Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Gustav Klimt " Death and Life Completed " 1916


In my experience, there is a wealth of material hidden in everyone`s dreams. In the rush to invalidate Freud`s theories, researchers have reduced his groundbreaking work on dreams to mere literature, philosophizing. Dreams have been attributed to the random firing of neurons, to upset stomachs, to various aches and pains. Researchers attempting to use the "scientific method" have discovered remarkable correlates between brain functioing and observed maladaptive behavior such as schizophrenia, depression, bi-polar disorder. Many of these researchers would disagree with my use of the term "correlates". It is their belief that it will eventually be possible to explain all human behavior as a reflection of brain activity.

The work of clinicians who report their findings in individual case studies, psychiatrists and psychologists who accept the brain researchers` findings as neurological correlates, not as causality, is dismissed as "soft research". My 30 years experience as a clinical psychologist has always been defined by viewing man as something more than his/her overt behavior, yet at the same time acknowledging the inherent power of the scientific method. In fact, my dissertation was an early attempt to measure subjective "existential" values using advanced statistical techniques. All of this said, I believe that dreams address both individual and group concerns.

In my experience, depending on the individual`s state of mind and psychological makeup, there are three levels of interpretation that can be analyzed from some but not all dreams. The level of interpretation is directly related to the depth that the dream may reach before the individual`s anxiety tolerance forces wakefulness.

A person`s ability to tolerate anxiety while dreaming seems somewhat fluid, depending on their mental state while awake. A person feeling relatively stress-free, with a good mental outlook, will be more open to experience deeper levels of the dream experience. It is also my belief that individuals who have been open to the creative process are more amenable to experience their dreams at the deepest level.

The first level of a dream generally is referenced to the individual`s daily life. The happenings of the previous days[s] present themselves to the dreamer in fairly undisguised form, easily open to free association.

However, if the dreamer remains sleeping, his/her personal unresolved conflicts become part of the dream pattern. It is at this level that many of us experience repetitive dreams as the ego continually tries to remove the cathected [bound] libidinal energy from earlier unresolved conflicts in our life. Dream interpretation through free association is especially valuable here as these unresolved conflicts and their cathected energy constitute much of our defensive posture. It is the unresoved, anxiety arousing earlier experiences that define our personality, that posture that allows others to define us and helps narrow our exposure to similar experiences. In dreaming, we are generally awakened at this point; the cathected energy often appears as anxiety, causing nightmares and/or restlessness.

Finally, and rarely, there is a level of dreaming that is archtypical, that is part of all of us, the stuff of thousands of years of animal experience. Only the most courageous and those most open to the creative experience will generally see more than a glimpse of these primitive id strivings before nightmares drive us to wakefulness. These are the dreams of the human unsocialized, dreams that reveal our strivings toward immortality. Dreams that define us as human and condemn us to death and finiteness.


Sunday, May 21, 2006


It`s only at night, when shadows come alive.

Barbara worked at "All-nite Diner", and the thought of walking home always gave pause. Jamesford was an old town, sustaining itself by its proximity to the interstate. Barbara had grown up here, the fourth generation of Irish stock; like most girls growing up in small towns, she had had her dreams.

Senior year of high school, her English teacher had encouraged her writing. Mrs. Abrams praised her bright mind, her imagination. In twelve years of school she had been very lonely, had only the friends that presented themselves at night, that seemed to materialize next to her bed.

At first, she would close her eyes and cry out to her mother, who would rush in to comfort her. "Bobbie, it`s ok, only a dream" her mother would say, holding her in her arms. As Barbara grew older and her mother responded to her angrily, more dismissively, the nightly visits becoming tiresome, Barbara first felt the terror of loneliness.

She prayed to God to spare her these dreams, yet even in the midst of her supplications she felt their reality. The two figures stood before her each night, unspeaking. One of the figures was a child, perhaps four or five. Very silent, her face blank, a slight downturn to the lips. She seemed within herself, by herslf, lonely.

The other figure was ephemeral in its blackness. It seemed a man, tall, dressed in black, a hat pulled down concealing his eyes. It seemed not real next to the child, its figure vacillating between distinct and something else. Something that reminded her of a Hologram, like Princess Leiah in "Star Wars", something from the past.

After many, many visits there came a time when Barbara became bolder. The figures must be here for some reason! She must find out what was their meaning, why they appeared to her each night.

