Monday, February 11, 2008

The Speed of Life—Part One: Nightmare


A few days ago, I had a very weird experience: I gasped awake from a dreadful nightmare. This is weird, because I never remember my dreams. Well, this one was vivid and had me roiling in emotional turmoil. It began vaguely with me and my family in a restaurant in some unrecognizable part of town…it was midday and we were watching an alarming news release about linked turbulent weather patterns all over the globe. The tension that emanated from everyone was palpable, as though I could feel the tension of every person on the planet. I noticed that the sky looked queer, strange. It had grown dark like a deep sea storm and I noticed the clouds flaming with crimson. Drawn by curiosity mixed with dread, I slipped outside to get a better look and walked up the hill a bit to see beyond the building. What I saw was spectacular at first then terrifying: the flame-rimmed clouds were racing across the sky at breakneck speed and against them in gold ochre shades I could make out the silhouettes of the continents, as though the burning sun had flung them up there (okay, so this is a dream, folks!)… As I stared up, dumbfounded, at the clouds speeding across the dark sky, I suddenly realized with gut-wrenching alarm that it wasn’t so much the clouds racing across the sky as the planet speeding up! I could actually feel its rotation speeding up! I could feel the centrifugal pull of its motion unbalancing me. When I awoke, a dark heaviness and foreboding clung to me that I found hard to shake. It stayed with me the rest of the day.

Around the same time that I had experienced my nightmare, a close friend of mine had an accident at her work place.
She manages a crew at one of the world’s busiest courier service airfreight centers in America, where it isn’t unheard of that a million parcels move through their unit during a person’s shift. Amidst the bustle, a piece of equipment swung down and hit her on the head, knocking her off balance and throwing her—almost—off the platform. To keep from falling, she did some impressive Michael Jackson move and pulled a muscle in her leg.

What does the dream and my friend’s accident have to do with each other? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. Here’s what I think…

I’ve been pursuing a dizzying schedule both as a scientist at my environmental consulting job and as a writer promoting my current release, Darwin’s Paradox, amidst writing my current book and trying to lead a normal life as mother, wife and friend. The dream was a clarion call for me. I don’t remember my dreams often, so when I do, I take them seriously. And my dreams are usually about things of large scope…not sure why… This dream followed the wake of a significant conversation I’d had with two scientist/artist friends of mine at Starbucks the night before. We’d been discussing global warming and the general health of the planet, how disconnected so many of us have become with nature and life’s natural cycles in general. My dream was a clarion call for the speed of my life, the speed of all our lives. The speed of this planet. We are all living fast. And when we do, how do we find time for the stillness of life? That place where we find quiet depth and peace. We cram in a quick latte before the hectic drive to work… we jostle for the best position on the commuter train and ignore our neighbor… we scan our blackberry sixty times a day to tell us what we are actually doing in a day stuffed with so many activities we can’t possibly keep track of them… we multi-task using cell-phones, wireless laptops, and blackberries to accomplish what three people would otherwise do to impress our boss and keep our job… we organize then reorganize our spouse’s and children’s daily activities so they don’t get bored… We are a whole planet careering toward burn-out.

Have you ever seen the 1982 movie, Koyaanisqatsi? I’d mentioned this film to my colleagues at Starbucks that night too. Directed by Godfrey Reggio with cinematography by Ron Fricke, the film is a time-lapse rushing flow of cities and natural landscapes to the hypnotic music of minimalist composer Philip Glass. The visual tone poem uses no dialogue or narration to depict our relationship with nature and technology. Its compelling imagery and hypnotic score portrays a frantic society on the move. And on the brink. The word Koyaanisqatsi means 'life of moral corruption and turmoil, life out of balance' in the Hopi language; and the film implies that modern humanity is living that way.

A similar film, Baraka (1992) directed by Ron Fricke, evokes sensual emotion through similar time-lapse footage of various landscapes, churches, ruins, religious ceremonies, and cities thrumming with life. Using a rich and evocative score by Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard, the film (which again contains no dialogue) captures the flowing imagery of a pulsing humanity as it flocks and swarms like a self-organized organism in daily activity (Wikipedia). The film features a number of long tracking shots through various settings, including one through former concentration camps at Auschwitz (in Nazi-occupied Poland) and Tuol Sleng (in Cambodia), over photos of victims, skulls stacked in a room, to a spread of bones. Baraka searches for a universal cultural perspective: for instance, a shot of an elaborate tattoo on a bathing Japanese yakuza mobster is followed by one of Native Australian tribal paint. The word Baraka means blessing in many different languages and this movie seems to me to indeed portray us more hopefully.




