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Dreams! The curiosity about dreams is almost as universal and ancient as human existence. Like the mist and disappearing fog, the images, and thoughts we become confusedly aware of disappears with the realities of the rising sun, and yet sometimes, dreams imprint themselves from just confusing thoughts and images to create the unknown future, leaving us with something far more vivid than life itself.
Where do dreams come from? This question has fascinated scientists, philosophers and spiritualists for many years. Dreams have been suggested as gateways to the voices of gods or God. Modern science says we all dream at least two hours each night (Hahaha… I know… I do not know how many minutes you remember after each night’s sleep though) but today let us reflect on dreams and dreaming, shall we?
Linguistically, the English word ‘dream’ is alluded to have had a Viking influence with two possible meanings. Dreams probably originated from a common usage among the Old Norse ‘draumr’, the Danish ‘drøm’, the Swedish ‘dröm’ and Old Saxon ‘drom’ which meant “joy, mirth, noisy merriment, even music” or the Old Frisian ‘dram’, the Dutch ‘droom’, an Old High German ‘troum’, a German ‘Traum’ all are perhaps from a Proto-Germanic “draugmas” which meant “deception, illusion, phantasm, to deceive, delude, or even ghost”. It appears dreams from its very conception have always left men a fork in the road with but one option; a path to joy and mirth or to illusions and phantoms. A fork we explore in this article, but first stories.
Amongst the Romans, dreamers climbed the Ocris. The dreamer was the idler, the daydreamer, from the Latin “dreamere” meaning the “musician.” (If I were speaking, it would have been a good time to say, stay with me, we are going somewhere… Lol). The Ocris is a broken, rugged and stony mountain. The climber had to be crazy and consumed in order to want to embark on this audacious journey. The climbing of a broken, rugged and stony mountain, all in pursuit of an image and thought that was culturally adapted as excelling, a dream. The dreamer exchanges time and reality to chase the images and thoughts he has confusedly become aware of so as to find rhythm and flow; melody and harmony; even beauty. If the biological urge to settle for the most comfortable option made the dreamer settle halfway to the summit of a difficult mountain, he was said to be a mediocre, having settled in the middle of Ocris. It therefore reasons that, to even be average, one had to be a dreamer, at least amongst the Romans.
What if a Ghanaian president had a dream for Ghana to go to the moon? I can almost hear your laughter, but hold on to the humour in that thought, not so fast. In his new play, ‘Take Me to the Moon’, James Ebo Whyte explores a Presidential journey to Ocris. A journey of what pursuing the thoughts and images we have become confusedly aware of may cost us and how ridiculous the pursuit may be to the realists. President Boamah Kwadwo (BK), a divorcee whose ex-wife is his harshest critique and sworn enemy pursues a dream handed over to him by this same woman who hates the very idea of his presidency. He dreams of winning the love of his ex-wife whiles giving the nation an inspiration, even music as the dreamer he is. The play has the right conflicts, pitching dreamers against realists, telling our common human stories of wanting love and yet hoping to be inspirations to the rest of the world. Before I give the story away for my love of the play, let us attempt an answer to the question of where dreams come from. Let us reflect on the answer from the Greeks.
The Roman Poet, Publius Ovidius Naso known in contemporary times as Ovid born on March 20, 43 BCE, tells us about the Greeks and their conception of dreams through his imaginative interpretation of Classical myth. In his work ‘Metamorphoses’, he tells the stories of creation of the universe from Chaos into Order. The Greeks believed that Chaos was the mother of all creation, from whom all things emerge. ‘Chaos was the invisible air and gloom of the fog and mist.’ Chaos was believed as the mother and grandmother of other misty essences including heaven, night, day, spirits, air, sleep and dreams. All things real yet intangible seem to proceed from Chaos. Void and emptiness thus have children of which dream is but one. Although utter confusion and Void is the beginning of creation, a formless elementary state of all that exists, Ovid emphasises three sons of dream who are grandchildren of Chaos: Phobetor, Phantasos, and Morpheus.
Phobetor is the frightener, the source of all phobias. Phobetor often plays on the dreamer’s worst fears. Phobetor has no true physical form and may assume the form most feared by the dreamer who welcomes him into his mind. Dreams originating from Phobetor become our Nightmares. The dreamer can only be paralysed by the fear of the frightener, attuned to reality, and compelled to do what is necessary to preserve the comfort of his survival – mediocrity.