That evening, the two figures appeared as usual, standing to the right of the bed. Instead of lying there passively, Barbara abruptly pulled herself up and sat on the side of the bed closest to them. "Who are you? Why are you here?" she asked.

The dark man turned his body to her and raised his head slightly, enough that she glimpsed his face. His eyes were blue and kindly and the smile on his lips allowed her heart to slow.

"We are here because you summoned us, Barbara. Please don`t be afraid."

"But who are you, how did I ask for you?"

"We are always here. We are always everywhere, at everyone`s side. Waiting to be beckoned, to be seen. Most people, late at night, have seen us. But most people are not as open to us as you, Barbara. For most people, we are seen only for a split second, when they awaken in the middle of the night, perhaps from a dream. As they open their eyes, we appear; they see us and startle. Most of them dismiss us and turn us into shadows, a dress laying on a chair, a coat hanging in a dark closet. People have that power. Others are frightened and turn on their bedside lamps in order to drive away the shadows, drive away their fear of us. But we are always there."

"And there are the special people, like you, Barbara. Those who open their eyes at night but also open their minds. Who lie awake and wait for us, looking in the shadows. And to them do we appear."

Barbara was nervous, wary. "But who are you? What do you want of me?"

The tall man looked kindly into Barbara`s eyes. "I am He who is. Nothing more. I am here to protect you. To give you solace. Gabrielle here, is my gift to you. She will be with you always. Remember her."

"Are you Jesus?"

"I am the Son of Man."

"I`m so confused. What do you want of me?"


"Faith is so hard. Life is so hard. I have no friends, no money, no love. How can I have Faith in You or anything?"

"If you have Faith, then you will have all that you need. Rest assured."

Barbara felt the tears running down her cheeks. Faith and love were so hard for her. Her life had given her so little of these things. Yet she was overwhelmed by this meeting. Could Jesus really love her so much? He would appear to her?

"I appear to everyone, in some way, Barbara" said the tall man. "Yet many choose not to see. Faith is not for the faint of heart. It must be freely given to Me."

Barbara realized that the tall man had known what she was thinking! "Oh, God, forgive me! And I have Faith in you."

"Then you will have all that you need." With that, the tall man seemed to fade, as if a hologram. Gabrielle approached her, touched her hand. And Barbara felt a melding, a blending. She felt peaceful and fell asleep.


Sunday, May 14, 2006


I remember my first day of school. As I think back, this was a year before my brother was born, yet I am unsure whether we had moved into my Grandmother`s house.

My first memory of living in my Grandmother`s house was the day that my father brought my mother and brother home from the hospital after his birth. My sister and I were at the top of the stairs on the second floor, looking down into the living room. We must have been living there for some months or my sister and I were quick learners; it`s clear to me now that we had already learned the first rule of living with my Grandmother and Aunt Mary, “Children are to be quiet, unobtrusive.”

I remember bending down, peering through the newels at the top of the staircase. I could feel the excitement in the adults, the very fact that a bassinet was set up in the parlor signalled the importance of this day. I could feel the impatience in my older sister. She was squirming, smiling, unable to control her agitation. Yet she knew the rules; we were not allowed in the parlor unless we were walking through to reach the kitchen and the unheated shed behind it, where she and I ate our meals. My Aunt Mary did not like to be disturbed by children at mealtimes and in this house, her word was law.

Finally, all of the adults had taken turns holding the baby and my mother put him down in the bassinet. She looked up to us and told us to come down and meet our new brother. My sister raced down the stairs to our mother, “Can I hold him, can I, Please!”

“Yes, Dolores, but you must be very careful. Babies are fragile and can be hurt easily.”

“Yes, Mom, I`ll be very careful. Please!”

My mother told Dolores to sit on the chair next to the bassinet and she picked up my brother and put him in her arms. “Oh, Mom, Dad. He`s beautiful! Such a baby!”

I slowly walked over to my sister and looked at the bundle in her arms. So small, and with blonde hair! And so important! Even my Aunt Mary stood over him, smiling down at him. My father stood further back, silent but happy. The next thing I remember is being on the stairs, looking down on the scene. Had I done something wrong? Or was I just nervous being in the parlor?

On my first day of school my mother brought me behind the church we attended to a large brown building, squared, many windows. I was carrying a schoolbag with pencils, an eraser and a notebook. My sister wished me good luck and ran off to the schoolyard to be with her friends and my mother led me to the entrance to the first grade schoolroom. She bent down and kissed me, saying that she would be back at noon to bring me home.

