Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Dream Watching

My first engagement with Dream Watching occurred when I was about 20. A peer at a social gathering posed the question: "Do you dream in Technicolor or in Black-and-White." (At that time "technicolor" films were a novelty).

Even though my dreams felt very real, I did not know the answer to this question, nor did my peers. So, in the nights that followed, I observed my dreams.

I found:

  • Dreams are in technicolor.
  • The dream-master uses a policy of extreme economy of "paint." You see the detail of what you are focused on, but the rest of the picture is more "understood to be there" rather than actually seen. When you move your focus, the detail in what you are newly focused on is immediately provided.
  • The style of painting is Caravaggio, rather than El Greco
  • The technique of chiaroscuro is widely used as part of the policy of economy, although the dream-artists are allowed to give extravagant colour-patterns and impressionist effects as special exhibits when required. (I think the latter are more often viewed in the "vacant or reflective mood" prior to sleep than in the actual dreams, which follow Caravaggio pretty loyally).
  • Perspective in dreams is always perfect. This is amazing considering how contrived perspective is in paintings. Dream-artists get it right first time all the time at perhaps 30 frames per second!
Around that time, I took my sketch pad and box of paints up into the mountains. I had an idea that, just by being there, rather than stuck in a room at home, I could magically "capture" the atmosphere of the scene. It was a dull day, and my picture turned out to be a brown-grey mess. Painting is an artifice, and, whether in the studio or en scene, must be contrived.

It is remarkable how Caravaggio managed apparently to copy dream images extremely faithfully. In sleep, or in reflection, we can conjure up amazing images. Stand in front of a canvas, however, and all you have in your head is blank space. You can't project those amazing images onto the canvas: you have to re-create them by artifice.

A few years later, I had occasion to visit Jesuit, Micheál Mac Gréil, at Miltown Park. I paused on my way in to view a large painting that hung over a stairs. "What do you think of that?" asked Mícheál. "It looks like a Caravaggio," I said. "Do you think it's a Caravaggio?" asked Mícheál, "it came down from our house up in Scotland, and it is thought to be by a minor Scottish artist." "Ah no," I said. "I am no expert. I only said that it looks like a Caravaggio. It could, of course, be a copy by a student-artist, or a picture 'in the style of' Caravaggio." The net point of this story is that years later the Jesuits submitted the painting to the National  Art Gallery for cleaning and evaluation, and it turned out to be a genuine Caravaggio, The Taking of Christ, now on view in Ireland's National Art Gallery.

A note on perspective is relevant at this point. We all learned at school that all parallel lines meet on the horizon, and I have seen art-critics rehash this principle as if it were gospel truth. A neighbour of mine (now deceased) propounded to me the theory that the preaching classes (teachers, preachers, journalists, politicians and critics) are people who are not able to do anything (i.e., do not excel at any craft) and, therefore, make out in professions where all they have to do is preach. The idea that all parallel lines meet on the horizon is true only where the landscape is flat.  Every incline in a landscape produces its own false horizon where its parallels meet. Indeed, where the slope of a rising or falling road is not constant but increasing or decreasing, every change in the slope produces its own horizon.

Here is a photo of a picture I painted about ten years after the initial experiment described above. This again is a "grey" scene: a wintry stormy sea-scene. I did not stand at the location vainly trying to capture the atmosphere in the rain-spotted wind, but took a photograph and returned to my chalet to do the  painting. A photograph itself must be artificed. You can't just whip out your camera and expect to "capture" the atmosphere of the scene. You must select your objects and walk around until they make a satisfactory composition. When you come to paint the scene, you can remember the feeling of the place, leave out unnecessary detail, re-arrange the objects, and manipulate the palate to give the feeling you wish the painting to have.

The over-all wintry grayness is alleviated by choosing objects of high contrast.  The furthest objects are misted down. The golden-brown yellow of the grasses is reflected in the grey sky and brightened with touches of red in the foreground. The road leads down to the sea-front, so is drawn in perspective to a false horizon way below the real one, and leads the eye in to the turbulent waters.

My next bout of dream-watching came years later. I was reading the autobiographical "Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman," of Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winner, and observed how he engaged in a period of Jungian dream-watching. The technique is simple: when you go to bed,  tell yourself that you will observe your dreams. This keeps a part of the brain alert while you are sleeping and you are able to watch the dreams as if you are an outside observer rather than a participant. If you don't understand  something in the dream, you can ask "the Director" of the dream, and he will keep you informed.

