland, but, rather, tried to help people understand their dreams and even help them see if God was trying to tell them something through them. I liked her a lot but never knew quite what to make of all that.
We journalists are almost inherently skeptical about nearly everything, wanting proof and authorities to vouch for things and solid evidence. So, for me, I am not much into the idea of dreams as a way of God speaking to us, but because my theology starts with God's glorious freedom and sovereignty, I have to allow room for the possibility that God can choose this method of communication.
I'd be interested to hear of your experiences with dreams to which you attach spiritual significance. Just don't make them so scary that you'll keep me awake at night.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.
When we sleep, our nervous system of which our brain is a part continues to function, telling the heart to beat, the chest to inflate and deflate the lungs and other essential bodily parts to continue functioning. Our senses of hearing, feeling, seeing and the like seem to go into a suspend mode and are activated when certain events happen - there is a loud noise, a light goes on, etc.
The brain itself continues to function, but not in the same directed manner that we hope it does when we are awake. Therefore, our brains continue to have random thoughts but without the benefit of our full sensory capacities.
Thus, a dream is nothing more than our brains continuing to function at random without the benefit our all of our sensory facilties. I suspect that we have many dreams that we do not remember. The only dreams I know about are ones that occur within a few seconds before I awake. In fact the random thoughts of my brain might have disturbed me subconsciously enough to have caused me to awaken.
Anyway, the idea that dreams have some sort of supernatural meaning or portends the future is nonsense to me. Of course, as a secular humanist, I do not believe that there is a god to communicate with me anyway, so in no way can a dream be a communication from god.
Visions while one sleeps are nothing more than dreams and my thoughts on them are the same as for dreams. A vision while one is awake is called an idea.
Posted by: Greg Swartz | August 21, 2006 at 04:18 AM
I disagree with you, Greg, on the random nature of dreams.
Some of the recent research has revealed the fact that dreams have a distinct purpose. They exist as a survival mechanism.
It is a means of processing, off-line, as it were, important events and sensory input during the day by re-enforcing what is key to living safely and effectively.
This means of teaching ourselves through our subconscious can use brain-generated symbols and representations, as well as realistic imagery.
I remember reading(in quite legitimate seminal scientific material) that animals have dreams that relate to escaping predators, although I don't remember reading how anyone could possibly have proven that scientifically.
It would seem to me that this theory of dreams fits in quite well with either secular humanism or with a belief in a higher power, God.
Those of us who believe in God understand that he is the ultimate protector and could have created a rather nifty (and interesting!)means to help us protect ourselves and inform future actions. Our subconscious may well know how to interpret what our conscious being does not.
Survival, incidentally, is normally associated with the primal motivating factor of fear.(Fight or flight) It should also be considered that desire can also figure strongly into survival.
As for vision, it seems to me that it is the intersection of the subconscious and conscious and has a much more controlled nature. Since it occurs during waking hours, we tend, and rightly so, I believe, to be much more skeptical about a vision.
Posted by: Patricia Williams | August 21, 2006 at 07:35 AM
Re Kimche's piece in the JP.
His analysis of the outcome does not square with that of the political experts that I most respect. One noted yesterday that the Israeli actions may have degraded Hezbollah's physical fighting forces but had completely legitimized it as a political force in Lebanon.
He also noted that the Israeli action had accomplished what could not be accomplished in 1400 years, and that was to unite Sunnis and Shiite against Israel.
As for his hope for renewed peace negotiations; it is my hope too. He is correct that it is an ideal time. However, I have no faith whatsoever in our current administration to undertake such an initiative. Our president has taken great pains to position this country firmly on the side of Israel and firmly against Arabs on several fronts.
Having lost our honest broker status, how could we possible take the position of mediator?
Posted by: Patricia Williams | August 21, 2006 at 08:51 AM
Patricia - good background on dreams. My understanding is much the same.
I've had "dreams to which I attach spiritual significance," as Bill writes, but nothing I would consider "supernatural." Rather, sometimes I have a dream, and the process of interpretation (often with another person) yields a bit of discernment or insight.
