Although sleep has been elusive for a few weeks because of work worries, I often think about dreams past and what they can still yield in the weedy garden of my current imagination. The extraordinary and wonderful disjointedness of dreams is especially fascinating because, in the moment of dreaming, all dreams make sense. They merely defy waking analysis.
I’ve opened my eyes many a morning grasping for the colorful threads of logic, the strands of story that felt so incredibly right just seconds before, but that seem to vanish at the touch of my mental fingertips.
And yet . . . I know that dreams have logical counterparts in the world of storytelling.
Years ago, when I was in my last semester of college, I took a history colloquium on jungles. Like a dream itself, there was no waking logic to my finding this course. I stumbled into it, thinking I was in another class. However, that first day after listening to the professor speak about the mystery of jungles, I decided to stay — to take my intellectual canoe down that dark, muddy river to see what I might discover.
I adored the class! For my term paper, I read Amazonian Indian mythology. The stories intrigued me so much that I taught myself enough Portuguese so that I could read original source accounts. I read Levi Strauss in French. I scoured the University of Michigan’s substantial library collections for everything I could find.
On the face of it, these stories were very odd. Animals transformed into other creatures, plants into animals, people into unrelated animals . . . Few things remained totally whole or the same. The stories were tremendously dreamlike in this way, constantly fusing aspects that didn’t belong together into a new creation. But somehow — within that world — they made sense.
I theorized that this constant transformation was born of the jungle itself: something dies and — due to heat, moisture and localized fertilization — another thing grows right out of it. In essence, everything dead is rapidly becoming something else; it’s visible and visceral . . . the Yin-Yang principle on LSD.
Why did I bring up dreams and jungles today?
When I started my blog yesterday, my topic was the fragility of creativity. I’d intended to float a couple of familiar memes about nurturing creativity, practicing it . . . yadda yadda yadda. But once my fingers hit the keyboard, this blog about dreams and jungle mythology sprang out of the carcass of predictable intent.
Perhaps the point, if there is one, might be that dreams — like jungles — allow seemingly unrelated topics to merge and, when we least expect it, creativity works in the same way.
Today’s question: What subject or project have you accidentally studied or undertaken that yielded marvelously unexpected results?