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Jews and Dreams

2 Apr

Having been absent from this blog for quite a while, I’m grateful to Ira Barouch for this guest post. My getting online at the end of Passover with a post inspired by a Chanukah workshop may seem out wildly out of sync, and I do apologize to Ira for my slowness (I’m still distracted by preparing for my upcoming move).

On the other hand, the timing has continuity: Around Chanukah, as Ira notes, the Jewish cycle of reading the Torah in small sections lands on the story of Joseph interpreting the dreams of Pharoah—a biblical event that facilitates the survival of Abraham’s descendents during widespread famine by bringing them to Egypt. Passover celebrates the Jews’ subsequent exodus from Egypt, the beginning of 40 years of miraculous survival in the desert on the way to the Promised Land.

Jews and Dreams

by Ira Barouch

For thousands of years the Jewish people have been fascinated by the notion of extracting valuable messages from dreams. Jewish culture has been in the forefront of the study and practice of dream interpretation, beginning with the ancient biblical prophesies of Jacob and his son Joseph in Genesis, to the “mysticism” of the medieval era’s berekhat (tractates, or sections of the Talmud), to the sexually charged instinctual wishes of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory that boldly ushered in the 20th century, and continuing all the way up to the trendy contemporary “Kabbalah” practices popularized by Madonna and other celebrities.

On a Saturday in early December my wife, Helen, and I attended a Chanukah retreat in White Plains, sponsored by Westchester Jewish Community Services. In addition to workshops that practiced mindful meditation, chanting, and yoga, the program included two fascinating presentations that illuminated the long Jewish tradition of dream interpretation. As a psychoanalyst, I was intrigued.

“Pharoah’s Dream,” digital pop art giclee print by Israeli artist Mike Darnell

 

Rabbi Molly Karp, religious school principal at Temple B’nai Chaim in Georgetown, CT, led a workshop entitled “Spirit Dreams: The Joseph Cycle,” referring to the section of the Torah traditionally studied around Chanukah. Our group, which included a few other local rabbis, sat around a large table and took turns reading and discussing portions of this ancient text. The narrative follows the spiritual development of Joseph through his uncannily insightful interpretations of his own and others’ dreams. The cycle features the two universally recognized dreams that so troubled the Egyptian Pharaoh, in which he envisioned “seven fat calves followed by seven lean calves.” Joseph had gained a reputation as a keen interpreter of dreams while falsely imprisoned in an Egyptian dungeon, and when he was summoned to interpret the Pharoah’s two dreams, he immediately understood them as a divine prophecy from God and warned that seven abundant years would be followed by seven extremely lean years. Continue reading

Nora Ephron’s bedbug dream

30 Jun
Nora Ephron in April 2010 (photo by David Shankbone, from Wikipedia Commons)

Nora Ephron in April 2010
(photo by David Shankbone,
from Wikipedia Commons)

A small item to contribute to the memorialization of New Yorker Nora Ephron, who died this week. It’s been on my list of posts to write for more than a year now, and it comes from a New York Observer article (11/10/10) by Chloe Malle that appeared shortly after the publication of Ephron’s book I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections, which happened to be at the time when New York was experiencing its bedbug panic:

Nora Ephron has many unanswered questions. Is this the beginning of the end? And will they go away or is it like the plague? The director of Julie and Julia adjusted her black booted ankle, pulling it closer to the seat of the white tufted couch in her guest living room. “You know the science fiction ending where the world has only bugs left? Is this it? And why do they say crazy as a bedbug? They seem to know exactly what they’re doing.” Ms. Ephron sat placidly in the living room of the guest apartment several floors below the one she shares with husband Nick Pileggi.

She hasn’t thought about bedbugs today, though she did dream about them recently. “Don’t you think everyone has had a dream about bedbugs?” She asked. What was her dream? “That we had one! I don’t remember anything else except that I woke up and said, ‘I dreamed we had bedbugs,’ and Nick said, ‘Of course you did,’ and that was the end of it.”

What about you? Have you had a dream about a bedbug? I don’t remember having any, and that’s fine with me!