Phobetor however has a brother; Phantasos. Unlike his brother who paralyses with fear, he charms with surreal fantasies. He is however a bit more dangerous than his brother because he does not frighten us into inaction, he tricks us into deception. He bids us towards folly, fixated on the pursuit for honeymoon. When the dreamer is caught under Phantasos’ spell, he is incapable of prudence or fear, led only by the passion of the dream and yet full of doubts for lack of reason.
Morpheus may be known to us from The Matrix, the guide of Neo who offers the popular red pill. Morpheus was however known by the Greeks as a messenger of the gods, he carried divine messages to help mankind make an election at the fork in the road, to guide man towards the path destined, whether of fear or of fantasies. Morpheus had the form of a man and morphed the dreamer into the image of the gods through dreams.
It appears these triplets of dream have become our pathway to finding meaning out of the vastness of our void. The seeds of thoughts and images called dreams become the passion that morphs us as human beings: driven by fear, in pursuit of fantasies or constrained by the judgement of God towards His very image and after His likeness.
So back to the President who wants to take Ghana to the moon. Is he motivated by the fear of failing as a president or he is just a romantic president pursuing a fantasy from an ex-wife, or his dream is a journey ordained by God to redefine the African narrative as a second-class human being? If we are all honest, we will realise our dreams are of equal measures of fear, faith and fate. The Greek triplets of dreams hang on all of our dreams and yet we must surrender the dream to Passion.
Passion is the force by which the misty, foggy and confusing thoughts and images we have become aware of morphs and define us. Dreams make us either by constraining us to fear, inspiring in us faith or leading us to destiny irrespective of fear or pleasure. The messages of dreams are therefore primarily of passion to execute, and no human being perfectly tells the stories of dreams and passion better than Harriet Tubman, so let us conclude on Aunty Harriet, shall we?
Born enslaved on a plantation between 1820 and 1822 in Maryland to Harriet Green and Benjamin Ross. Her birth name was Araminta Ross, a name she changed when she finally gained her freedom taking the Harriet from her mother and Tubman from her husband. She suffered many abuses from slavers as a child, but when she was twelve years she tried to intervene in the beating of an enslaved man and was hit on the forehead with a weight that left her forehead open, with severe headaches and narcolepsy for the rest of her life. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that makes people have sleep attacks, they may suddenly fall asleep at any time, during any type of activity (Yes, it is a thing, the disorder that makes you sleep… Lol).
Harriet married John Tubman, a free man in 1844. At the risk of being sold by her slavers, she escaped, leaving her husband behind, to Philadelphia. Thought of as drowned, her husband married again. She soon after returned to Maryland to rescue her family only to wake up to the broken heart that her husband had married another woman.
The interesting fact about Harriet Tubman that is relevant for this article is her dreams and visions, the experience of strange visions and vivid dreams which she believed were premonitions from God. She was sure God had told her to come back to Maryland to save her husband only to realise that he had married again, impassioned by the pain of both slavery and loss of her marriage, she became devoted to helping enslaved people escape. She became known as ‘the Moses’ leading in the liberation of more than 750 enslaved people in her lifetime.
A dream to endure the frightening enslaved escape through the mountains in pursuit of fantasy of freedom, all started with a visceral dream which transformed an ordinarily woman to one of the greatest abolitionists in history. Dreams given to passion to overcome the fear of failure and the folly of doubt so she may see her dreams bear fruits; fruits that the African was not a property, not owned by the slavers, that the African was as much in the image and likeness of God as any other race. Dreams that became a reality, not only for her but has served as an inspiration for many generations.
So, looking towards the future, imagery like BK from Uncle Ebo’s ‘Take me to the Moon’ reminds us to have dreams of our own, dreams that the African is not inferior and treated any less amongst any people, dreams that Africa is not constrained by the borders arbitrarily created while Europeans scrambled for Africa. Dreams that Africans become economically independent and not only engineered as a colony that produces raw materials for the well-being of other races. Dreams that we are leaders in Science and Technology creating a well-harmonised society of respect, love and dignity for all its people. So, when you go and watch the play and the Chief of Staff says, “We all have to bring our A-game to the table because we are going to the moon”, when she says, “May God bless our homeland Ghana”, allow those dreams to send some chills along your spine, experience some goosebumps and be born by the passion that morphs men into fulfilling dreams.
My name is Yaw Sompa and I have a dream.