“Vinnie, be a good boy and do what the Sister says.”

“Yes, Mom. See you later.”

I entered the classroom, saw that the desks were nearly full with kids. Near the back of the room there were two empty desks and I slid into the closest one. I noticed that the other kids had their pencils and notebooks open on their desks so I did the same, just finishing putting my schoolbag behind me when the Sister in front of the room spoke.

“Good morning, students.”

“Good morning Sister”, the class replied.

“Welcome to your first day of class at Our Lady of the Holy Souls School. We will start each morning with a prayer to Our Blessed Mother. How many of you have learned to say the ‘Hail Mary’? Please raise your hand.” Most of the children waved their hands, some saying “I do, Sister, I do!”

“Please children, the first rule of my class. Children do not speak until spoken to. It`s sufficient to raise your hand. I`m very happy that so many of you have learned the ‘Hail Mary’. Let us pray.”

As we recited the words as best we could, I looked around the room. Behind Sister`s desk was a large blackboard, something I had only seen in pictures. Encircling the room were what I knew to be the letters of the alphabet. I could see A, B, C, then a jumble. I knew they were letters, had seen my sister`s books and my father`s newspaper, but I hadn`t been taught their meaning. I felt something inside, a nervousness. Suppose the rest of the kids knew their letters?

After the prayer was completed Sister turned to the blackboard and wrote letters in white chalk. “Children, my name is Sister Bernadine. I have written it here on the blackboard. In a few short weeks, you will have memorized its spelling. I will leave it here on the blackboard next to these two words, which you will also know by heart.” Sister wrote more letters on the board and said “These letters spell the words ‘Live Jesus’. They will be the words that will always be closest to your hearts. Learn them well and you will live them.”

I noticed when Sister Bernadine said the word Jesus, she slightly bowed her head, just as we were taught to do in church. I waited for her to repeat His Name so that I could show that I learned my first lesson. Instead she told us to open our notebooks and pick up a pencil. We were going to do our first schoolwork!

Sister asked the class “How many of you know your numbers? Raise your hands.”

I could feel the nervousness in my belly as I saw the room full of upraised hands. Not mine. I didn`t know my numbers, hadn`t ever been taught. Sister told us our first assignment was to write a page of the number 1, being careful to keep inside the lines. Most of the children bent to the task and I followed their example, bowing my head over my notebook. I tried to see what the girl sitting next to me was writing, maybe I could see how to write 1 without drawing attention to myself. I could feel tears in my eyes, couldn`t see what she was writing. What a dummy I was!

At this point, I felt Sister bending down to me, gently saying, “Let me write the first one for you. Then you can finish the page like the others.” I was so relieved.

Following her example, I copied the 1, filling the page with numbers overflowing the lines. No matter, I had finished my first schoolwork and could hardly wait for my mother to pick me up after class.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

" S " ---- Special Guest Post

Photo and Flowers by "S"

Say over again, and yet once over again,
That thou dost love me. Though the word repeated
Should seem a "cuckoo song," as thou dost treat it,
Remember, never to the hill or plain,
Valley and Wood, without her cuckoo strain
Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed.
Beloved, I, amid the darkness greeted
By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt's pain
Cry, "Speak once more- thou lovest!" Who can fear
Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll,
Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year?
Say thou dost love me, love me, love me; toll
The silver iterance, only minding, dear,
To love me also in silence with thy soul.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sonnets from the Portuguese
verse xxi

Sunday, May 07, 2006


G. H. Boughton [1883 - 1905] "Road To Camelot"

The Lusty Month of May

From Camelot the musical

(In a Castle garden the Queen and the courtiers are a-maying)

Tra la! It's May!The lusty month of May!
That lovely month when ev'ryone goes
Blissfully astray
Tra la! It's here!That shocking time of year!
When tons of wicked little thoughts
Merrily appear
It's May! It's May!That gorgeous holiday

When ev'ry maiden prays that her lad
Will be a cad!
It's mad! It's gay!
A libelous display
Those dreary vows that ev'ryone takes
Ev'ryone breaks
Ev'ryone makes divine mistakes
The lusty month of May!

Whence this fragrance wafting through the air?
What sweet feelings does its scent transmute?
Whence this perfume floating ev'rywhere?
Don't you know it's that dear forbidden fruit!
Tra la la la la. That dear forbidden fruit!Tra la la la la

(Knights and Ladies) Tra la la la la!

