Do you dream? We’re all supposed to, but we can’t always remember them. Dreams play an important role in our lives, they’re needed for a restful and refreshing sleep. My favourites are the ones where I can fly. It beats getting on the Undergound any day.
Throughout history, dreams have been associated with creative thinking. Paul McCartney woke up to find the tune for a Beatles hit fully formed in his head. As he worked with John Lennon to compose the lyrics, they gave it the working title ‘scrambled egg’”. We know it as “Yesterday”. Handel said the last movement of the Messiah arrived in the form of a dream. Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine, dreamed about a tribe who danced around him carrying spears with holes near their tips. Mary Shelley found the inspiration for Frankenstein in a dream about scientists creating life.
Dreams have always agitated and fascinated people. The question that has always existed is whether they have any significance. The book of Genesis is scattered with dreams of the Patriarchs and others. The first mentioned is Jacob’s dream of a ladder standing on the ground with its head in the heaven and angels ascending and descending. This was a message to Jacob that there would be new angels accompanying him during his journey. Then there is Joseph’s dream of the eleven stars, a message that he would reign over his brothers in Egypt.
The Talmud takes dreams seriously, with an entire chapter almost completely on the subject. It says that dreams are one sixtieth of a prophecy, but that part of them is gibberish: ‘Just as wheat cannot be without straw, so there cannot be a dream without some nonsense’. It also says that a dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read. The basic rule that is that they can be fulfilled according to how they are interpreted. So if a bad dream can be interpreted positively, there’ll be no ill effects.
There is a ceremony in ancient Jewish tradition called hatavat chalom: meaning making the dream a good one. If you had a bad or worrying dream, you bring together three friends and tell them that you had a nightmare. I suppose they have to be friends, because most people switch off if another starts to tell them about a dream they had. The friends then reply ‘It should be good, and let it be good.’ Finally, all recite a series of biblical verses with the theme of the reversal of bad fortune.
In my opinion, dreams don’t predict anything. I think that, since we often see things we’ve thought or talked about during the day, dreams serve to ‘clean up’ clutter from the mind, much like clean up operations in a computer, refreshing the mind to prepare for the next day. In which case, should we try to force what we dream about? Will it harm the clear-out? Where would we be if Pharaoh had chosen to dream about something else and Joseph interpreted that instead? Perhaps, instead, we should follow the advice of Muhammad Ali: the best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.