Electric Dreams

-- DreamLine -- 


The Natural Environment and Our Dreams

Christopher Hicks 

(Electric Dreams)  (Article Index)  (Search for Topic)  (View Article Options)

Hicks, Christopher (1996 April). Dream Line : : the Natural Environment and Our Dreams. Electric Dreams 3(3). Retrieved from Electric Dreams July 27, 2000 on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams  

I would like to start this Dream Line with a short relaxation exercise.

Imagine yourself in a beautiful forest with lots of trees. Wait, most of the trees have been cut down. It is still quite nice as you look down at the bubbling stream. But there are empty pop cans and bottles and paper scraps strewn around. Or maybe you are walking along the beach at sunset. You stroll, bare footed, into the water only to feel a thick ooze cling to your feet. You look down to see thick, black oil clinging to your feet and ankles. Okay, this isn't working. One of the most traditional methods of relaxation, using imagery of natural environments, ceases to be effective when the reality of pollution and other environmental problems are brought into that imagery.

In reviewing the responses to my request for dreams of and relating to the environment I am reminded of the rather broad definition of the word environment. Webster's 9th New Collegiate Dictionary defines environment as follows:

1: the circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded

2 a: the complex of physical, chemical, and biotic factors (as climate, soil, and living things) that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival b: the aggregate of social and cultural conditions that influence the life of an individual or community.

When making the request I was thinking in terms of the natural environment, but Webster's definition reminds me of the awesome thought that the environment is that by which we are surrounded. How accurate that is! There is no escape from the natural environment; it is all around us. Our very existence is dependent on it. Despite this fact the daily news broadcasts frequently report stories environmental disasters. In just the two months I have been collecting responses for this column I have seen a month long fire at a local used tire processing facility; two major oil spills; and a serious leak of a toxic chemical from a train derailment. These examples come from watching only a few minutes of news each day.

Upon some further investigation I have found many other examples. My primary research tool has been the World Wide Web. There are many, many web sites relating to the environment and the various threats to it. Scrolling through the web pages I have seen evidence of the continued deforestation of rain forests all over the world. It is not, however, just the rain forests. In the United States the government routinely allows lumber companies to come into federal land and parks containing old growth forests to harvest the trees. In addition to the continued loss of forests I have seen photos and read hypertext describing pollution of the seas and oceans, as well as both legal and illegal killing of endangered animals.

If the number of responses I have received can be considered an indication of the level of awareness most people have, then the awareness is high. I received more responses for this Dream Line than the previous two combined. My request for dreams of the environment seems to have struck a cord. I have reviewed the dreams, comments, and other responses received. To mention them all would expand this column far beyond the restraints of my time budget. In that light I have chosen a few examples that I believe represent the many responses.

One dream I have received involves the dreamer driving a car along a rural road. She pulls over to the edge of the road and gets out of the car. After walking about one hundred feet away she stops and notices a large oak tree across the road from the car. Just then this oak tree shoots a bolt of lightning at the car, destroying it. The dreamer sees that had she stayed in the car she would have been killed. In corresponding with the dreamer I have found that she sensed no intent on the tree's part to hurt her. This dream can be seen as a dramatic warning. The large oak, representing the natural environment, is attacking the car, which may be a symbol of our techno-industrial society that down plays the significance of the environment for the sake of profit and progress.

In another dream the dreamer comes upon a structure in the process of being built. She describes several steel beams and wooden planks. The bases of the steel beams are in the ground with no concrete foundation or footers. There is no man-made concrete, only dirt. "Sometimes", the dreamer writes during our correspondence, "there are people walking around the beams, other times they are up high talking about construction." It seems to the dreamer that the work will never be completed. In corresponding with the dreamer I have found that she relates this dream to the "new land" that is being born in that realm William Gibson so aptly referred to as cyberspace. The dreamer also relates this dream to the not-so-evident dangers this cyber- environment could present to the natural environment. "From the dream I did conjecture that one unhappy outcome on the environment could be in the value we place on cyberspace. That is if we value the information highway to the point that we forget it is a tool not a goal, we could become less conscious, respectful and caring for mother earth." This dream, and the dreamer's thoughts relating to it have brought my attention to a potential danger that I had not previously considered. Cyberspace may not pose a direct threat, but as the dreamer wrote, it could be a powerful distraction, thereby allowing further damage to occur to the natural environment.

