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This used to be a blog dedicated to one of my interests, dream interpretation. I have decided to expand it to include thoughts about pretty much Everything.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dream Interpretation--"The Wild Band Leader"

The dream

I dreamed I saw Aaron Jackson, but instead of his waking-life role, he was the leader of a rock band.  Also, (unlike in waking life!) he was the most noxious person imaginable. He was self-important, neurotic, air-headed, indulgent, and wild.  He couldn't sit still, and kept twitching and doing things impulsively, supposedly "following his creative spirit," but really just being melodramatic and annoying. For some reason he had decided to have his band go up into space in a rocket to do a concert, and for some reason I was there watching (and feeling really annoyed by the whole thing.)  

There was this sense that oxygen was limited, so time was slowly running out.
Aaron and another band member put on space suits and exited the rocket carrying a large spool that was twined with Christmas lights.  Part of their show was to go out and unroll the Christmas lights in outer space.  I could see the philosophical point of this endeavor (kind of genius, actually), but I thought this was a huge waste of time and resources, just to make a stupid "artistic" point.

Soon the oxygen was almost out, and we needed to get back to Earth ASAP. People were dropping like flies.  (I was just an observer throughout the dream, not really part of it, just watching. So I didn't have any worries about my oxygen.)  Aaron had exactly one minute before his oxygen ran out. 

He and a woman who reminded me of one of the career counselors at my university decided to get under a tarp and try to seal the edges of the tarp to keep the oxygen in, in the attempt to make the oxygen last longer.  It was kind of the idea of when you're hyperventilating, you put a bag over your mouth.

The tarp was very small, and they were struggling to find a way to fit under it and still get the edges to seal.  The woman told Aaron, "Oh, by the way, even though we are going to be together, you should know that I don't really agree with your politics."

Aaron asked her what she disagreed with.  She listed several things, though I don't remember the specifics, and my thought was, "well, they don't really agree on ANYTHING!"  I thought it was silly to be talking about politics at a time like this, though. The important thing was to stay alive.  I do remember she said, "Oh, and you're a SOCIALIST," in the tone of voice that implied that was a really bad thing in her book.

He answered, "I'm not a socialist. I'm a taxpayer."  (Which is actually a pretty profound response, now that I think about it!)

Then he became enraged that she didn't agree with his political views. He pulled out an axe, raised it high above his head, and slammed it down, trying to kill her.  She dodged out of the way, though, kicked it out of his hands, and ducked under the tarp, preventing him from getting under it.  

At that moment, his oxygen ran out completely, and everyone knew he was going to die.  There was a sense of irony that because he tried to kill someone else, he himself lost his life.  Then I woke up, very scared and shaken about almost seeing a murder.

The Shadow

This dream happened the night after I had a long discussion with my sister, in which one of our topics was the concept of "The Shadow" in the psyche.   For those who don't know, in a nutshell, The Shadow is where we put all parts of ourselves that we refuse to identify with (or that we have been conditioned not to identify with). We may feel safer by this psychological protection, but these undesired parts still live on in the unconscious.  Often times we are strongly drawn to or strongly repulsed by people or situations in waking life that remind us of our Shadows.  Any time something elicits a strong emotional reaction that seems to be out of proportion for the situation, it's a clue that The Shadow may be at work.  Until The Shadow is integrated, it controls our lives in powerful, underhanded ways. Much wonderful writing has been penned on this topic, and I encourage everyone to read more on it.  Basically, learning to recognize and integrate The Shadow is an important part of spiritual health and maturity.  But it's very difficult, because nothing makes us more terrified than our own Shadow.

This dream is such an obvious Shadow dream.  The main clue is that I had such strong feelings of disgust and contempt for the Aaron character.  (BTW, this is not the same "Aaron" I've written about in previous posts, just in case anyone was wondering.)  Another clue was how scared I felt when I woke up.  My heart was racing, and I felt paralyzed for a few minutes.  It didn't take me long, though, to figure out that this is a Shadow dream, and a golden opportunity to explore and grow.  Of course, nobody likes doing Shadow work, and I've procrastinated writing this for a few days.  But here goes nothing...