(Guenevere) Tra la la la la!

(Knights and Ladies) Tra la la la la!

(Guenevere) Tra la!
(Knights and Ladies) Tra la!
(Guenevere) Tra la!
(Knights and Ladies) Tra la!

(Guenevere)Tra la la la la la la la la la la laLa la!
It's May!The lusty month of May!
That darling month when ev'ryone throws
Self-control away
It's time to do
A wretched thing or two
And try to make each precious day
One you'll always rue

It's May! It's May!
The month of "yes, you may,"
The time for ev'ry frivolous whim
Proper or "im"
It's wild! It's gay!
A blot in ev'ry way
The birds and the bees with all of their vast
Amorous past
Gaze at the human race aghast

(Guenevere, Knights and Ladies) The lusty month of May!

(Guenevere)Tra la! It's May!The lusty month of May!

(Knights and Ladies)
That lovely month when ev'ryone goes
Blissfully astray
Tra la! It's here!
That shocking time of year!
When tons of wicked little thoughts
Merrily appear
It's May! It's May!
The month of great dismay

When all the world is brimming with fun
Wholesome or "un"

(Guenevere, Knights and Ladies)
It's mad! It's gay!
A libelous display
Those dreary vows that ev'ryone takes
Ev'ryone breaks
Ev'ryone makes
divine mistakes
The lusty month of May!

***All lyrics posted copyright 1960 Alan Jay Lerner and
Frederick Loewe Chappell & Co., Inc., Warner Bros. Publications U.S. Inc

When i was very young, I saw "Camelot" the last month before Richard Burton & Julie Andrews left the show on Broadway!

V {Posted for the third May in a row!}

Friday, May 05, 2006



In trying to understand the waste in the death of my friend, I`m drawn again to the work of the Anthropologist Ernest Becker. In his seminal works, “The Denial of Death” and “Escape From Evil”, published posthumously, Becker ponders the central problem of human existence, the human as part animal-part god. We are that which has self knowledge as the Gods, yet are aware that we are flesh and blood and must die. It is that self awareness of our mortality that drives us to attempt to transcend our fate through the value we place in certain cultural institutions.

The power of the state and religion are poignant examples of our attempts to identify with immortal institutions, to become something larger than oneself. And yet, Becker ponders why the destructiveness and evil in our history, why such viciousness in the name of our cultural institutions?

For him and for me, the answer lies in that dichotomy of god-animal that separates us from the unthinking, that gift from the Creator so exquisitely described in the Book of Genesis. We are the animal that must feel heroic in order to transcend death anxiety, yet are inundated with guilt by our very heroism, our very identification with the cultural institutions of our society. It is guilt at its most primitive level, that which is associated with our feeble attempts to become god-like, to become more than animal.

Becker suggests that it is our expiation of guilt that has led our cultural institutions to engage in countless wars, to sacrifice millions of our kind in service to our own mortality. Those within our ranks who question the “rightness” of our value systems must be persecuted; countries with different ideologies must be destroyed. And yet, through the bloodshed and destruction, a most central part of us realizes the illusion and fetishism inherent in this scapegoating. These destructive acts offer only temporary relief from our knowledge that we are less than Gods, that someday soon we will all die.

Within these wars and murders I believe there are many more victims than the sacrificed. Freud, Rank and Becker spoke of the “artist”. In the widest sense, the artist is he/she who by temperament and life experience is more widely open to the knowledge of his/her own mortality. I believe there are three solutions to this conundrum; “madness”, artistic expression through the use of sublimation and a deep abiding faith in the Creator. I define “madness” in the widest sense, the use of brittle defensive postures to repress primal anxiety. It`s my belief that my friend hadn`t the depth of faith to sustain him through the horrors of Vietnam; I`m not sure if many of us would. Through drug usage he experienced “madness” with no relief. Finally, his life experience, his “Thrownness” into the world, denied him the courage of artistic expression. There was little left for him but the gradual giving in to his mortality through excessive drinking.

Other than the war,I know of little that separates my circumstances from Ed`s. I`ve felt the “madness”, I`ve denied myself artistic expression lo these many years, I`ve had doubts of the Creator. Yet here I am, trying to write, feeling a deeper understanding of the Creator. Ed`s sacrifice is akin to all of us artists, millions of us who struggle to express ourselves, knowing few masterpieces will be created. Yet, we struggle on.