Dreaming is believing

According to the Ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, “hope is a waking dream”. To this day, his comment still rings true. The recent onset of a new variant of Covid has cast a dark spell over the UK, a time of extreme restriction on the hospitality sector with only essential travel permitted. The solution is an effective vaccine. So, confirmation this week of 89% efficacy in the Novavax vaccine is good news. Moreover, a study found that a single dose of Astrazeneca Covid-19 vaccine may reduce transmission by two thirds

In today’s world, good news matters. Since the beginning of the vaccination program in early December, well over 9 million people have been vaccinated. This is exciting news for travellers. And hoteliers. Vaccines allow travellers to travel safely, thus reopening the possibility for international travel come summertime. In the eyes of Aristotle, dreams not only give us hope, but they enable our greatest hopes to come true. 

Despite vast developments in scientific knowledge and understanding, the science of dreaming still fascinates. Dreams occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, one of the four stages that the brain goes through during the sleep cycle occurring every 90 minutes. Research strongly suggests that we need it. Depriving REM sleep to rats significantly shortened their lives, whilst the link between disturbed sleep and post traumatic stress disorder in humans is well known. 

We know why we dream. But the relationship between dreams and realities also matters. Put simply, questions remain of the extent to which contemporary reality has impacted the nature and value of our dreams. In times of widespread fear and limited social interaction, are we more susceptible to dream of bliss and socialising? The harsh truths of our modern age differ from the serenity of a far off distant island. Or does it? Dreams are the products of hope. but hope itself – at least in the eyes of Aristotle – is the dream coming true, allowing us to realise our dreams. 

Dutch Jungian psychoanalyst Robert Bosnak described dreams as the “uncontrollable unconscious”. So then, restrictions of recent times have fostered a greater inclination to dream of a change in circumstance, a world of open borders and widespread social engagement. Our imagination is continually shaped and reshaped, not by the dreamer, but the world wherein the dreamer resides. Our experiences vary, suggesting that dreams are born from personal experiences and the uniqueness of individual surroundings. 

Or not. According to the late American psychologist James Hillman, “dreaming is a source of imaginal information from a psyche that is not merely mine, attached to my brain and within my skull,” but rather anima mundi, an intrinsic connection between all living things. 

Our dreams have been shaped by feelings of loneliness, fear and suffering in the context of a global pandemic. And yet hope is in the air. Aristotle would probably say, dream on. So I’ll say it for him. 

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Sam Gordon Webb

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September 2021
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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