It's all a balance, isn't it? In a previous post of mine, entitled Sacred Balance, I muse on this often elusive state: "We all knowingly or unknowingly strive for balance in our daily lives—that sacred but sometimes messy place where yin and yang joyfully collide: a place and time where the heavenward strain for perfection is tempered with the ponderous scent of soil and dirt… where dark and light blend in a chiaroscuro of infinite possibility…We strive for balance because it is wholeness—the mandala—and wholeness brings us peace, joy and understanding. So, why do so few of us achieve it? I think that is because, ironically, balance incorporates paradox, which is difficult for us to embrace. Balance is complex; it requires creativity, innovation, and an open mind. Because balance is always shifting and redefining itself."


Well, tomorrow I intend to heed my clarion call and get out for a nice long walk in the fresh air…After I do my Chapters signing, that is…

By the way, my friend is okay. Thankfully.




Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.

19 comments:

Lovelyisthevoice said...

Welcome to the world of dreams, Nina!

“Sun disappears and reappears as Chaubran sits in the park retelling his teledream to Depthelucia, saying,

'I felt it to be just after dawn as I came upon a place on foot. I could not find even one piece of machinery or technology of any kind. Everywhere I went I could see, and feel that the people, animals, insects and plants were very happy and active. Some people were themwalkingselves while others were themflyingselves. All their movements seemed to be effortless.

I saw one person himflyingself while carrying a three-storied building on his back as if it were a mere feather. There were children playing with holographic images of solar systems which seemed to have been projecting directly from their own temples. People appeared out of the air, and then walked up to someone who seemed to have been waiting for their arrival at that very spot.

The buildings were beautifully designed and seemed to be transparent. All were only three stories high, and had no doors. People walked freely in and out through the walls. There were no stairs. People elevated themselves effortlessly up the outside of the buildings to the desired floor, and then passed through the wall.

While marvelling at all the wonders as I walked throughalong, I suddenly became aware that the people were without ears, eyes, noses or mouths. Their hands though shaped like hands were without fingers. The feet were the same. Not alone that but they had no apertures whatsoever in their bodies. Neither had they any hair on any part of their bodies.

They wore a beautiful transparent fabric like material which appeared somehow to embody in its colour and flow the whole personality of the wearer.

I began to feel drawn into their happiness. I felt myself put my hands up towards my eyes but they were not there, although I could continue to see the people and the surroundings clearly. It was at that point that I woke up.'

Wind serenades itself gently through the park.

Depthelucia is starting to interpret, the dream for Chaubran, saying,

'Your teledreams are always very unique, Chaubran and that’s what makes them so interesting…”

(Source: Innkeeper’s Fire, Act 10 Sun)

“It’s all a balance.”

How about Nina, if we were to say it’s all ‘about/around’ a balance?

With gratitude and well being,

Richard

Rivers2c

Jean-Luc Picard said...

That was a scarily realistic dream, Nina. It sounds like you let yourself go to experience all of the nightmare in the most realitic way possible.

On a lighter note, I started on your book today. I can be a slow reader, so I might be a while.

dan said...

Just a dream. Anxiety. Real.

Mr. David Merchant said...

When I first read the word "baraka" in your post I immediately thought of The Day the Earth Stood Still - but then I realize I was mis-remembering the famous phrase: Klatuu Barada Nikto. But I still wonder, if "baraka" was the inspiration for "barada" as it could be argued to fit, in context.

sfgirl said...

What a fantastical, wonderfully surrealistic dream, your character Chaubran had, Richard. Makes me want to read your book, Innkeeper's Fire! Thank you. How about Richard, if we were to say it’s all ‘about/around’ a balance?... :)

sfgirl said...

Hey, Jean-Luc.... Yeah, I really scared myself silly with that one! LOL! Sometimes having a vivid science-fiction imagination has its down side... I know this is because in an earlier post I'd complained that I didn't dream and my husband had all the wild crazy dreams!

sfgirl said...
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sfgirl said...

