Posts tagged #dream meaning

The poetics of occupation: pressing reasons we need to "occupy" our own cities

The Poetics of Occupation

I've been thrilled and privileged to participate in the Occupy movement via Occupy Pittsburgh. While sitting out in the cold and rain, I got to having some deep thoughts about the poetics of the occupation and I figured I'd share them here with you.

 

 

The term "occupy" has obvious military connotations.  The poetic use of the term as a metaphor to describe a peaceful protest demands some reflection.

 

Currently, the U.S. military is just winding down a massive, costly and controversial occupation of Iraq. This occupation of Iraq is the  prominent cultural back drop in the minds of most Americans when we hear the term "occupy." "Occupy" in this sense suggests going on to foreign soil where we're not particularly wanted or welcome and ensuring that our interests are protected there.

 

Thus, the notion that we would need to Occupy Wall Street, for example, frames "Wall Street" as a kind of hostile foreign nation, a place where we need to send "troops" (of peaceful protesters) in order to control the situation there and to protect our interests.

 

But Wall Street IS American soil, right? Why should we feel we need to "occupy" it?

 

How Wall Street Made Itself a Foreign Land: Usury

The answer to this, I believe, lies in the spiritual dimension of our financial institutions and failing economy. The spiritual malaise of Wall Street, the banking industry, and the corporations has created a sense of alienation and violation so potent that those institutions can no longer be perceived by Americans as even belonging to their country. There's a sense of these institutions and corporations as alien and hostile.  This sense is not imaginary or paranoid.  It's completely correct, and it has its root in the alienating and hostile actions of those institutions towards the American people.

 

In order to make my point clear, I need to explain a few rather arcane (but fascinating!) points which I first learned from Lewis Hyde's brilliant book, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.

 

To begin, the banking industry's practice of usury is a practice that was recognized in spiritual traditions throughout the ancient world as an act which promoted division, suspicion, and alienation within a community. I think we need to reconsider ancient and indigenous attitudes towards usury in order to understand the extent to the unity and spiritual virtue of the United States has been violated by Wall Street.

 

Today, "usury" means "lending at unbearably high interest." In the ancient world, usury just meant charging any interest at all on a loan.

 

Lending at interest itself is now widely accepted and taken for granted as perfectly acceptable and normal.  Loan-sharking, or lending at really high and outrageous interest, is the only stuff that raises eyebrows now.  Loan-sharking on the part of the banks is a large part of what created the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

 

We can keep in mind that the banks have practiced the intense form of usury-as-loan-sharking and that this practice has led to the current widespread poverty and outrage, but in order to understand the severity of loan-sharking, I want to start by discussing the problematic spiritual dimensions of usury, period.

 

In order to understand why usury (which is now so widely accepted) would be seen as a spiritual problem, we first need to understand a little bit about the way gifts work.

 

The Increase of the Gift

An interest-free loan is a form of a gift. For example: if I give you an interest-free loan of $1000 dollars, and you are able to use that loan to invest in a business which then makes you money. A year later, you return to me $1000, but you've still been able to create an "increase" out of the loan that I gave you, an increase that you wouldn't have been able to enjoy if I hadn't loaned you the $1000 to begin with.  So the increase that you make on account of me loaning you $1000 is a kind of gift from me to you.  Theoretically, if I had held on to my $1000 and not given it to you, I could have used the $1000 to invest and thereby enjoyed the increase myself.

 

Gifts are really cool because they create relationships of community and connection.  There's something magical and in harmony with the natural growth and decay of nature in the increase that properly treated gifts can create.

 

In indigenous cultures which maintained gift economies, it was always considered imperative that the increase generated by a gift  be passed on or used up, and never hoarded or used as capital itself. This passing-on or "paying it forward" was thought to be necessary in order to keep the "spirit of the gift" moving. So, for example, if you were able to make $2000 out of the $1000 interest-free loan I had given you, it would be good form for you to spend that $2000 on necessities for you and your family or to throw a big party and share the wealth. It would be very bad form for you to keep that $2000 to invest as capital or to hoard in savings.