First symbol--Aaron Jackson

A rule of thumb to start with in dreams is "Everything in the dream is part of the dreamer." (It's not ALWAYS true, but it's healthiest to make that assumption until absolutely proven wrong.)  I just noticed that Aaron Jackson has the same initials as me.  Dreams are so clever!  So I have to accept that this much-despised dream Aaron is actually an exiled part of myself. 

I have actually seen Aaron Jackson in waking life, and he's not at all like the dream character. (Well, now that I think about it, he was a little hyperactive, but that's pretty much where the similarity stops!)  I think I could actually be friends with the real Aaron Jackson, but the dream used him as a "despised" symbol for a specific reason.  I remember the sensation I got after hearing the real Aaron Jackson speak about his work.  He's only a year older than me, and he has started several global charities, saved the lives of millions of impoverished children, and made international news by creating the Equality House across the street from Westboro Baptist Church.  Nothing like comparing my life to that list of accomplishments to make me feel insignificant!  Aaron, to me, represents a life of high significance, accomplishments, and success where it counts.

In addition to the successful persona, two other issues related to the Aaron dream character are the diva attitude, and the creative frillery.  I know vaguely that I have these qualities in myself, but I could NEVER get away with them like other people do.  And that is why I despise them in others. 

The Success

I have been dealing with failure issues lately.  It makes sense to have a character in my Shadow be someone whose life has been, by my standards, a huge success.   I do not relate to success, because I've tasted so little of it.  It makes me feel very sad and vulnerable whenever this topic comes up.  So, yes, it's time to deal with it, as I have been trying.

The Diva

When a friend recently told me part of Kurt Cobain's story, in which he (Cobain) freeloaded off his girlfriend and played guitar all day, it made me furious.  Disproportionately furious!! Which was a clue that this was a Shadow issue.  I would love to sit at home and play music all day, but I don't have that luxury. And I would never take advantage of others like that in order to afford myself that luxury.  So my diva, in Shadow, fumes like a semi-dormant volcano!  That other people get away with such irresponsible behavior and go on to become famous, world-changing, and irreplaceable, is disgusting and unfair.

The Artiste

One thing I have a really difficult time with about Art is how expensive and impractical it often is.  Much money and resources are used, and the product at the end has such little of utilitarian function.  That we can't live without it bugs me a little bit. And yet, the Artiste in me longs to be wasteful and indulgent in how I make my statements, but--again--I've never been afforded the luxury. I'm not really sure how to make peace with the fact that Art is a luxury in terms of resources (at least much of it is), even though it is also a necessity.  Artists who create extravagant or avante-garde or seemingly vapid statement-pieces bug me, because, again, I could NEVER get away with that.

A memory

When I was about 10 years old, we had a tape of "The Williamsons," a family of singers who formed Christian music group that was touring at the time.  The daughter, Kara, is about my age, and she had a solo on the tape.  I distinctly remember once when the tape was playing and I was singing along, my dad looked over at me and said, "Can you believe she's the same age as you?  You could totally do that too."  And a feeling punched me in the stomach.  Yes, I could do that too.  I had as much or more talent than she did.  And yet why wasn't I the ten-year-old in a recording studio?  Life is so unfair.

(I know now why not.  Because I wasn't born into a family with lots of connections in Nashville.)  Looking back now, I think that what happened in that moment was a "fox and the grapes situation."  I realized that I could never have that privilege, and so I decided, in order to protect myself from the feelings of unfairness and anger, to tell myself I didn't want that privilege and it didn't really matter.

And that deep unconscious decision, made to protect myself in a moment of vulnerability, has affected the rest of my life.  Maybe I never really put my full heart into a musical career (even though I thought I did), partially because the Shadow who resented my lack of privilege constantly sabotaged my plans.  It told me I didn't really want success.

To this day, whenever I have a chance to sing a solo, I ALWAYS wake up with a terrible sore throat.  It's so predictable, annoying, dreadful... not to mention painful.

This dream arrived a day or two after I signed up to start voice lessons, after over 10 years of no vocal coaching or instruction.  The timing makes sense.  Here is my Shadow figure coming to express its opinion about my decision (made with fear and trembling!) to nourish my music again.

