Inspiration by Dreams

Earlier this year, I wrote a series of blogs about how I’ve been trying to attune my mind to particles of inspiration that I suspect are floating around the world, each containing the spark of an idea. I’ve been inspired by art, nature, and music. I’ve been inspired by a simple mosaic on the wall of a Taipei street near Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, and a red envelope my wife pointed out on a street in Zhonghe. One thing I didn’t mention in the original series was how some ideas come in dreams.

Dreams are tricky – are they just your brain reorganising and cataloguing your daily thoughts and experiences? Are they the workings of your subconscious mind pushed into the foreground as your consciousness sleeps? Are they just reactions to certain amino acids in cheese? Or are they moments when your mind, in its more receptive REM state, gets hit by inspiration? I have no idea. The main bugger is that you can’t remember chunks of them. Only snatches of the really vivid ones.

I’ve heard tell of people who keep a pen and paper by their bed in case they have an awesome thought or somehow keep hold of the threads of their dream for long enough to write them down. I don’t do this myself. For one thing, I’m a heavy sleeper, and dreams – unless they’re nasty ones involving spiders – don’t wake me up. And in the morning, I’m too busy cursing my alarm or stumbling around like a mole, relying on routine to get me through that first 45 minutes or so. No time to scribble down what I can remember from a dream, even if there’s anything to remember.

Except once.

Once I had a dream so vivid that I can still remember all the details of it, even though it was at least ten years ago.

I remembered it recently because Sir Christopher Lee was in that dream. Sir Christopher died recently. I’ve been a fan of his for years, and though this blog isn’t about his acting career, he managed to touch my life in a completely different way.

I had this dream after watching The Wicker Man. It was not the first time I’d seen it, but it was the first time I’d seen (one of) the (incompletely) restored cuts on DVD. I deft anyone to watch that movie and not have vivid and extremely disturbing dreams.

Mine was about a monk of medieval times, in a brown habit and riding on a mule. He was crossing from a mainland, which might have been dark-ages Britain, to an island off the coast, which could have been Ireland or the Isle of Man, maybe even Anglesey. Parallels to the movie are pretty obvious so far, and they continue. Christopher Lee was the king of that island, an old king who knew that unstoppable change was coming to the island. He knew that he was the last king the island would have. Wearing a robe that was by turns dark blue and deep purple, he stood on the shores of that island, the foam swirling about his feet. Behind him, his counsellors stood and offered useless advice. The monk came to the island but ended up getting hanged. His body swung from a gibbet, black in the face. Lee’s King knew that hanging the monk was both a disaster and something he couldn’t avoid doing.

I can still see images from that dream. They sank deep into me and implanted the germ of a story that, like most of mine, sit in my head, accruing mass and shape until their time has come.

I’m not sure if this will help people find inspiration. You could try what I haven’t, and write down your dreams. You could gorge yourself on cheese and watch The Wicker Man. I suppose the best thing I can advise is to pay attention to your dreams when you can, sift them for inspiration instead of dismissing them or letting the morning sun burn them off like so much fog.

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