For those of you who didn't see the cool film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, here's the lowdown on what David was alluding to from Wiki: Klaatu barada nikto" originates from the Cold War-era science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). The phrase was used to stop the robot Gort from destroying the Earth: "Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!" There is no known translation, although "Klaatu" is the name of the humanoid alien protagonist in the film, "barada" is Russian for "beard" (written "borodá" and pronounced "baradá,") and "niktó" is Russian for "nobody / no one."

Lovelyisthevoice said...

Good dawning, Nina,

Your comments here and entry in my blog were most generous and brimming over with joy and encouragement.

Before Chaubran had dreamt this dream Nina, Richard already had dreamt it. :) Not alone this dream, but all of the others in the work’s two volumes; even many phrases and sentences came directly from my own dreams.

When I awoke in the morning, I often felt more tired than when I going to bed.

I think Nina if we were to say Innkeeper’s Fire is the balance within then we would be beginning to say something very profound.

In my world Nina, your dream is far from weird rather it is something very natural; a blessing and a truth. You’re being doubly benefitted; in addition to the waking dream also you could have a sleeping dream. Very nice! Otherwise there is a point when we are oft exhausted with doing so many ‘important things’ that we forget to take good care of our health.

Of our ‘six senses’ our brain delights in fresh air and playing in great expanses of sky-day and sky-night; in the waving of tall grass and in the calmness of sea-bay.

As the night dream is a remembrance and a looking forward for the new day, like wisdom will say that the day dream is a remembrance and a looking forward for the new night.

Enjoy the pleasant company of deer and antelope in the stars! Good company is what our dreams are made of and moreover what we the maker of dreams delight in taking with us to our welcoming pillows.

May you sleep soundly of clarino Nina rather than be kept half awake by clarion.

Hope your friend is recovering comfortably from her dream. Muscle pain by day is no spring gain nor by night summer rain.

With gratitude dreamily,

Richard

sfgirl said...

Thank you, Richard!... Yes, I look forward to a sound sleep and the knowledge that I am having wonderful dreams. I know this because I often wake up with music and a smile... though once I woke up with a compelling image of a peanut butter sandwich...

rino said...

Hello Nina,
I've always believed that dreams carry messages and that reflecting on them, trying to discern their meanings would clarify certain events in our lives. On more than one occasion, I have had dreams that pointed me to the right decisions in life and eased my conscience. Thanks for sharing your dream.

sfgirl said...

Thanks, Rino! I agree with you. A dream, at the very least, is a reflection of our mind and that is always worth heeding... Nice to see you here!

Erik said...

I see you have very realistic dreams, as I do. I often joke that waking life is my fantasy but I retreat to reality in my dreams. I hope that's your problem as well, as it's a rather delicious one to have!

I'd like to offer another interpretation, if I may. I find that when I dream about other things happening around me it's really all about a sense of control that is missing in my life. I wonder if you've been swept up in something you've long dreamed about but now find there's a dark side.

That doesn't mean you need to stop doing signings, etc, but that you might need to be more aware of what you, personally, need.

This is coming from a guy who has recurring dreams that the Rt. Excellent Samuel Sharpe's death became a catalyst for Jamaican independence in the 1830s, whereupon I work with other people to form a multiracial democracy that lives in harmony with each other and the land. So you may want to discount everything I say based on that (or, at the very least, figure out what it means and let me know).

But I do think that we have dreams for personal reasons, and the more vivid and real the dream is the more it is one's own body trying to cough up metaphors that get through to the conscious mind in a way that it'll react quickly. That's what I'm really saying here.

Naturally, your mileage may vary. Substantial penalty for early withdrawal. Side effects include loss of sleep, irritability, and a tendency to lapse into schtick at inappropriate times.

dan said...

Nina,

I read your dreamstory over a few times again and again, and the images that stay with me are these [****]:

"....It was midday and we were watching an alarming news release about linked turbulent weather patterns all over the globe.

The tension that emanated from everyone was palpable, ***as though I could feel the tension of every person on the planet.***

I noticed that the sky looked queer, strange.

It had grown dark like a deep sea storm and I noticed the clouds flaming with crimson.

Drawn by curiosity mixed with dread, I slipped outside to get a better look and walked up the hill a bit to see beyond the building.