Following Feynman's lead, I spent a while observing my dreams. Amazingly, I solved the riddle of all of my childhood nightmares, which had continued to my middle age, but disappeared when resolved.
These nightmares were:

The Greek Temple
I seemed to be inside a Greek Temple. Life was cosy enough there, but I  desired to visit the world outside. (I had wondered if this nightmare was a memory of a previous life). When I approached the door, however, the sunlight outside was so strong that it hurt my eyes, and I retreated to the dim inside. When I was dream-watching, I noticed those spikes that are found in the triangular architectural feature over the door. "How," I asked the dream, "can I see those spikes if I am  inside?" Then I focused closer on the spikes. They were not spikes at all, but frills. The frills, in fact, of the ribbon-thing that hangs down from the shade of a baby's pram. Suddenly, I knew the true story of the dream. My mother would often put the baby's pram outside in the sunshine. The sun gradually moved across the sky, and the pram had to be turned around to keep the sun out of the baby's eyes. On one occasion, the pram had not been turned in time and the sun blinded my eyes as a lay in the pram. This was quite traumatic, and my sub-conscious mind kept stirring the memory until a satisfactory explanation was found, through dream-watching.

The Abyss, or Migraine Dream
I used to wake  up from this dream with a migraine. I dreamt I was but a speck and was hanging from a very thin filament, suspended between two cliffs and overhanging a bottomless abyss. My situation was very  insecure. A good shake of the filament, and I would be thrown off into the abyss. There was a great voice shouting from one cliff and being answered by an equally great voice on the other cliff. The roar of their voices made the cliffs and my filament shake, so I was in grave danger. The voices were those of Hitler and Stalin. Their foreign words were unclear to me, but their meanings were, "I will rule the  world," "No, I will rule the world." Now, observing the dream, I asked, "Are they really the voices of Hitler and Stalin," and no! they were, in fact, the muffled voices of my father and mother. The words were not discernible, but indicated a disagreement. The muffling of the voices was like the muffling of sounds during a migraine aura, so here is the explanation: I was having a migraine while still in my mother's womb. This was the correct explanation, and this dream never recurred after that.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Great Stadium

My elder brother died on Christmas Day, and I think this dream is a reminder that life goes on.

I dream I am in a great and magnificent stadium. It is more extensive than any stadium I have ever seen. There are places in the stadium for multiple activities: a skating area next to a parkland; a swimming area and areas for multiple sports, hurling, football, hockey and so on. There are also cafés and restaurants, theatre areas, concerts, folk groups. There is even a church: a traditional, light-filled, neo-gothic church; but the congregation is outside the building, sitting at café-style tables. Sitting, yes, but also moving around from table to table, smiling and conversing and exchanging ... ideas. They listen to each others' opinions, smile and laugh and shake hands.

Over the entire stadium there is a great dome of a roof. Up there near the edge of the dome there is an extensive platform, and on it is ... my neighbour "Emmet." He is standing on the platform with the nozzle of a hoze in his hands, and with this nozzle he is spraying the ceiling of the dome. He points the nozzle towards the ceiling and sprays a thick stream of cream-coloured paint onto the ceiling. When the stream of paint meets the ceiling, the paint spreads out evenly in every direction. The roof is very large and wide, but Emmet's stream of paint is so strong and copious that it quickly spreads the cream colour over the entire ceiling. The stadium is, however, continually expanding, and, as it expands, the cream colour is stretched and thinned and ultimately begins to crack into a network of little cracks. "Not to worry," says Emmet: "I have it covered," and true to his word, he quickly re-sprays the dome, restoring its lovely cream colour. In all this spraying not a drop falls on the people beneath.

It is clear that "Emmet" is working under the supervision of his brother. No, not his brother "Barry," but his international financier brother that only exists in my dreamland.

Then focus shifts to other people in the stadium, surprisingly ordinary people that I know. But as focus shifts to each one in turn, I see that each featured person has an important function to carry out. A theatrical performance, for example, has a stage-designer that really sets the atmosphere for the performance, besides a stage-manager that keeps the show going like clock-work, in addition to the front-of-stage performers. Sports' teams have trainers and jersey-minders. Throughout the stadium there are myriad people working away, all independently, and all necessary to the smooth operation of the stadium's activities.