 

The idea behind this is that gifts in a community should be kept in circulation and not used to unduly benefit or to create an unfair advantage for any one individual. When gifts are hoarded or used to create only private benefit, the spirit of the gift dies and the nihilism of separation, meaninglessness and isolation arises. This nihilism of separation creates a general atmosphere of cruelty. It's the atmosphere we're living in now.  It's the atmosphere that the Occupy movement has arisen to protest.

 

The Spirit of the Gift

We can think of the "spirit of the gift" as a sense of gratitude that puts human beings in an attitude of reverence and love for each other, nature, and divinity.  When gifts are kept moving and circulating, no one person has giant storehouses of money or goods to use as "security." The "security" and "prosperity" of an individual is instead intimately tied to the security and prosperity of the community, and thus to relationships of good will, love, and interdependency. Furthermore, a person who is living in the spirit of the gift, rather than seeking to extract and hoard the riches of the earth in warehouses instead respectfully fosters and tends for the earth so as to continue to enjoy the bounty of her gifts in a sustainable fashion.

 

Living in the spirit of the gift is an act of faith.  It involves a surrender of control.  This surrender entails two spiritual attitudes that are largely unknown to our control-obsessed modern world: 1) A general trust that the community / nature / divinity will continue to provide and 2) A graceful willingness to accept death and suffering in the event that the community / nature / divinity does not provide.

 

The act of living in the spirit of the gift is something which my favorite poet and all-around-awesome dude, Jesus, pointed to many times, perhaps most memorably in his Sermon on the Mount, when he suggested that everyone live "like the lilies of the field."  The lilies of the field, J.C. pointed out, don't do any work or save for rainy days, and yet they're gorgeous and happy. The lilies live in the spirit of the gift, accepting the nourishment of the sun and earth and giving forth radiant beauty.  Then they gracefully die when it gets cold and they don't whine about it. They don't control or hoard anything.

 

The Nihilism of Usury and the Control Freaks of Wall Street

Usury, in essence, is an expression of fear and clinging to material existence.  It's a refusal to surrender control. Usury hears about the notion of living like the lilies of the field and says "screw that!"

 

Usury seeks to maintain control over the increase generated by a gift.  It thus kills the spirit of the gift and creates disconnection.

 

When I give you that $1000 interest-free loan, I'm letting go of my say over that money. I'm letting you "use" it.  In turn, in our little gift society, I trust that you will put your "use" of the gift (the increase you accrue from investing it) to benefit all of us.  But I'm trusting. I've surrendered control of the "use" of the gift.  Through my trust, I'm making space for the spirit of the gift to live and breathe.

 

When I give you a $1000 dollar loan with 20% interest, I'm not letting go of my say over that money. I'm not trusting that you will use the increase of the gift to ultimately benefit our community and thus me. I'm demanding that you put the increase that you generate through your "use" of the gift back in my pocket. Thus I am controlling the "use-stuff" or "use-ury" or of the gift. In my control, I don't trust you and I certainly don't love you.

 

Usury = commerce between foreigners

Lewis Hyde explains:

 To ask for interest on loaned wealth is to reckon, articulate, and charge its increase.  The idea of usury therefore appears when spiritual, moral, and economic life begins to be separated from one another, probably at the time when foreign trade, exchange with strangers, begins. As we saw in an earlier chapter, wherever property circulates as a gift, the increase that accompanies that circulation is simultaneously material, social, and spiritual; where wealth moves as a gift, any increase in material wealth is automatically accompanied by the increased conviviality of the group and the strengthening of the hau, the spirit of the gift.  But when foreign trade begins, the tendency is to differentiate the material increase from the social and spiritual increase, and a commercial language appears to articulate the difference.  When exchange no longer connects one person to another, when the spirit of the gift is absent, then increase does not appear between gift partners, usury appears between debtors and creditors. (144-145 The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World)

 

The key point that Hyde makes here is that usury begins when foreign trade begins.  It's an economic relationship forged between groups of people who have no necessary bonds to each other communally or spiritually and who do not trust each other.  It's a relationship of outsider to outsider.