What I saw was spectacular at first then terrifying: the flame-rimmed clouds ***were racing across the sky at breakneck speed**** and against them in gold ochre shades ****I could make out the silhouettes of the continents****, as though the burning sun had flung them up there (okay, so this is a dream, folks!)…

As I stared up, dumbfounded, at the clouds speeding across the dark sky, ****I suddenly realized with gut-wrenching alarm that it wasn’t so much the clouds racing across the sky as the planet speeding up! ****

***I could actually feel its rotation speeding up! I could feel the centrifugal pull of its motion unbalancing me. ***

When I awoke, a dark heaviness and foreboding clung to me that I found hard to shake. It stayed with me the rest of the day."

That is powerful stuff. I wonder how many other people around the world these days are having these kinds of wacky weather/global warming-themed dreams?

The part about the planet speeding up, wow! Very very good dream, and important for you.

I also have vivid dreams, all my life, I remember them, i love my dreaming life, so interesting, but I am quite sure that they are basically manifestations of my own sensitive anxieties about life. And i view them that way.

Three years ago I had a deeply troubling dream, maybe the most troubling I ever had. A nightmare for sure. I was dreaming the normal dream stuff, going somewhere, doing something, people and friends, nothing unusual or scary, but then, at the end of the dream, which up until then had not been scary or a night-mare (NIGHT FEMALE HORSE that is!)...at the end, just before waking up a fright, the entire landscape of my dream went suddently completely DARK AND QUIET, like a stage drama where suddenly the stage lights go out and the music stops, it happened in a second, the entire dream STOPPED dead in its tracks, but I was able to make out the complete void and darkness and quiet silence, eiry silence, that remained, and when I then woke up I felt that I had glimpsed.....the end of the world......probably one of my lovely anxiety dreams again....!

SMILE

your dreamstory touched me. I blogged about it here:

http://northwardho.blogspot.com/2008/01/pale-blue-earth-mere-dot-in-space.html

sfgirl said...

WOW.... Dan.... that is powerful... I'm sure that dream lingered with you strongly that whole day. To experience the sudden dark silence of the Earth's end must have been ... well, terrifying. I've had such dreams, where their sense of reality is so palpable, I felt their residual effects in me the rest of my waking day... And, yes, I firmly believe that there is a reason for them, whether they are our own restless mind speaking to us or, in fact, something more... As Hamlet said to Horatio, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." ... we do not know everything yet... :)

dan said...

Nina,

RE: "I'm sure that dream lingered with you strongly that whole day. To experience the sudden dark silence of the Earth's end must have been ... well, *terrifying*."

Dan says: No, not *terrifying*. It was stupefying (spell check). I was *dumbfounded*. And in WTF!?

Dan adds: And not only did that dream linger with me for that whole day, it has lingered with me all this time, for three years now, and I still recall it today as vividly as when I had it three years ago. The ending. Just the vivid and abrupt ending. I was looking out at the ocean, at the horizon, and suddenly the entire sky and ocean went dumbfoundedly silent, and the ocean surface became dead solid smooth like a table top but in total darkness.

RE: You wrote: "I've had such dreams, where their sense of reality is so palpable, I felt their residual effects in me the rest of my waking day..."

Dan adds: The residual effects are still in me, three years after. !!! It had to be the most powerful imagery and sound effects I ever witnessed in a dream, and I have no idea why or what the meaning was or is, but I think I was somehow getting ready to die.....and that was my unconcious telling me what it might be like. Of course, how would *I* know? I'm just a bundle of DNA neurosis and anxiety, my hair turned white when I was seven years old and now half of it has turned invisible on top!

SMILE

sfgirl said...
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sfgirl said...

Ah, Dan.... my husband tells me his was rubbed away with love...:) yes... that dream I referred to in my previous comment (not this nightmare) has also stayed with me this whole time (I had it at least twenty years ago!) It's amazing what our own minds (if that's all it is) are capable of... far more powerful than the most sophisticated movie special effects and surround-sound... and what an adrenalin boost...

sfgirl said...

Erik, I think you hit the nail right on the head. I have been feeling a loss of control lately. So much has been going on (good things mostly). Thank you for the kind advice. I agree with you... dreams are our bodies/minds/souls speaking to us and it pays well to heed them, particularly when the metaphors are so clear. I do feel that this particular dream has many things to say to me, though, as you'll see in my later posts of this "Speed of Life" series...

As for your recurring dreams that "the Rt. Excellent Samuel Sharpe's death became a catalyst for Jamaican independence in the 1830s, whereupon I work with other people to form a multiracial democracy that lives in harmony with each other and the land." ... :D