Often I learn something about myself - a subconscious desire or hangup that is revealed by the dream and its interpretation. No magic, no divine intervention, just trying to let the inner light shine through. -h
Posted by: howie | August 21, 2006 at 09:23 AM
My favorite dream is the pre-millenial view of Revelation. Most Baptist Churches won't let you teach Sunday school unless you agree with their interpretation of the dream; they make you sign a form like that! There's that authority issue rearing it's ugly head again.
There are other ways to interpret Revelation including post-millenial and amillenial. The Catholic Church is probably closest to amillenial.
Revelation is the biggest dream that everyone likes to interpet. Some people see the Catholic Church in there as the beast of Rev 13. Others see the European Union in there. Others see America in there.
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 21, 2006 at 11:56 AM
I love dreams. God ministers to me through them sometimes. Usually He will offer me comfort when I can't seem to receive it in any other way. There are even occassions that He will give me a very vivid one. He shared details of my dad's coming death before I even knew he had cancer. This reassured me tremendously. It's an intimate experience when God speaks to me in this way.
Actually, I've taught Sunday School in several different Baptist churches, but didn't have to sign anything. And what I believe about John's vision is even different from basic Baptist belief.
Posted by: Grace | August 21, 2006 at 04:26 PM
Patricia and howie, I’m with you.
If neurons were firing in an entirely random fashion, then one neuron would be as likely to fire as another, and the visual cortex would be generating white noise, rather than recognizable images. And dreams would be entirely unrelated to emotions (the firing of neurons in the limbic system). But instead we often awaken and say, “Wow! I had a dream, and it made me feel [a certain way].”
My hypothesis, on the other hand, is that we have a feeling, and it makes us dream [a certain way]. In other words, dreams present our emotions to us in picture language. Dreams say: “Look! This is what you’re feeling.” That’s why Freud called dreams “the royal road to the unconscious.” Dreams often present emotions to us which we are reluctant to recognize in our waking lives.
Sooo...Bill...what do you suppose your beloved’s dream might mean? Dreams speak a highly personalized message, so “others” like me can only hazard guesses by asking ourselves what we might be feeling if we dreamed a dream like that. She is “riding a planetoid in space with friends.” I’m wondering what it feels like to be riding a planetoid in space with friends. Isolated? Yep, maybe. But she’s with friends. So she’s not completely alone in space...but she’s away from the main planet on which she lives. So I’m wondering whether you’re on that planetoid with her and her friends. Yes? No?
If not, then what is her dream telling her about her relationship with you? Is she missing you? Did her dream make her feel lonely and afraid? Then maybe it’s telling her that she needs to be more connected with you...more “grounded” in her planet.
Anyway...no matter how far off this may be...it’s an example of how dreams can have meaning, and tell us things about ourselves. If we interpret them as the random firing of neurons, we miss the boat entirely.
Only the dreamer can confirm an interpretation. But when an interpretation is on target, the dreamer will know it!
Posted by: Dave Miller | August 21, 2006 at 05:24 PM
Wowie! Interesting info on the Baptist Church. I will include another case of "endangered Baptist Sunday School teacher" below. Re Revelations. I think that there are some of us who wish that John of Patmo had kept his dreams to himself.
Sunday school teacher fired for being female
Updated: 8/18/2006 5:53 AM
By: Amy Ohler, News10, Syracuse, NY
Since 1946, Mary Lambert has been a member of the First Baptist Church in Watertown, and for the past 11 years, she's been the Sunday school teacher.
But, last Thursday Lambert received a letter from the Diaconate Board telling her that she was dismissed from her position because the board had adopted the scriptural qualifications for Sunday school teachers. In short, this prohibits women from teaching men.
"I was astonished, absolutely astonished to pick up and read that kind of a letter without being talked to ahead of time about the possibility," said Mary Lambert.
The letter Lambert received says, "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became sinner."
The letter was signed, "Thank you for your anticipated cooperation. Very truly yours, Kendra LaBouf." Kendra is the wife of City Council Member and Pastor Tim LaBouf.
Posted by: Patricia Williams | August 21, 2006 at 06:05 PM
"The other morning my wife was describing to me an odd dream she'd had about riding a planetoid in space with friends."
Gee, Bill, maybe the planet seems a lot smaller to your wife now that you're retired!
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 21, 2006 at 06:06 PM
You are bad, Just Thinking.
