I hate it when people talk about their dreams. Other people’s dreams are so rarely interesting, while your own dreams are endlessly fascinating. Nevertheless, I have been thinking about dreams a lot because my dreaming life has been rich lately, and whenever I think about the richness of dreams I recall these two:
One night five years ago, I dreamed that I was watching a bunch of people who were taking turns climbing to the top of a 30-ft. platform and diving into a tiny blow-up kiddie pool. One guy climbed the platform, jumped, landed face-down on the ground, and busted his knee open– only it was my knee. He had borrowed my body for the jump, and when he gave it back to me, my knee was a torn-up, bloody mess. I was furious. I yelled at him for messing up my knee and said: “If you get your own body, you can do whatever you want with it!”
The meaning is crystal clear because I was a Christian then, and it was just a few months before I transferred to Wheaton, and I was really dreading it. I didn’t want to leave my first college which I loved, but I believed with all my heart that God wanted me to go to Wheaton. The dream reminded me of why I was going, my belief that I was bound to obey God because my life was not my own. I wrote it down because it was such a poignant reminder, and I still think it’s a very beautiful dream.
When I was 16 I was a serious violin student, and one week my teacher assigned me a new piece which required a flabbergasting technique that I had never learned before. She showed it to me once, and then told me that I was to work on it and be able to play it at my next lesson. When I went home and tried it, I didn’t know how to even begin. I had no idea how to replicate what she had shown me, and after trying for several days, I was no closer to figuring it out. One morning at school, I was taking a short, 15-minute nap in the library before class, as I often did when I drove to school early. I had a dream that my violin teacher was teaching me how to play the new piece. When I was woken by the school bell, I opened my eyes and my immediate thought was: I know how to play that piece now. All I could remember about the dream was that I was standing in front of a window playing violin, and my teacher was there. I didn’t remember what she had done or said; I couldn’t explain it at all. But I was absolutely certain that when I picked up my violin, my fingers would be able to perform that technique. And when I went home after school that day, that’s exactly what I did.
These two dreams are my favorite because they are the epitome of what dreams are and what they can do. In both cases, my mind took important elements from my waking life, a problem or conflict that I was trying to solve, and wove its elements in a way that helped me make better sense of it. Neither dream gave me any new information, but they successfully reminded me of just the things I needed to hear from the cobwebby recesses of my mind. In the case of the violin dream, perhaps it refreshed my waking memory of what my teacher’s technique looked like, and how to translate what she’d shown me into my own body and my own instrument. So much of violin playing is like that: a personal, muscle-based kind of knowing that bypasses the speech part of the brain. That dream is one of my favorite violin-playing memories. I relish that feeling I had upon waking: my fingers and hands had something new and live inside them that was just waiting to be applied to an instrument.