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《Lessons for Elementary School (11)》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Dreams

“Grandpa, what are dreams?” Nancy asks enthusiastically. 

The question was discussed at school, with a visiting scholar invited by Mr. Shaw. His name is Edward Grim, a philosophy professor from Heidegger University who has come to Toronto to attend The International Conference on Dreams. Mr. Shaw met him at a dinner party hosted by Dr. Wei and invited him to visit Nancy’s class.
Professor said at the beginning of class, “When the Emperor of Heaven invented dawn, he was surprised to see its brilliance and beauty.”
Then he told the class that the quotation was from an ancient Chinese book. It set off a 6000-year heritage to have the Chinese people believe that dreams can come true.

“Grandpa, do dreams really come true?” Nancy asks.

“I guess it depends, Nancy.” Grandpa answers with deliberation. He continues, “If a good dream becomes true, it is a blessing. On the other hand, a dream can be a nightmare, a horrible thing that you would not like it turn out to be true, right?”

“I don’t know. I don’t have dreams, Grandpa.”

“What about your classmates?”

“Well, when Professor Grim asked us about our dreams, only a few gave answers. Elaine told her dream first. She dreamed that she was a physics professor at Harvard University lecturing to a large class of students in a hall with wooden panel walls. Everybody applauded when she told them of her discovery that objects do not always fall. Liza was next. She said she dreamed of sitting on a public examination, and she did not know the answer of any single question. Allen said he dreamed that his deceased father was alive again, canoeing with him on the Niagara River.”

“Dreams could be so terrible.” Grandpa comments. He is more interested in knowing Nancy’s dreams. He asks, “What did you tell?”

“I did not tell any, Grandpa. I don’t know if I have dreamed at all. But, I was quite thrilled to hear David’s dream. He said he once dreamed to be a frog and it always had tasty flies to eat by sitting at the edge of a pond. He was happy not having to work for food.”

“Did any body comment on those dreams?”

“Yes. Grandpa. I asked how flies could be tasty. David said that flies are tasty to frogs. Is it true, Grandpa?”

“I suppose so. But, none of us could tell, because we are not frogs. What about Professor Grim?”

“He said that we could be anything in a dream. Then, he played this game with us by asking us to tell what we would like to be.”

“That is interesting. What did you say?”

“I said I just like to be Nancy. But my friends took turns to say a lot of things, like to be a bird, a cloud, a horse, a lion, a father, a king, a mountain, a river, a tree, a bee, an airplane, a train, a cat, a teacher, a judge, an artist and everybody laughed when Rose said she would like to be a vase in which she sits to be appreciated by lots of people.”

“So, what did you learn, apart from having laughs?”

“Well, a lot. Professor Grim told us that we all dream. He said that everyone dreams during a night’s sleep, for one and a half to more hours. In dreams, we create images in a story. Often, the story in a dream reflects the emotional context that the dreamer feels in her daily life. Some scientist created theories or inventions in their dreams, which they wrote down when they woke up.”

“Really? Did he give you examples?” Grandpa asked, sharing his excitement.

“Professor Grim gave more than one example. He told us about this Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who had discovered a lot about human consciousness, feelings and aspirations as they affect behavior, mental illnesses, learning and development. Dr. Grim wrote down for us three of Jung’s books that we may read when we grow up. They are: The Importance of Dreams; Memories, Dreams and Reflections; and Man and His Symbols. Grandpa, do you know these books?”

“Well, I wish I do. But, Grandpa is only an ordinary man. However, I have read about that last book in a newspaper report. It has a lot to say about the Chinese language and the Chinese personality. What did Professor Grim say about that?”

“He surely did. He had a lot of praises for Chinese ancient scholars and the Chinese civilization. He said it all began with The Book of Change, Yi Jing. Dreams are about changes and individuation. Here, I have written down in my notebook.” Nancy shows her notebook to Grandpa with pride.

“Tell me more about it, please.” Grandpa postures himself as if he was a student.

“Well, individuation is a lifelong process in which each person finds out who and what she is. That means in what ways she is, and can be different from others. Professor Grim said that only when an individual knows who he is, and what he can become, can he develop into a whole and spiritually satisfied person.”

“What would you like to become, Nancy?”

“Well, I don’t know yet. I am only ten years old.”

“I see. You mean I should know, because I am old?”

“Of course you know, Grandpa, do you know what you are?”

“I know I am your Grandpa, and I am happy to be so. Does that mean I have reached individuation?”

“I wish I could check that with Professor Grim. But, really, I believe you know who you are.”

“What else did Professor Grim say?”

“Oh yes. He told us about this ancient Chinese man of wisdom named Zhang Zi. He once had a dream that he was a butterfly. It flutters about happily, enjoying the flowers and sunshine. Then, he woke up. He thought to himself,‘Am I a butterfly dreaming about Zhang Zi wishing to be happy and free? Or, am I the Zhang Zi in a butterfly’s dream?’ Professor Grim asked us which was which. We all shook our heads. So, he explained that dreams are such wonderful things; they help us in many ways. Not only can we dream about our wishes, we can also ask about what we can or cannot really be or know. In other words, human beings have the potential of unlimited doubts and fantasies. We have the power to create things we don’t know.”

“Well, well!” Grandpa is really impressed with Professor Grim and his granddaughter. He gives Nancy a big hug and says to himself, “I now know I am Grandpa.”

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