 

Think about this: usury now colors every exchange in our financial institutions.  The banks lend to us, the people, at interest-- and in the case of the sub-prime mortgage crisis at insanely high, loan-sharking interest.  They might call themselves things like "Bank of America" but to them, we, their debtors, are obviously foreigners.

 

The Occupy Movement as a Gift Society

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the movement against the banks, against our financial institutions and corrupt government and corporations calls itself an "Occupation" and takes the form of physical encampments.

 

We are occupying Wall Street and occupying symbolic squares and parks in our hometowns because the banks have made themselves foreigners to us through their usury.  We have no fellow-feeling and good-will for them because we have no trace of a gift relationship with them. They've destroyed the spirit of the gift through their rapacious lust to control and their absolute unwillingness to trust.

 

They've treated us, the people, their fellow citizens, like strangers.

 

To speak in biblical terms, our financial institutions have committed grave sins and the consequences of those sins are alienation and disunity.

 

It is absolutely no accident that the Occupy encampments in NYC and throughout the world are operating as communal gift economies with free healthcare (in the form of medic tents), free education (in the form of teach-ins, speakers, and lending libraries), free food, free shelter (in the form of donated tents, clothing, sleeping bags, etc.), and free entertainment (as people share their musical and artistic skills).

 

The Occupy encampments are modeling the living power of the spirit of the gift which the banks, corporations, and corrupt government of the United States had sought to destroy through usury, among other means.

 

Debts create suspicion, scarcity, distrust and death.  Gifts create love, abundance, trust and life.

 

Why doesn't Occupy need to articulate demands?

In the Occupy movement, the spirit of the gift is rising up and roaring through the hearts and minds of people throughout the world. This is what makes it enormously powerful and wonderful.

 

This is why it doesn't need to "articulate demands." The demand of the movement is implicit in its very existence.  The medium is the message.  Gifts, not debts. Consensus, not tyranny. Community, not commodity. The time has come. The spirit will prevail.

 

Check out this tour of the gift community at the Occupy Pittsburgh encampment, given by yours truly:

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTMvFWhjNq8

 

Love!

Carolyn

Dream #4: Mr. Hyde at Family Dollar, Hanging with the bad kids

Thinking Aloud Maybe it's better that in the dream log I just offer dreams without any ruminations. More mysterious that way, no?

 

 

Mr. Hyde at Family Dollar

I'm milling around Family Dollar, writing on a notebook in pink lipstick -- except I haven't bought either the notebook or the lipstick yet. I have a big pile of stuff in a cart that I don't really want to buy.  I start putting some of it in my purse.  Then I have this moment of clarity like-- hey, wait a minute-- what am I doing?  Then somehow the knowledge comes to me that I've been on a spree of stealing and other questionable activity for days and days, but totally blacked out and taken over by some other personality-- a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation. I drop the notebook and the lipstick, leave the other stuff in the cart and exit the store.

 

The Bad Kids

Next thing I know I'm all wrapped up with a group of people who reminded me of the ne'er do-well art students I hung out with right after high school.  They dress in black leather.  They always have very tough dogs and very improbably tender little woodland animals (bunnies and squirrels) on leashes with them.  They roll up into my house with their little bunnies on leashes; put on pounding electronic music, then set up cameras to film themselves and me sleeping and having sex.  They regard this not as pornography exactly but as an especially important art project.  There's a sense of family around them, as if they all belong to each other.  I have the feeling that whether I'm okay with it or not, they've adopted me into this family and consider me one of them.  There's a big to-do about setting up the cameras just right on the tripods.  I feel like I love them and I want them but I'm afraid of them and what they might end up doing to me as they carry an aura of violence.

Posted on September 29, 2011 and filed under Dream Journal.

