The Dual Reality of Dream Characters

April 2014

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In the dreamtime, we are all shapeshifters, whose reality is marked not by continuous identity or a focused sense of purpose – as it ideally is in the day world – but by feelings, imagination, the unfolding of archetypal patterns somehow less clearly illuminated in the waking state, and by what we might understand as the evolving demands of our soul’s journey in its perpetual quest for healing and wholeness. The images and characters in dreams are far more malleable than their counterparts in this world, and as we attend to them, they not only reveal themselves to us, but show us a portal with layers and layers of soul to be absorbed and embodied.

After I listened to Ralph the Seedy Rug Merchant’s story, and began to feel more empathy for him, I began to recognize him as the embodiment of an ancient message I received when I was a teenager – mostly through the male lineage of my ancestors that stretched from father to paternal grandfather and no doubt beyond, although I do not know those stories.

My grandfather was a German immigrant, who came to America as a teenager when the storm clouds for World War I were gathering in Europe. Speaking little English, and having little money, he got a job working for the railroad, and gradually bootstrapped himself through a series of businesses to retire wealthy enough to put his three sons and five grandchildren through college, and leave his widow a comfortable life after his premature passing. My father was also a businessman, retiring from his ownership of a Dairy Queen at age 50.

I inherited those entrepreneurial genes from my father and my grandfather, putting them to good use in my own life – like my ancestors before me – in a series of businesses that now leave me free to pursue other, less lucrative passions at a relatively young age with plenty of possibility and promise still on my horizon.

With this ancestral gift, however, also came an ancestral message – some might call it a curse – that has perhaps forced me into a more linear mode than my passionate and intensely creative spirit might have liked. As a teenager, whose one burning desire was to play music, I was told, “Music is alright as a hobby, but to be in this world, you need to get a real job.” It soon became apparent that I was not suitable for a real job, although I tried my hand at several, but with some trial and error, I was able to parlay my skills and my genetic disposition into several self-employed ventures that paid the bills, and freed me up to pursue other interests in my spare time. This was the compromise I had made in order to be in the world, making a living, while simmering my dreams on the back burner – a compromise not unlike that made, probably by most people in one way or another.

Be that as it may, in dialoguing with Ralph the Seedy Rug Merchant, I began to recognize that he, too, was of this lineage of entrepreneurial spirits who believed as they did that he had to put his dreams on hold, while he took care of the business of this life. He was not a bad man, but he did what he needed to do to take care of his family and survive, even if that meant cutting a few corners here and there, or turning a blind eye to the defects in his rugs.

In the course of our conversation, he then revealed something else to me that I found rather startling. He acknowledged that in addition to his day job, he had taken on the dream world task of coaching me in the arts of entrepreneurial compromise. He was the one – in some sense, the part of me, or the sub-personality – who reinforced the ancestral message at every turn: “You cannot earn your livelihood pursing your creative passion. You must instead keep your focus on practical considerations, and your nose to the grindstone that ensures those practical considerations are met.”

In other words, as part of Ralph’s independent existence within the dream world, he also had a relationship with me – one that unbeknownst to me had spanned nearly 50 years of my life! He was both a part of my psyche and a living being of the dream world.

The next post in this series is The Intertwining of Dream and Waking Lives.

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