 

Lever House and Laos, linked by a dream symbol

14 Jun
Carol Cassidy

Carol Cassidy

On April 14, I was struck by the synchronicity of discovering that Carol Cassidy was here in New York, halfway around the world from where her traditional weaving company, Lao Textiles, is based in Vientiane. It was just a couple of weeks after I had first heard of Cassidy while reading online about Laos, which I was doing because I’d been contacted by someone based there, a friend of my late friend Nicole Carstens.

A Weaves of Cambodia weaver

A Weaves of Cambodia weaver
(photos from Weaves of Cambodia)

Immediately after seeing the calendar listing on the 14th for Cassidy’s appearance at the Asia Society, I hurried into Manhattan to meet her. Later that day, I wrote a post about her and the “meaningful coincidence” I had experienced.

Unexploded land mine (Photo from CSHD)

Unexploded land mine (Photo from CSHD)

That post included some information I learned about her after meeting her. The post mentions that Cassidy also runs a textile workshop in Cambodia, Weaves of Cambodia, which employs local residents who have had limbs amputated after being injured by land mines still buried in the countryside from the war in Vietnam and the Cambodian civil war.

A few days later, I emailed Carol Cassidy to tell her the post was up, and she replied on April 17 with this observation:

So much of our traditional weaving is animist imagery. They are complex designs and have layers of meaning. I have come to believe that many of the designs are graphic depictions of dreams, dreams shaped by beliefs and how the weaver interprets the universe. Most Lao see this world and the spirit world directly linked. I often refer to the complex brocade imagery, like the noble Siho or the agile climbing monkey that represent this link as “Woven Dreams.” Lao-Tai weaving is about as close to dream imagery in weaving as you can get. Creating these woven masterpieces, thread by thread has helped me understand the thoughts and beliefs of their creators. Continue reading

Spring color quest (3): Finally, an explosion of color

2 Jun

(Read the first and second installments.)

Excuse the cliché, but it’s precise in the case of the dream I’ll tell later in this post as I wrap up this three-part color quest.

Colombia (CIA World Factbook map)

Colombia (CIA World Factbook map)

A good place to hunt for color would be New York’s flower district, although I haven’t been there lately. But watching, on April 17 and 18, a travel brochure–type DVD about Colombia from the library, I learned that a significant portion of the flowers sold in New York come from that South American country. Several Colombian distributors displayed at the World Floral Expo trade show at Jacob Javits Center on the west side of Manhattan.

I learned from the DVD that the Colombian flower trade is old enough to have folkloric customs, among them the silleteros, “artisans who carry elaborate flower arrangements known as ‘silletas’ on their backs as they parade through the streets during Medellin’s annual Flower Fair held in August,” to quote Colombia Reports. Silleteros came to New York to “parade through the streets of Manhattan in New York…as part of the Latin American Folkloric Dance Festival” in 2009. Of course, I missed both the 2009 visit (maybe there’ve been more since?) and the trade show, but I’ve found more about silleteros on the site of Human Flower Project, a nice discovery in its own right (“an international newsgroup, photo album and discussion of humankind’s relationship with the floral world”). HFP explains: Continue reading

Spring color quest (2): Pluralistic color

1 Jun

(Read the first installment, “March flowers brought May showers.”

My next ventures in search of color tended toward more pluralistic sources than Macy’s or Merriam-Webster, 3M Post-it Notes or an educational institution the size of New York University.

For a more heartfelt depiction of Brazilian color than the Macy’s flower show could offer, the next day (March 31) I finally checked out of the library a DVD I’d been seeing on the shelf for many months, Colors of a Creative Culture, by David Zucker.

Continue reading

Spring color quest (1): March flowers brought May showers

31 May

“May flowers” came in March’s near-record warmth here this year, and long before Memorial Day, New York’s flora had replaced much of its flower color with leaf green in shades of spring and even summer. Combined with the stretches of gray overcast we’ve had since March, the weather left me longing for more color at times, although I didn’t realize it until I noticed that color was on other people’s minds, too.

Around March 6, looking something up on the Huffington Post site for a NYC client, I stumbled upon an article about a Hindu festival of color called Holi. It looks like a a holiday I would happily embrace. I went to one of New York’s Little Indias to see what I could see, but I was too late.