Second symbol--the Career Counselor

That she is a career counselor is a pretty strong clue to her function in the dream.  In waking life, I really enjoy this person.  The few times I've gone to her for résumé advice, the sessions have gone really well.  She is very warm and caring, professional, and open.  One thing that comes to mind is that I had the impression that her style of hair and clothing was a bit like the '80s.  Which might play into the interpretation of the dream, since I grew up in the '80s.

Also, there is an emphasis made in the dream between her conservative political views, and Aaron's liberal ones.  I'm convinced the dream is not talking about real politics at all, and instead making a point about "conservative" vs. "liberal" approaches to my personal life.  I do tend to be conservative and cautious in how I do things in my life. I'm not a huge risk taker, mostly because I'm rather awkward and not good at thinking on my feet. I've learned that it's better to plan things out carefully before executing them, than to try to wing it.

(Hmm, "executing" is the word my mind spilled out there.  And there was definitely an "execution" attempt in the dream!)

Setting

The dream takes place in a rocket ship in outer space.  There are a few ways to interpret this setting.  Interpreting a dream is often like looking at a diamond from different angles.  There is value in all perspectives, even if they are different from each other.

Since going out into space is one thing that would definitely terrify me, I think part of the dream interpretation means that I'm dealing in the realm of fear.  When the body is in a state of fear, breathing becomes shallower, and it's often the case that you literally feel like you don't have enough oxygen.  This dream represents a hypothetical situation drummed up by my mind as potentially one of my worst fears.

Another take on the "outer space" theme is an extension of the Shadow concept.  The Shadow is the part of ourselves that is exiled from integration to the Self.  Being in outer space represents a lack of groundedness and being disconnected from my true nature.

The final possible angle to look at the "outer space" theme is to compare it with the popular idioms of "reaching for the stars," or "being a super star."  In fact, what leader of a rock band doesn't dream of being a super star?  Being in space among the stars represents a drive for notoriety, for significance, for power and glory.

Analysis of the dream action

  1. The first part of the dream sets the stage and provides an image of this Shadow figure, establishing my feelings about him.  
  2. The main problem that the dream sets up is the lack of oxygen and time.  
  3. The response to this problem is that two opposite characters try to share resources and end up nearly killing each other.
A lack of oxygen and time could indicate that I'm feeling like I'm getting old enough, I should really be somewhat settled by now.  Time is limited; we can't do everything.  But despite how many efforts I've made in life, I'm still floating around, trying desperately to find a place of being comfortable in life instead of being in poverty.  But the Shadow part of myself isn't cooperating.  Instead of running towards safety and comfort, which I've longed for for decades, it is heading out further into danger.  It wants to be out among the stars, when the parts of myself that I've chosen to identify with (for survival purposes) want to be safely on solid ground.

The two opposite characters are the career counselor and the band leader.  The career counselor represents my conservative plan to pursue a career in Instructional Design, and go out and get a job that will provide safely for myself and my children.  I enjoy Instructional Design very much, and the plan is a solid one.  The band leader, as the opposite polarity, represents my desires to make it somewhere as a musician.  I literally can't do both, at least not at the same time.  I don't have enough energy (oxygen) or space in my schedule (ha... another pun... "space") to dedicate fully to both of them, especially since I also have children to take care of.

This dream arrived shortly after I signed up for voice lessons.  I want to nurture my creative side, even though I don't think it will lead anywhere, practically.  Doing music just keeps me alive.  But apparently, my creative side isn't happy with just being nurtured. It wants the whole control of my life; it wants to take me far to the stars. It wants to "kill" the practical ideas and go be spacey forever.  Never mind the risks or who gets hurt along the way.

In the dream, I (the practical, conservative, kind career counselor) had to "kill" that creative Shadow part of myself, so we could all stay on task and get safely to Earth.  The dream showed me how I am choosing to deal with the Shadow energies.

