How Dreams Have Contributed To The World
Although, in some ways, dreaming seems like such a personal, private affair, in reality its impact on the world is tremendous. Of course, dreaming (whether we remember our dreams or not) is a psychologically necessary and life-enhancing function, that helps us to process emotions and events, and to mentally recharge. But besides this vast subterranean role which dreaming plays in our collective life, it sometimes, also, erupts with unexpected gifts benefiting all Humanity, in very specific ways. Some cases of generous dreams, of this type, follow:
One of the most famous is a dream, or half-sleeping vision, experienced by 19th Century German chemist F.A. Kekule, who was at an impasse trying to figure out the mysteries of the benzene molecule. He did not understand exactly how it was able to function. Perplexed, he drifted away from the aggravating problem, dozing off in front of the fireplace as he sat in a comfortable chair. Whereupon, he began to experience vivid images of snakes, twisting and slithering around. Then, suddenly, one of the snakes flexed to seize its own tail with its mouth, and began to spin around and around, like a hoop on its side. Astonished and thrilled, Kekule awoke. He now realized that the benzene molecule was arranged in a ring, its carbon and hydrogen atoms bonded together in a structure suggested by the spinning snake!
It was also during a dream that Dmitir Mendelyev, a Russian chemist, is credited with having "discovered" the Periodic Table of Elements.
Both of these cases illustrate the powerful potential of dreams as problem-solvers!
Since great art is most often generated from deep within the subconscious, it is not surprising that many great artists have been fueled or inspired by their dreams.
Giuseppi Tartini, an 18th Century violinist, music theorist, and composer, dreamt one night that he heard The Devil playing an amazing piece of music on the violin. Tartini, awakening, hurried to write down as much of it as he could remember, and it became the basis for his famous violin sonata, "The Devilís Trill."
Parts of Handelís "Messiah" are said to have come from a dream; and Wagner, also, is said to have envisioned much of his famous opera, "Tristan and Isolde", in the dream state.
Salvador Dali, the famous surrealist painter, is reported to have positioned himself in such a way, in a chair, that he would be able to momentarily fall asleep, but not to sustain the position for any length of time. Snapping suddenly out of the sleeping state, as his body jerked to right its equilibrium, it was his hope to awaken with bizarre dream imagery still fresh in his mind: the raw material for his own, somewhat bizarre, yet brilliantly imaginative, creations!
In the world of literature, "magical realism" has gained a permanent place of honor. In this form of writing, most often associated with Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the magnificent Colombian author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, and also exemplified by Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits), and by many others, as well, fantasy and reality seem to mix, with no clear line of demarcation. "Impossible acts", such as flying, and psychokinesis, exist matter-of-factly in the midst of recognizable events and circumstances. There is no denying the influence of dreams, and the state of consciousness learned from dreams, in the production of these works. (Long before Garcia Marquez and Allende made their names, Austrian author Franz Kafka was busy at work with stories like "The Metamorphosis"; and with novels like The Trial, in which Kafka not only portrayed the maddening impenetrability of bureaucracy, but also projected the quality of those kinds of nightmares in which one seems unable to comprehend or leave a disturbing situation.)
In my own case, I can report that I have heard some of the most magnificent music and wonderful lyrics in my dreams, but only rarely, till now, managed to capture anything more than a small fragment of it. But, capture it or not, it is there, the resource of our dream world - there for the musician, there for the scientist and inventor, there for the writer, there for the artist, there for the statesman, there for the economist, there for any person trapped by a problem, or ready for a gift.
May you find your own way of accessing it - your own way of being enriched by it!
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