Poor Bill. I doubt that you "envisioned" an unsolicited marriage counseling collective forming on your very fine blog.
Posted by: Patricia Williams | August 21, 2006 at 06:19 PM
Here is a Jungian definition of dreams about planets that lets Bill off the hook:
"Dreaming about planets could represent desire to explore either our internal world or the world of our egos (the external or physical world). Planets could also represent deeper things such as the way that we relate to ourselves. They can say something about the relationship that exists between our soul and ego. An orbiting planet could represent your ego. It is traveling around the sun (i.e. soul) and the entire thing could be a huge circle that is You. If this sounds like a very far out idea, well, it may be! However, if what Carl Jung said is true, all dream images bring us back to issues of self-identity and most evolved and profound understanding of self."
Posted by: Patricia Williams | August 21, 2006 at 06:25 PM
"Here is a Jungian definition of dreams about planets that lets Bill off the hook"
Thanks, Patricia! I hesitated to move into anything as personal as a dream of a spouse...but, well, there it was!
And to be honest, my wife could have had the same dream! So I'd hafta say it had some spiritual significance for me...even if it didn't for Bill! :-)
Posted by: Dave Miller | August 21, 2006 at 07:19 PM
Grace: I am curious as to how you could be reassured by seeing your father's death before you even knew he was ill. Have you and Howie ever kept logs? Very popular a few years back.
You are right about a connection to emotion. So are you a Freudian?
I am clueless on the pre-, post-, a- millenial of Revelations and which churches follow which. Point me to an explanation?
I have always had very vivid dreams, which I think accompanies being an artist. When I was a child, the combination of tonsillitis and penicillin could produce night terrors. Horrible. I can't even begin to describe the running-around-the-house abject terror that they produced. My father would ultimately catch me and comfort me but the effect of the nightmares could last for days.
Perhaps partially because of this and because studies show that we are more apt to retain what we encounter before sleep, I have been very careful, as an adult, as to what I put into my mind before sleep. Meditate and then do a very spiritual and meditative tape last thing. Work toward positive thoughts.
And I will only watch a violent film, read/watch news, intentionally encounter the very disturbing, in the morning or afternoon.
Posted by: Patricia Williams | August 21, 2006 at 07:21 PM
You're welcome, Dave. I did not realize that the "planet" dream seems to be a very common occurance in Jungs work. A major symbol. I was "raised" academically as a Freudian but encountered plenty of Jung in Joseph Campbell and other authors.
Posted by: Patricia Williams | August 21, 2006 at 07:33 PM
Wikipedia may not the best for information, but it's like Dominos Pizza whose slogan should be: "The only thing people like better than a good pizza is a bad pizza delivered to the door."
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 21, 2006 at 07:34 PM
You are right about a connection to emotion. So are you a Freudian?"
No...but Freud wasn't wrong about everything. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
Posted by: Dave Miller | August 21, 2006 at 07:45 PM
Sorry, but I cannot watch this board hour-by-hour as some of you seem to be able to do.
I have never studied dreams from a scientic standpoint, so my knowledge is entirely from my personal experiences over more than 60 years.
Never in all that time have I had a dream that I felt had any meaning. In all of them (that I could remember) my mind took miscellaneous experiences and thoughts from my memory and scrambled them into nonsensical patterns.
I am not sure how this would be something that could be beneficial to my wellbeing or how it could enhance my survival, thus possibly continuing my particular genes. I think that a characteristic of waking more easily than the next guy would be more important than dreams, especially if the big bad wolf were to come by my shelter.
Posted by: Greg Swartz | August 22, 2006 at 04:09 AM
Hi, Greg. You said: "Never in all that time have I had a dream that I felt had any meaning."
But in your first post, I noticed you said, "In fact the random thoughts of my brain might have disturbed me subconsciously enough to have caused me to awaken."
I'd like to propose that what awakened you was a disturbing emotion of some sort. If you stay with it, and try to understand it, you may learn something about yourself. On the other hand, if you dismiss it as "random thoughts of my brain" or "too much pizza last night," you will not. You get to make the call.
Posted by: Dave Miller | August 22, 2006 at 07:53 AM
Dave has a terrific point. It would, at the least, be very interesting if you shared with someone who is into vision and symbols to see if they saw patterns.
