It was -- and still is, for the most part -- a way of neighborliness without nosiness, kindness without expectations, faithfulness without pompous religiosity, straight-speaking without condemnation, and a kind of eager anticipation of each season without the boredom that comes when a visitor has lingered to the point of wearing out the earlier welcome.
Late summer evenings epitomized this last experience. Trips to the beach, playing in the pools and rivers and surf, roasting oysters, fishing, wearing the skimpiest of clothes without shoes when possible, cook-outs, playing hide-and-seek in the dark -- each of these set up the following quiet times after twilight watching the fire flies in their hopeful mating dances, listening to the harmonies of the cicadas and bull frogs as they sang us back to a time before memory, when the structures of life that gave birth to "the basic facts of human existence" that are visible to us now only in our dreams and our deepest undisturbed self-reflection.
How sad it is to live our lives skipping along on the surface. How trivial it is to occupy ourselves with the distractions that arise to mask our anxieties and provide some kind of meaning to what we fear would otherwise be experienced as a vacuous meaningless existence! How dangerous it is to discover new and great powers in the substance of our material world, atomic powers that can destroy our world. How tragic when these powers are exploited and manipulated for political gain and marketing profits, rather than to channel them through a funnel of restraint in the service of protecting our material world while providing care for all sentient beings.
But we are out of touch with our depths, seduced by our flirtatious mind's courtship with the intoxicating power of the machine, gadgets, the artificial intelligences of our manufactured clones. The robots are winning.
But here is the thing: Robots cannot dream. Of course, it is true that they can consolidate "memories." And as is true with the human psyche, the consolidated memories may be recalled. But they have no moral center except what has been introjected by human programmers and reworked in the circuits of memory consolidation for the purpose of accomplishing tasks -- which may even include their own survival.
But that is not dreaming. Dreams arise from the "two-million-years-old self" in the depths of human unconsciousness from which human consciousness evolved, giving formation along the way to the psycho-neural substrata of the human psyche, called archetypes, countless in number, signaling the meanings associated with human speech, behavior, thought, feeling, and images.
C.G.Jung, whose birthday we celebrated this week and the pioneer of research in archetypal symbolism, referred to dreams as a "communication from the unconscious, unitary soul with humanity."
It reflects not on the ego but on the self; it recollects that strange self,
alien to the ego, which was ours from the beginning, the trunk from
which the ego grew. It is alien to us, because we have estranged ourselves
from it through the aberrations of the human mind.
(The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man," Civilization in Transition,
Collected Works, Vol. 110, para. 118)
Hold tightly to this thought because it sounds strange to our modern consciousness. Consider the phrase, an "unconscious, unitary soul of humanity;" consider also that our "unitary soul of humanity" sends us several "messages" each night in the form of dreams! Let this possibility seep into your idea of yourself and whatever it is you think makes you human. Very likely this is a thought and a possibility you have never entertained, and if so probably did not admit to many people for fear you would be either ignored or pigeon-holed as "odd." But the role of dreams in human development is a basic fact of human existence.
But we experience this fact of human existence as strange because, in the first place, we live in a society and a world in general that does not take our dreams seriously. They are considered to be meaningless, a random firing of neurons, at best a gathering of the day's residue in order that we might sleep better tonight and work more productively tomorrow.
So this basic fact of human existence, that dreams bring us important messages, varying in urgency of cause from "very important" to "not-so-much," this reality is discounted today as is the reality of an "unconscious, unifying soul of humanity" residing in each of us. That too is discounted.
The result is we are left adrift in a universe of shrill voices, jingoism, narcissistic posturing, a rejection of scientific research, a politicizing of media, the demagogic attacks on honest journalizing, a religious establishment that has sold its soul to the marketing experts to increase numbers, profits, and ideological ends, in which a pompous poser calls "up" "down" and "down" "up," while few dare call the lie what it is.
Would it not feel good to center down again on what is real, what is authentic, what is most basic in our existence. I have no easy recommendations for how you might find your path toward that lost world. However, I do think we can begin with the basic facts I have presented here. Tonight, you will have a dream that brings a message of some concern from your deep unconscious in order that you might live your life more joyfully, realistically, and meaningfully.
So I will call on Jung to say what he said earlier, but with slightly different coloration:
A dream is nothing but a lucky idea that comes to us from the dark,
all-unifying world of the psyche. What would be more natural, when
we have lost ourselves amid the endless particulars and isolated details
of the world's surface, than to knock at the door of dreams and inquire
of them the bearings which would bring us closer to the basic facts
of human existence? Here we encounter the obstinate prejudice that
dreams are so much froth, they are not real, they lie, they are mere
wish-fulfillments. All this is but an excuse not to take dreams seriously,
for that would be uncomfortable. Our intellectual hubris of consciousness
loves isolation despite all inconveniences, and for this reason people will
do anything rather than admit that dreams are real and tell the truth. ...
Even if the whole world were to fall to pieces, the unity of the psyche
would never be shattered. And the wider and more numerous the
fissures on the surface, the more this unity is strengthened in the depths.
("The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man," Civilization in Transition,
Collected Works, Vol. 10, para. 305)