Dreams tell us "what is." However, I'm not content with the resolution of this dream.  I do not feel that continuing to exile the Shadow further and further from my identity is healthy or wise.  He needs to be integrated somehow.  After all, he does have some really brilliant ideas.  That line about the taxpayer was pretty smart.  And (even though I don't agree with wasting resources) as a concept, the idea of putting Christmas lights into space is a powerful satirical statement on our culture of phoniness.  But he cannot be in full control, because then the practical woman would be in Shadow, and probably cause problems with depression, addictions, and self-sabotage.  I need to find a way for these two energies to get into balance with each other.

How?  I feel like I have faced this question many times, and tried and tried and tried to deal with it.  I've done dream work on this issue in the past. My sore throats have still not gone away.  With something this deep and painful, it doesn't seem possible that another visualization or set of dream re-writes would actually make a difference.

I'm going to mull this over and decide what to do about it.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Musings on personhood

What does it mean to be a Person?  What is the definition? 

What are the required elements that go into this definition, so that if any one of the elements are missing, the object in question is not a Person?

Or should Personhood be defined in such an exclusive way? Couldn't Personhood rather be more holographic, in that only a few from a list of possible elements are necessary to fulfill the requirement, (kind of like psychiatric disorders are often defined)?  Something like, "If X fulfills at least 3 out of the 7 criteria, then X is a Person."

Is Personhood bestowed or innate?  Is it objective or subjective? Do we discover it or create it?

What is the "ergo" that follows Personhood? In other words, how should this sentence finish: "X is a Person; therefore..."?

How should a Person be treated or not treated? What should a Person do or not do? What is the spectrum of possibilities for a Person? What distinguishes Personhood from mere societal function?

It might be interesting to create a flow chart of possible answers people might give, with some interesting conclusions based on their answers.  I bet I could figure out a way to make some answers allow a cactus to be a Person, or the weather.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Looking into 2014

I've been procrastinating writing this, but it's time to do it, before January slips away from me.  I need to find a set of intentions for 2014.  I don't like "resolutions," because the word is too strong, rigid, and, well, resolute, to allow for the contingencies of life's curve balls.  I prefer the word "intentions," because it indicates direction more than destination, and leaves some room for things that happen out of one's control.

I made two such intentions last year.  The first was to get out of Kansas to somewhere warmer by the end of the year, which didn't happen.  The second was to write one new song per month.  Due to getting anemia, I didn't quite keep pace with the timing of one song per month, but in spaces of time when I was feeling better I wrote faster, and I did end up writing 12 songs total during the year.  Eight of them were posted to my singer-songwriter website. Three of the songs ended up being classical compositions--a triptych for violin, cello, and voice--so those weren't posted on the site (plus they haven't been recorded yet).  For the other remaining song, I haven't finalized its recording yet, and haven't yet had enough motivation to just get that done.  (But I shall soon.)   Overall, 2013 was a really tough year, and I'm disappointed in a lot of things, but I do like the songs I wrote, and I'm glad I challenged myself to do that.

Now, for 2014, I need to write some new intentions.  Obviously, life has a way of changing the outcomes one expects (I got anemia, for example, and I'm still freezing my butt off in Kansas), so I'm not going to be too rigid, but I do want to challenge myself.

I'm going to re-post my challenge to myself to get out of Kansas by the end of 2014!!  I think I'm actually in a better position for that now than I was last year, since I'm further along in my Masters degree, but we'll see.

Now about music. 

Ah, music.  I wish I could say "F@#$ you, Music!" and run away from it and leave it behind forever.  But it's an unavoidable part of my being. There's something about it in my destiny... If I could only figure out what.

Part of me feels like that "what" is actually just nothing. It's my normal human pride and desire for significance, combined with the celebrity mentality of our culture, combined with the mystical bent ingrained in me by the religious sub-culture in which I grew up, all conflating to produce a delusion, which I interpret as a desire that points to a destiny or calling of some kind.

Whatever the explanation, I don't yet feel ready to give up completely my desire to create music in some kind of way that I share with others and profit from somehow.  I've thought giving it up many times, but I want to give it one last attempt first.  A real shot, a clear-headed one.