Coloured powder cakes Hindus celebrating Holi (photo from The Huffington Post)

Coloured powder cakes Hindus celebrating Holi (photo from The Huffington Post)

Continue reading

Tikkun olam TV

24 May

It’s Thursday night, which has been a great TV-viewing night for me this season. First at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, Missing on ABC (channel 7 in NYC), with Ashley Judd as a middle-aged ex-CIA operative kicking butt all over Europe to find her kidnapped teenage son, without (implausibly) having lost any of her dexterity, quickness, or endurance. Then at 9 p.m., Touch, Fox’s (channel 5’s) new Kiefer Sutherland vehicle, in which he’s the rather morose and insecure (i.e., anti–Jack Bauer) father of an autistic 12-year-old, Jake. And finally, at 10 p.m. on NBC (channel 4), Awake, a superbly imaginative cop show starring Jason Isaacs.

Missing aired its season finale last week. It has neither New York nor dream content, so enough said here about that series. Awake takes place in L.A., but hey, the LAPD detectives put an ex–New York couple into witness protection in one episode, and anyway, Awake is all about dreams.

Awake, or not?

"Awake," on NBC: Jason Isaacs, Laura Allen, Dylan Minnette

“Awake,” on NBC: Jason Isaacs, Laura Allen, Dylan Minnette

His shrinks say not, he says always. Detective Britten has been in an accident that has killed either his wife or his teenage son. Carrying on with life, he wakes up with his wife, goes to sleep, wakes up having his son alive. Always alternating. The psychiatrist in his wife-survived reality tell him, “I assure you, this isn’t a dream,” and he replies, “That’s exactly what the other shrink says”—the psychiatrist in the son-survived reality. Both shrinks keep urging him to accept that his other “existence” is just a dream, a way of denying the loss. “I have no interest in getting better,” he tells them; as it is now, he still has his wife and he still has his son—just not at the same time Continue reading

Fire in the Sky

6 May

Today is the 75th anniversary of the crash of the airship Hindenburg at the Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

The Hindenberg burns (Photo from the Lakehurst Naval Air Station website)

The Hindenberg burns
(Photo from the Lakehurst Naval Air Station website)

(Other views can be seen at Airships.net.)

The Hindenberg was 804 feet long and 15 stories tall, according to the New York Daily News today, and I think if that thing were seen flying around Manhattan in our era, it would induce more than a few nightmares. (The Daily News’s page 1 headline today was “Evil’s Smile,” about the all-day arraignment at Guantanamo Bay of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others.) Continue reading

Joe Bonamassa dreams

2 May

Meaning: both blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa’s dreams (at least he’s written songs saying so) and dreams of Joe Bonamassa (not mine; I didn’t know his name or his music until today).

I get to write about this here because today Amazon pointed me to one of his albums (still not sure why, or what the connection was) when I looked up a book mentioned in some work for a client in New York City. (Bonamassa is also from New York, but way upstate: New Hartford, near Utica.)

“Woke Up Dreaming” is a track on Blues Deluxe. This live version, recorded at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on March 11, 2011, is more fabulous guitar work than vocals—and that’s just fine:

“Woke Up Dreaming,” Joe Bonamassa in Green Bay

Continue reading

From a quilt to a dream: Double image

30 Apr

My most recent post was about a quilt by Luke Haynes that depicts, in a single image resembling a double exposure, both Jay-Z and Kanye West. I wrote the post on 4/27 and yesterday added the observation that this effect is “so like a phenomenon that’s common in dreams—the conviction that something is both this and that. An apple and a tomato. Daytime and nighttime. Jay-Z and Kanye.” Here’s a slightly different view than what I used in the previous post; this one shows the double-image effect better.

Luke Haynes's quilt, different view

Luke Haynes's quilt, different view
(image from LukeHaynes.com)

(FYI, I’m confused about the title; on the other view, it’s given as “The Throne,” but on this one it might be “Rags to Riches.”)

This morning my dreaming mind provided me with an example, in which the person I’m talking to is two ex–significant others from waking life in one dream person. It can be difficult to get this type of double exposure down in writing, because the image and identification get slippery: At any given moment, is the dream character K. or is he L.? He’s both.

After-Sick Coastal Drive (4/30/12)

At home: a many-story, crystalline atrium. It’s gently lit throughout; the effect is uneven, because of its crystalline angles. For an atrium, it’s relatively narrow. It’s nighttime. Continue reading