Yet another dream puts the dreamer in a dark place that is outside of physical space. A shaft of light comes down from above and reflects off the edge of a sword laying on the ground at the foot of the mythical King Arthur. The blackness falls away as a proud native American approaches and embraces King Arthur. The two turn and walk into the light of the world. They are followed by other native Americans and King Arthur's knights. In my correspondence with the dreamer he associates King Arthur and his knights with a positive, humanitarian force. The dreamer connects the native Americans with the legend of the Rainbow Warrior, which speaks of a time when the Earth is sick and the animals disappear. According to the legend the Rainbow Warrior comes to save the animals. Rather than warn us, this dream seems to be offering hope in the image of two mythical forces joining together to battle for the environment.

A final example has the dreamer and his waking-life associates on trial. An important waking-life detail the dreamer mentions is that before going to sleep he had heard something on the radio about the struggle of native peoples in the Brazilian rain forests to make a living. In the dream the dreamer and his associates are charged with the mass extinctions of all the species that occurred as Anglo-Europeans took over and destroyed the old growth forests of the northern hemisphere. In the dream the dreamer acknowledges his guilt. He and his associates are sentenced to watch the destruction of humankind because it is not fair to ask poor rain forest nations to save their forests for the sake of the ozone and the health of the environment when we (those of us who are of Anglo-European descent) had thrown ours away. In corresponding with this dreamer I have found some amazing things. As a direct result of this dream he began studying native peoples; conserving and recycling; and, even more amazing, he has changed careers. He now works to help organizations decrease the use of non-reusable materials. What a wonderful example of using dreams to make positive changes in the waking-world!

The above dreams illustrate the ways in which the Dream Time is communicating to us regarding the environment. From the "Electric" warning found in the first dream to the hopeful images of uniting forces in the third dream, it is clear that the problems with and threats to our natural environment are indeed serious matters. So often our dreams guide our awareness to areas that demand attention. This appears to be one such area. So, our dreams have lead us this far. Where do we go from here?

A very natural and logical question. Unfortunately, many people go nowhere. They watch the news stories and shake their heads. Maybe they even talk with their friends and family about how terrible the latest oil spill is. But there has to be more! I am very glad to say that many of the dreamers I have corresponded with do not fall into this category. They care for the environment by recycling, or volunteering for environmental groups, and of course there is the dreamer who changed careers!

The dreamers have found actions to help protect the environment that are right in their own lives. We all must do the same. These problems with the environment will not only continue, but will grow worse as the years pass unless, that more people act, not only protect the environment, but to begin to heal the wounds inflicted thus far.

Let us all take the time to hear what our dreams might say about the environment and what suggestions might be offered. The range of what we can do is as great as the range of different environmental problems. Recycling is fast becoming something that many people must do because their local and state governments mandate it. For those of us who live in areas where this is not yet so we can certainly manage at least this much. Simply being aware of what practices occur in the work place is another example of what can be done. If we see paper being wasted or harmful chemicals being improperly disposed of we need to voice our concerns. Many employers welcome employee feedback and suggestions. Perhaps we could help create new, more environmentally friendly policies. On a larger scale there are environmental groups that take more aggressive actions in protecting the environment. I do not advocate violence or harmful destruction of property, but most environmental groups do not engage in such activities. Many such groups simply educate the general public regarding the environmentally harmful practices of businesses and governments. In some cases these groups do take direct action in an attempt to prevent the injury of animals. Considering these types of actions forces us to explore where our beliefs and convictions lead us.

The wonderfully exciting and sometimes frightening world of dreams can be filled with messages of all kinds. Yet, without action in the waking-world these messages may as well fall on deaf ears.

Now, visualize yourself in a beautiful forest picking up along a winding stream : )

--Christopher Hicks
email: shadow45@netonecom.net