I'm an adult now.  I can't stay wishy-washy about what to do with my music. I've long been stuck in indecisiveness on a lot of things.  2014 will be a final shot at putting together a plan for my music.  Bearing in mind the mutability of Life, I'd like to resolve, as firmly as possible, the following issues.
  1. A name.  My given name isn't very exotic or catchy.  My first name is hard to spell and contains glottal and stopped phonemes.  It's earthy and plain, which doesn't evoke the polished feel of music that I usually like to portray. I've resorted to writing under a pseudonym, but I'm not fully comfortable with this idea yet, for some reason, even after almost 9 years of doing it.  Perhaps partly because I wrote most of my classical music under my given name while at college, and have copyrights in that name.  Perhaps partly because I'm not comfortable with the pseudonym, itself.  Should there be a split between my public classical music persona and my public pop music persona?  Should I unite the two? Does "AVA" work, or should I think of something else?  (There's another musician out there, I discovered, named Ava.  She's rather obscure too, but... she has more followers than me!!  Anyway, It'll be hard to find any  name that's not already taken by someone, so that's not really too big a deal...)
  2. A focus.  For a long time, I've been torn between the genres of Classical and Pop, as well as between the roles of Writer and Performer.  Of course, there's no rule that says I have to limit myself to any one genre or any one role, and I don't want to limit myself. But a lack of peace with the underlying issues beneath these questions has kept me in a pattern of wandering, avoiding, experimenting, and going in halfway.  I want to come to peace with these issues, not avoid them by being fuzzy anymore.
  3.  A confidence.  I am angry about being a musician. (It's not really my choice, I feel; I was born this way.)  I am angry about the world that isn't a good place for musicians.  I am angry about my inadequacies.  I am angry about my failures.  I am angry about being given the short stick with opportunity and talent while being given the long stick with dreams, desires, and potential.  I am angry about being timid and cautious.  And, for once... I want to finally stop being angry and start being confident.  This won't be easy, but I want to work on it.
  4. A definition of success. What am I aiming for?  How will I know that I have "arrived"?  I know I won't arrive at "success" this year, but I want to arrive at a working definition, so I can decide which way is forward and create a strategy I can live with.
    On one hand, the culture's definition of success is mostly based on fame.  How many stadiums can you fill? How many followers can you get on social media?  This is because fame leads to money, and money=success.  I can't avoid having this definition imprinted on me to some measure.  I've discussed my position about music and money in the past. 
    Fame also has the effect of making a person feel important; and, let's not deny it, feeling important feels good. In this mindset, significance=success.
    On the other hand,  I don't want the pressure of making music that isn't up to my standards, just because it will sell or attract a certain crowd.  I want the freedom to follow my muse wherever it wants to go. I want to be able to write what needs to be written, even if it offends some people or goes against the grain, if need be.  In this mindset, integrity=success
    Surely there's a middle ground that can be found without too much compromise.  Music is meant to be shared with others; if I'm the only one who hears it, then it hasn't fulfilled its complete purpose. And musicians should be able to profit from their music. And music should be of good quality, creative, and free.  How to find that balance?  And what will it look like when it arrives (or doesn't arrive)?
The above four goals are largely psychological, but I also want to give myself a more tangible goal for 2014 regarding my music.  Maybe this goal can't be reached without achieving the psychological breakthroughs above, but here it is:  I want to perform publicly at least 3 times.  (Karaoke doesn't count, but I want to do that, too, if possible! Church doesn't count either, though Mom has said I'm welcome to sing solos at her church any time.) This goal sounds simple, but it's more complicated than it seems.
Performing classically shouldn't be too much of a problem.  I have a violinist and a cellist lined up to play my triptych I mentioned above, and they have a lot of venues and connections locally.  I'm going to restart voice lessons, and hopefully I'll get my voice into enough shape to feel confident giving a recital of my newest classical composition.
On the pop side, though, there are a lot of issues. I can only play piano/keyboard and sing -- is that enough for an entire show?  Should I try to find a band? Or should I just bring karaoke-like background tracks of my songs when I perform?  Should I buy some vocal effects processors to spice up my sound?  Should I experiment with other electronic instruments to make my public performances more interesting?  Is that "me?"  Can I pull it off?  Will people like it?  Do I care if they like it?  Should I care?  Why am I doing this???

So those are my intentions for 2014.
I would love your thoughts.