History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
-From “On the Pulse of the Morning” by Maya Angelou
He who is reluctant to recognize me is against me.
-From “Black Skin, White Masks” by Frantz Fanon
I’m very grateful that friends and clients have been asking me about my next post; it’s true, I’m a month overdue! It’s become fall, and right now many of us and our loved ones are dealing with acute experiences of grief and anxiety that accompany of decades of sexual trauma in a patriarchal society. While I am working on a longer, more theoretical piece of political reflections on abuse, trauma, and assault, I wanted to focus here on another important aspect of struggle and healing: dreams.
As we continue to face the indescribable nightmares of daily life, in particular for incarcerated people, black people, brown people, immigrants, queer, trans*, and gender-non-conforming people, people living under colonialism…we can’t help but have other types of dream as well. Capitalist society forces us to live in a day to day reality that is an inversion of what we need to thrive. The way our society is currently organized takes the best aspects of humanity—intelligence, collectivity, creativity, empathy, ingenuity, relationship to plants and animals–and turns them against us. Our creativity is used to create machines that exploit us, our ingenuity to make systems that destroy the environment and our bodies, our collective reliance on others to create dependence and alienation.
Dreams, however reveal that which is inverted under the restraints of capitalism. We can’t help but to dream truth, our desires, our fears, and our selves. Sometimes in dreams, we see ourselves overcoming a difficult situation. Other times we connect with those we have lost. Still other dreams seem to be an amalgamation of images, memories, pieces of songs. But what all dreams have in common is that our subconscious takes the all the material it has access to and brings it into relation. Dreams are always an effort to reconnect what has been disconnected, to make sense of our history and future, even when we wake up confused. And dreams always deal in what is hidden in our waking life, the parts of ourselves and the universe that are kept at bay by work, illness, alienation, and poverty.
While it is easiest for most of us to dream at night, I want to take the position that it is crucial for us to dream while we are awake, and to dream together. It is necessary to take all the material we have before us–our resources, our pain, our trauma, our communities, our health–and see it take shape in new configurations. Dreams are so powerful because they are rooted in the every day. They are by necessity grounded only what is already is part of us, even if its not always accessible in consciousness. Dreams bring together memories, emotions, intuition, empathy.
Dreams show us where we are now in a panoramic view, and how what exists in this moment can unfold into the future. They allow us to see an entire picture from a high place, and to take snapshots from different locations and reconfigure them. Dreams can find the aspects of our lives that have been obscured by the day to day drudgery of the hustle, and the moment to moment protection of ourselves from trauma. Because of this dreams lead us to vision. By getting rid of restrictions and allowing seemingly disparate components of our lives to meet in ways we haven’t yet experienced, we are able to think of living in a world that we have only experienced in bits and pieces. One of the biggest challenges facing the world of humans today is being able to imagine a society created by those who are currently the most exploited, where everyone has equal access to meet their needs and desires, to total freedom of creativity and association, to full health and wellness for every living being. In a world full of suffering, these seem like childish fantasies. But in a world driven by dreams, we can see that the possibility of this reality exists all around us. We have moments where we can see these aspects of a new reality shining in the present, revealed in the sound of a man’s voice singing in the subway, the eyes of a baby, or the reflection of leaves in a stream. Dreams allow us to see these moments fully explored. Vision is created by allowing these moments to take on their own meaning and life, and build a new reality that crumbles the veneer of our current situation, revealing the possibilities for every being to live fully, healthily, complexly, and in connection.
Being able to hold this vision and articulate it is crucial for healers and revolutionaries. To be able to say something or touch somewhere that sparks someone’s self-recognition is an actual materially significant healing act; to be able to pull a curtain up that reveals underlying liberatory social relations is the root of revolutionary activity. I believe strongly that however horrific the world we live in is now, it is rooted in a great deal of power for survival, beauty, cooperation, and healing. To look at the world as a revolutionary is to see that the very basis of your exhausting wage labor job is the creativity necessary to make something that goes beyond meeting your own individual immediate needs. To look at the world as a healer is to see the migraines, nausea, back spasm, toothache…as health in the process of becoming. And of course, vision is not enough. It must be accompanied by collective struggle against capitalism and its manifestations in white supremacy and patriarchy. But struggle without vision is a losing battle.
I invite you all to dream, vision, and allow what is seeping in your subconscious desires to come to the surface. We need to reveal the truth of our strength and resiliency now as ever, and to be carried away by the power underlying our every day.