A Time to Dream

A time to dream

Chris McDonnell CT Friday October 4th2019

The phrase ‘Dream on!” is often used as a short hand way of saying it will never happen.  It is a way of summing up the hopelessness that many feel in our affluent Western society.

The meaning of the phrase ‘Dreamtime’ is so much broader in the Australian Aboriginal understanding of the world. It tells us the story of Creation, and the stories that frame its pattern. Dreamtime is so much broader, it is about the beginning of knowledge, from which came the laws of existence. … The Dreaming world was the old time of the Ancestor Beings.

Most of us dream at one time or another, the day-dreams of personal ambition, hope and vision. For others there is the intensity of the dreams of night-time sleep, often confused and muddled, sometimes joy-filled. There is an irrationality in stories, a jumbled sequence of events that we cannot understand. On waking, for a few moments there is a freshness of vision that can quickly fade with the onset of another day. Those dreams may be linked to short or long term experiences,

The name of the analyst Sigmund Freud will always be associated with the belief that dreams represented a disguised fulfilment of a repressed wish. He suggested that the study of dreams provided the easiest road to understanding of the unconscious activities of the mind. His position is now not widely accepted.

These few words attempt to describe that dreaming experience.

Stretching a story

Undressing past days and years
a cloud of unknowing
covers their passing.
Wordless, silently, discreet forgetfulness
slips through the half-open door
into deserted passage ways.
Vague voices hover in hesitant speech
a chaotic jumble of mist-filmed memories
as waking hours slip into sleep
and sequence fails to follow rationality,
a rearrangement that makes no sense
stretching a story, distorting day
into the darkening hours
till dreams finally fade
with the oncoming drift of dawn.

Our young people have a dream of their future that is over-shadowed by the threat of Climate Change, not at some future time but within the reality of their own lifetime. The recent UN conference on climate change held in New York City was addressed by one such young person, Greta Thunberg, in an impassioned speech. To quote only a few brief words of hers.‘How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood’. Her words were spoken through tears of anger and despair; the US President has repeatedly disparaged the reality of climate science, withdrawn his country from the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 and systematically set about scrapping agreements that would seek to  limit carbon pollution. He remains impervious to the consequences of logical argument.

In contrast, Pope Francis, in a message broadcast to the UN Conference, called for honesty, responsibility and courage to face “one of the most serious and worrying phenomena of our time“ 

We can construct whatever rules for life that we like; if the earth that is our common home fails to have conditions that are compatible with the continuation of life, then it will have all been in vain. It is ours to care for.

Dreams are intertwined with memory. The older we get the more memories we have stored for reflection. Gradually those memories begin to fracture but the dreams we once had remain. I read somewhere that the life of a Christian is the continuing experience of the dream of the Gospel narrative that was given us by Jesus of Nazareth.

‘Dream on’ might have a secular context of hinted despair, for the Christian there is the dream of hope arising out of our trust in the Christ.

That was the great story of the Council. It’s message invoked dreams of a better and more meaningful way of living the Christian life. That is why the memory is so strong for those who are now in the autumn of their years. It is a pity that those who are still young hear so little of those heady days. Now another gathering, not a full Council but a Synod called to listen to the voices of South America, is in session. It will have repercussions for the whole Church. Not only will it consider issues specific to that community of our Church, but it will tell us a story of how our dreams are shaped and cared for. We must listen, we must respond, we must care for each other.

Caring for each other is a prime responsibility that comes as part of the package of being who we are. There lies the nub of our Democracy, that we care for each other by listening to the need of the greater good of all. That our Democracy is in good shape, if a little bruised, comes with the re-opening  of  parliament following the recent Supreme Court judgment. We live in a law-framed society, we should value its principles and protect their function.


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