Dream #3: The urgent message, the botanical argument, the dirt floor of ancient China

The Dreams In a rush this morning, so just three parts of a dream, with no commentary.

 

 

The Urgent Message

I'm on a bicycle. I have a mission to be somewhere, very fast. I'm riding along the tops of walls, through dense crowds. I'm carrying a package.  I have a sense that I'm on a college campus. Lots of young people are resting along one wall that I need to travel. They have cell phones in their hands, on top of the wall-- they're texting. I have to ride over their hands as they text.  I'm yelling at them as I'm zooming along-- "Coming through! Coming through! Move your hands! I don't want to hurt you! Move!"

 

The Botanical Argument

Next, I see a young man out in the wilderness with two other men.  The young man is carrying a package in the form of a long tube, and I have the sense that I'm seeing myself (whoever I just was as I rode the bicycle through the crowd).  The men I'm with start threatening me.  I open the cylinder I'm carrying and draw from it a large sheaf of rolled-up posters-- exquisitely beautiful photographic posters depicting all kinds of botanical and geological wonders.  I'm shouting at the men.   I'm showing them image after image on my posters, making some kind of very emphatic point.  I start to notice, though, that half the posters I'm supposed to have are missing.

 

The Dirt Floor of Ancient China

Next, I'm a little toddler girl crawling on a dirt floor under a table which is part of an exhibit at a museum.  I feel the dirt floor with my hands and say to my mother, who is hovering above me, that I want to learn all about women and feminism in ancient China. Somehow the dirt floor is an exhibit on ancient China, which teaches me its truths as I run my hands over its bumpy dirt.

 

Love,

Carolyn

Dream #2: The Red Velvet Room with Two Sisters, The Urine-Soaked Sweater, and the Spiritual Conspiracy

The Dreams  

A red velvet room.  I'm interacting with and watching two teenaged girls who are a chubby and so distressed by it-- they feel left out of all social happenings, scorned, inferior.  Both of the girls have long dark hair.  They're sisters.  The younger one is thinner than the older one, but the younger one is more distressed and more self-conscious.

 

 

I'm getting ready to clean a broken toilet and the sleeve of my favorite sweater, the one with the fur collar, drops in and gets soaked with urine.  I'm momentarily repulsed but I decide to clean it in the sink by letting it soak in water with soft detergent. I feel a kind of pride in this simple hands-on laundry action. My mother is in the background, working on her own stuff.

 

There's a kind of conspiracy plot going on which looks shady but which is actually designed to help me.  I'm a young, male high school athlete who gets coerced into going out to the wrong side of the rail road tracks late at night to meet up with a gang of thugs who have something I really want.  I show up there and have a kind of tense confrontation-- after I leave, a figure steps out of the shadows and pays the thugs big piles of cash for going through the whole drama with me-- the figure paying the thugs is talking to them about my spiritual growth and his hopes for my future, explaining to them about how hard it is for me to have to talk to and work with disreputable characters like themselves.

 

The Feelings, the Associations

 

So, first off the red velvet room reminded me immediately of Twin Peaks. Except my dream was a lot less freaky, sadly.

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXRC9bMzRUU

 

I get a sense that the two dark-haired sisters who are self-conscious about chubbiness might represent my present and past self-- when I was younger I was thinner than I am now and also a lot more hung-up about it.  Today, I'm working on losing some pounds, but I'm doing it all crazy-healthy like, via a nutritarian diet. Seemed like the dream was speaking to me about lingering anxieties that I have in that arena.

 

My beautiful sweater getting soaked in urine -- a frustrating result of my own carelessness (why did I have the sweater with me in the bathroom to begin with?)-- this felt like a very daily, unsurprising misfortune that might happen to me-- but there was something about this object which is so sleek, sexy and nice getting all messed up in the toilet which was particularly gross. To get a little Freudian, I think it make have something to do with feeling like my sexuality is being dirtied or lowered.

