Thursday, September 02, 2004

On dreams, symbolic reality and dogs

Often after a particularly vivid dream I walk about much affected, I see my day world as a fog, it feels less real than my dreams. In contrast, I may be less affected by some forms of world interpretation even though the information conveyed is of much greater importance than my dreams. More than causing me to gasp or be amazed, what I see and hear on televised news causes me to question and doubt. Who is the broadcasting station? What is their aim? Revenue by snagging people with sensationalism? I am a skeptic when it comes to news, that medium which symbolically brings much of the outside world to me. But I am not a skeptic about the way my dreams seem so real and the way they make me feel. I have often thought this might be a flaw in my being. Who knows it might be, but even if it is I'm thrilled to say I was refreshed to read in Language as Symbolic Action by Kenneth Burke:

" . . . much of our "Reality" could not exist for us, were it not for our profound and inveterate involvement in symbol systems. Our presence in a room is immediate, but the room's relation to our country as a nation, and beyond that, to international relations and cosmic relations, dissolves into a web of ideas and images that reach through our senses only insofar as the symbol systems that report on them are heard or seen. To mistake this vast tangle of ideas for immediate experience is much more fallacious than to accept a dream as immediate experience. For a dream really is an immediate experience, but the information that we receive about today's events throughout the world most decidedly is not."

Now I realize that I am focusing very heavily on the "dream-real-experience" part of this statement, but I also realize that when thinking of dreams it is important to remember that the material that makes up my dreams, that information stored in my subconscious, was acquired through a reality tinted by my own terministic screen. I do not take my dreams to myself and hold them as "central" to my own or anyone else's reality. But, like I said, the reality of my dreams often looms larger than the reality of something like the news that a hurricane is hitting the southern part of my nation.

When I am feeling particularly tired I have been know to say, "I wish I were one of my dogs, look at how happy they are." Consider the dogs (or the whales). Their reality is their immediate experience: the resistance of the rawhide, the taste of the tidbit passed from the table, the caress of the master's hand, the intonation of the master's voice, the warmth of the bed. We know this is normal for a dog, to be attached to the moment. Any deviation from this "normalness" sends us cooing in delight . . . "watch my dog run at the mention of the word squirrel!" The dog recognizes the word squirrel as a prequel to a dash through the door towards a furry critter jumping out of the tree on the other side of the lawn. In his excitement at the sound of an "s" and a "q" he is actually living beyond the immediate moment. It is this kind of behavior that gives our dogs that "human" quality. And we love them for it. And yet at other times we envy their complete detachment from the life that is only available through symbols.


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