Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dreaming at Midlife

I had a dream last night. I dreamed that I was moving back to my hometown, and for some reason that meant I had one year left in high school. My first thought was that if that was the case, I then had opportunity to pick take up the trumpet again. I could have one more year in the high school band. I remembered that the old cornet that I owned had a damaged mouthpiece and that I should replace that.  My next thought was, why not replace the whole instrument? The cornet had more resistance and a more constricted sound that a trumpet anyway.  Time to go for the free-flowing and clear notes of the trumpet!

Not a Nightmare

It was odd that this was no nightmare. I have had very unpleasant dreams in the past in which I have found myself back in high school facing an exam for a class I did not like and had thought I was through with it. There was a dread in facing that same ordeal, and I would be greatly relieved to awaken to real life whenever I had such a dream.  This dream, on the other hand, had the flavor of renewal, the promise of music, and an idea of how to redo something in a better way.

I real life, I have no plans or desire to return to my hometown, and I doubt that I will be shopping for a trumpet, but the dream is causing me to stop to consider my life at this point. I believe that our unconscious tells us some important things while we sleep.  Some dreams are small; some are big and dramatic forcing us to take stock of our lives. This was an “in between” kind of dream. No big deal, just a gentle nudging – a friendly suggestion perhaps.

The questions I must ask myself are, Is this a dream about music, or is it about creativity? Is there some reason I need to “sound the trumpet?” Trumpet soundings in literature can mean anything from a message from the king to the coming apocalypse.  In real life, trumpets can serve as a bright note in entertainment. One of my high school band directors used to tell the trumpet section, “You must remember that you are the hosses!” Meaning that trumpets carried the band, using a metaphor of horses that pulled the carriages and wagons.  He wanted us to know that musically we had to be there, we had to get it right, we had to lead the way. If trumpets faltered, the whole musical piece faltered.

Looking Ahead

So here I am this morning thinking of what it means to be reconnecting with some aspect of my high school days in my old hometown. Then I read an article in The New York Times by Oliver Sacks, “The Joys of Old Age (No Kidding),” reflecting upon his upcoming eightieth birthday. I have enjoyed much of Oliver Sacks’ writing ever since I discovered The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat back in 1985. Most recently I read The Mind’s Eye and Musicophillia: Tales of Music and the Brain.  His article in the NYT looks forward to his years ahead:

One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.
Looking to Today

So I am calling my nocturnal reverie a midlife dream.  I am going to say that I am midway between high school and the joys of the octogenarian life that Oliver Sacks describes (although I am closer to Oliver Sacks than I am to high school). In light of my dream in which I looked back to a joyful aspect of my youth followed by a reading of the joys of old age, I am now in a position to examine my current life. What will I now bring forward from my youth? What will I do with the awareness that I will enter the ranks of the elders, assuming that I live a few more years?

The most important thing is to go with this means for me now. Today.  There is, of course, no going back to the past. Moreover, there is no guarantee for the future. If we listen to our own soul talk that comes to us in our dreams, our meditations, and our daily interactions we can have a better understanding of what to do for today as we guide our soul along an unsure path.


Photos are all Public Domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: 
Top: U.S. Army Herald Trumpets
Middle: Wynton Marsalis
Bottom: Illustration of the white rabbit in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

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