 

My pride in the simple solution of soaking the thing in soapy water -- a feeling of resourcefulness, of joy in knowing how to do slight house-wifey type stuff.  My mother's presence-- seem to suggest her own hard work, her own sexual issues mirroring mine.

 

Finally, the conspiracy between the figure and the hoodlums might be the most interesting dream of the night.  It gives me some hope-- like maybe some of the scary and difficult things going on for me right now might all really just be agents of a force who's working for my higher good.  Wouldn't that be sweet?

 

The Mystery

The mystery of the dirtied sweater is the plaintive song of a dead crooner.

 

Your Response to Me

As perpetually, I'm open to hearing your thoughts about what any of these dreams mean-- and I'm also interested to hear what you've been dreaming about lately?

 

Love!

Carolyn

The Start of My Dream Journal - Dream #1: The Pet Store

The Decision I've decided to start keeping a public dream journal.  I'm always going on and on to my students online and offline about the importance of keeping a dream journal in their commonplace books, and I fully believe in being the example for those I'm working with, but it's sort of hard to let them see me walking my walk when my dream journal is a secret little thing I keep under my pillow.

 

 

 

But laying out the contents of my subconscious mind for all to see is a rather radical thing to do, isn't it?

 

It is, but my heart tells me to "be a transparent rose" so that's what I'm doing this morning and all mornings for the next 7 weeks. I'm lacing myself together with rosy-fingered dawn in order to tell you some tales straight outta my subconscious.

 

So here's a bit of what happened in dreamworld last night.  It's the tale end of a dream.  I woke up at 6:00 am, my alarm going off, with my most urgent thought being "I have to quiet that alarm before it disturbs my partner" rather than "I have to remember my dream."  Having an urgent thought like that, I notice, disrupts my dream-memory process. So I only remembered the last little bit of what I sense was a much larger dream.

 

The Dream

Here's what I remember: I see an elderly man, homeless.  He wants to get into a pet store to use the rest room.  The door to the pet store is locked even though there are employees inside. The employees won't let him in.  The elderly man enlists the help of a little boy to trick the door open.  Somehow, the boy is able to open the door.  He props the door open with a little trash basket which has magical door-propping properties.  The elderly homeless man goes in and uses the rest room.  I wake up.

 

The Feelings, The Associations

I felt identified with the elderly homeless man. Earlier in the day, when driving out of a shopping center, Dey and I saw a man standing on a traffic island, holding a sign around his neck that said "Homeless."  Also earlier in the day, I'd been getting angry about income disparity in the US, thinking about Occupy Wall Street and had posted this Thomas Jefferson quote to facebook:

‎"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs".

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd president of US (1743 - 1826)

So Thomas Jefferson is talking about homelessness engendered by corporations and financial institutions that are threatening our American liberties.  And I'm seeing homeless people. And the folks occupying Wall Street are camping out in a park, without a roof. And I feel identified with them, too.

 

Why was it a pet store? Well, I'm in love with a little pomeranian named Sparkle who lives in the window of a pawn shop on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield.  She's always alone in there at night with the DVDs and funky old electronics, behind the half-shattered window.  I can't get to her.  No one is loving her and cuddling her at night. I feel like she's homeless, too.  So the pawn shop isn't exactly a pet store, but it holds a pet (Sparkle).

 

So the old man in my dream was homeless and breaking in to a place that I associate with homelessness (the pawn shop / pet store).  I feel afraid of homelessness, poverty, the condition of the outcast.

 

The wily little boy is a mystery to me. Who's he?

 

The Mystery

This is something I like to do for my dreams-- to make a metaphor out of a mystery in them-- so as to deepen and extend the mystery. The metaphor pattern goes like this: The mystery of ___________ is _____________."

 

So, the mystery of the little boy who props open the door is an attack at the feet of the rich.

 

Your Response to Me

Want to offer any insight about what you think my dream means? Post in the comments below.

 

What to tell me what you dreamed last night? I would love to hear about it and discuss it with you.

 

Love, Carolyn

Posted on September 26, 2011 and filed under Dream Journal.