We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep. — William Shakespeare, The Tempest
An artist must dream in order to create. Whether the artist is conscious or unconscious, art is impossible without expressive and intense envisaging. Sometimes the creative effort will require a most intense and penetrating exploration of the realm of the conscious; at other times, the subconscious pulls one into its seemingly fathomless depths.
This post represents nothing more nor less than a very brief colloquy on the subject of the dream state — whether we are speaking of the full or semi variety — as well as the relationship between art and the subconscious.
The philosophical and religious analysis of the stuff of dreams is that which has filled an untold number of volumes. In my humble opinion, dreams — whenever they may occur, whether during the day or at night, or to whatever extent the individual is awake and “present” or somnolent and “removed” — remain one of the most fascinating aspects of human existence.
And yet a daydream isn't actually a dream, is it?
...Or is it?
Before I note a few short words regarding this subject, it is necessary to first speak of dreams themselves.
Among the countless sites online or in print where one may explore the scientific and metaphysical nature of dreams, two locations stood out for me:
First, Robert Stickgold is an associate professor of psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School as well as director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition. On Nova’s site, Dr. Stickgold answers a broad range of questions regarding the subject of dreams as a natural constituent of sleep.
Additionally, it is New York Magazine’s Drake Baer who offers one of the tidiest summaries. In his somewhat brief overview, he notes that dreams may represent a blend of communications from the unconscious mind, the resurrection of disparate memories in action, along with the sorting and cataloging of various data our minds acquire during each conscious session of each 24 hour cycle.
From Sigmond Freud to Carl Jung to Calvin Hall to Ann Faraday to Wallace Clift, dream interpretation has come into favor and then, with the application of more scientific principles, found disfavor as of late. Yet the attraction of dream interpretation is easy to understand.
It was the Dalai Lama who declared that “sleep is the best meditation.” Meditation = sleep also represents a somewhat popular explanation of the unconscious workings of our dream state.
Shakespeare attempted to connect the dream state to that which lies beyond even this mortal realm:
To die, to sleep -
To sleep, perchance to dream - ay, there’s the rub,
For in this sleep of death what dreams may come...
Returning to the subject at hand: Do daydreams constitute meditation? Many would answer in the affirmative, noting that daydreaming may simply be a more creative or even inspired form of meditation. Just as there is REM sleep — that stage of sleep in which dreaming is the most comprehensive or involved — perhaps daydreaming may be thought of as the most intensive form of the conscious creative state.
More specifically, can a daydream reach beyond this mortal sphere? What of those who receive inspiration as they consciously let go of the present? I will forgo broaching this subject further, let alone making any declarative statements on the issue. Let me only say that I believe the question itself is worthy of meditation.
The waking mind is least serviceable to the arts. ― Henry Miller
The are a number of artists who have testified of this reality. And once again, this testifies to the incontrovertible need for conscious, semi-conscious and subconscious dreaming.
One of my favorite quotations on the intersection between the conscious and the subconscious — but more particularly as it relates to the life of the artist — is Vincent van Gogh’s observation: “I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.”
How much of van Gogh’s dreaming was in the semi-conscious (daydream) state is known only to the artist.
As a humble artist, let me simply note that “Daydream” represents my own visualization of the interplay between the conscious and the subconscious, between the real and the surreal, between the wakened and the meditative.
...And if anyone is wondering, yes, some of that which I have daydreamed is represented in this work.