Thanks for the links, Just Thinking. I love Wikipedia. Actually looked there but not for the "stand-alone terms". Duh.
And a P.S. If you are pre-Choice, you should be boycotting Dominos. If not, then I suppose that you can think of the bad pizza as contributing to your cause.
Posted by: Patricia Williams | August 22, 2006 at 09:08 AM
Dave had a nice crystallization; "Only the dreamer can confirm an interpretation. But when an interpretation is on target, the dreamer will know it!" I think dreams present us with an image (like art) - a metaphorical mirror - and pondering the reflection can help bring hidden feelings/truths/desires to light. When an interpretation hits close to home, it confirms something previously subconscious and brings it to a conscious level. A useful, if unpredictable, tool for self-understanding (Greg; and therefore survival? Perhaps?).
I've never kept a journal. I often have dreams I remember, but don't seem important. Occasionally, I will have a vivid dream that I intuitively know to be significant - then I seek others to help me interpret. For me it's all about trying to bring my hidden/shadow/subconscious self to light.
Posted by: howie | August 22, 2006 at 10:22 AM
"Most Baptist Churches won't let you teach Sunday school unless you agree with their interpretation of the dream; they make you sign a form like that!"
Having spent over 30 years in various Baptist churches, I have never seen a single "form" like that. I'm curious how you came to the conclusion that "most" Baptist churches require this?
I think the reason it's so hard to differentiate dreams and visions is that they are such personal subjective things. While I have been blessed with a few (very few) instances that I consider to be genuine revelatory visions from God, I have no satisfactory means to "prove" they were genuine, or even to adequately describe them. Like Grace, though, I find comfort in knowing that God cares enough to reach out to me in a very personal and proactive way through dreams and visions.
Of course, for those who have never experienced this, or for those who doubt the validity of revelatory dreams and visions, I can totally relate. Despite having experienced it myself, I cannot consider it normative or essential. Like Paul, I think dreams and visions are important to the individual, but only have value to the church if they edify the church. Still, they can be personally edifying even if not corporately edifying.
I don't consider any of the visions I have been given to be corporately edifying, but all have been personally edifying in one way or another. My experiences include a prophetic vision of my great-grandmother's passing, an occasion when my father and I shared the exact same dream the exact same night, two waking visions that saved me from car accidents, a vision and visitation from Christ with a wonderful message about pride, and a disquieting vision and visitation
from Ananias, Sapphira, Japheth, Gomer, Gog and Magog. Each of these visions was very special, but also very subjective.
I think that, ultimately, we can find meaning in our dreams if we petition God for discernment. If Bill's wife is sincere in trying to reconcile her dream with God's purpose, then God will make a way for that to happen. God never passes up an opportunity to help us grow closer to Him.
Posted by: SC in KC | August 22, 2006 at 10:39 AM
Patricia, you stated "I am curious as to how you could be reassured by seeing your father's death before you even knew he was ill. Have you and Howie ever kept logs?"
Thank you for asking about the dream of my dad. Knowing that we will all die at some point doesn't always make saying goodbye easy. As a young woman I struggled with the idea of losing my dad because he meant so much to me. The reassurance I received through the dream was that God would be with me throughout and that Dad wouldn't suffer long. Dad passed a year ago in July. He learned that he had cancer that previous February. The tumors were situated in such a way in his brain that it affected his short term memory and perhaps pain sensory, as well, because he never experienced notable discomfort. He died at home with his family around him. After being asleep for most of the last few weeks of his life, he woke up and was smiling and looking Heavenward as he passed. My dad was a minister of Christ, a devoted husband, loving father, loyal friend and I have no doubt that he is now with His Savior.
I've journaled many of the dreams that I've had. Some are horrific, some are enchanting, some abstract, while others are very simple. Some leave impressions that last for years. There have been occasions that God will bring the scenes of a distant dream to mind in order to speak to me about something I'm dealing with currently.
Posted by: Grace | August 22, 2006 at 12:03 PM
Very glad that you have found comfort and peace, Grace. I know how hard it is to lose a parent.
Great that you have kept a log. I would think that it would be fascinating to see how dreams evolve as we age.
Posted by: Femmecine | August 22, 2006 at 10:16 PM