Emmet's financier brother does not seem to interfere in anything, yet, in some mysterious way, has a pervading oversight over all.

Oh, oh! Focus shifts to me. What am I supposed to be doing? I stand, up to my waist, in soft potter's clay. I am trying to apply the clay to the moving walls around me to create forms and shapes. A potter normally stands beside a rotating table and, with his hands, shapes a pot from a ball of clay as it rotates. I seem to be inside the rotating thing, trying to shape it from the inside. Well, not entirely: I also  seem to have an external view of the creations. I am using the clay more like a sculptor than a potter, I think. A microphone is placed in my hand, and I am supposed to address the crowd in the stadium. What am I supposed to say? I say:

"Who am I? Well, I was a civil servant and I retired. I was a Chief Examiner of Titles and I retired. Then I became a consultant, a Land Registration Consultant, and then I retired. What am I now? I am trying to be a ... modeller, perhaps."

I saw the eyes of the multitude looking at me approvingly. I had a flash of inspiration. I extended my two arms, palms towards the crowd, and declared: "I am one of the  creators."

At this point I woke up.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Problem Resolution and Hill Walking

It is a long while since I bothered entering a dream into my Dream Diary, but last night's dream was remarkable and deserves a mention. This dream was remarkable for being 100% in the "problem resolving" genre.

I dreamed that it was a bright, sunny morning. An ideal day for hill-walking, but I was committed to attending a conference in town, a consumer consultation on how best to present contours on maps for hill-walkers/ mountain-climbers. No doubt I would be confined all day to a stuffy hotel room. I had in mind to suggest a few things myself: printing of maps for individual hikes, rather than a whole county on a map; printing the maps on plastic, waterproof paper; "print-on-demand" maps, where a client would select the needed area on a computer screen, in a shop in town or online, and the individual map would be printed on the spot, rather than having to have a store of pre-printed maps. I doubted the consultant engaged in the consultation would, however, have any function to absorb strange suggestions, but merely be confined to assessing how consumers would react to a number of different options to be presented.

Another reason why I want to head for the hills, is that I wanted to try out my new "invention" for mountain snacks: a balanced diet in a single, easily prepared, food, that could be held in a plastic tub and eaten with a spoon. This snack would be simply Chia Seeds, (a super-food of the Aztecs) steeped in (an equal quantity of) water for five minutes to form a paste, and enhanced by flavourings such as herbs or spices. My particular choice of flavouring at the moment would be lightly cooked Bramley apples mixed into the chia paste. Chia seeds provide fibre (30%), vegetable oils including unsaturated fats and omega 3 oils (30%), protein (20%) and carbohydrate (20%), so are a complete balanced diet in themselves. They are also rich in minerals and some vitamins. Bramley apples are richer in vitamin C than oranges and give a nice tang. I would also consider adding a spice such as cinnamon or coriander.

As I walk out towards the bus, somewhat dejected at having to go to a stuffy conference while the hills are beckoning, I meet two of my neighbours, Ronnie and Michael, spiritedly bouncing along. They are, in fact, heading for the mountains, and, what's more, they are being paid for it! The Department of Education has woken up to the need to get children out of the obesity culture that has spread over the last number of generations, and restore de Valera's dream of "an athletic youth." Mountain-walking has been at last recognised as a suitable educational activity, teaching map-reading, organisational skills (organising walking groups, bus routes, and so on), nutrition (how best to cater for refuelling needs on the mountain-side), nature study and even maths, as well as enhancing fitness. My two neighbours have received a contract of employment from the department to lead groups of school-children on educational mountain-walking expeditions.

Dream skips to the end of the day and I meet Ronnie and Michael, both dejected. They have been sacked from their new jobs. Why? Well, to have an effective, educational walking trip, you need to provide the students with maps. They went and printed out the maps on the school computers; used up a supply of paper needed for other things, and used the computers for this activity which had not been approved by the school principal; so they were fired. Ah well, how often are government schemes blighted by failure to provide miniscule resources at the implementation level? It may also be a reminder that approval or appointment from the Department is not enough: you also need the support of the local tyrant, in this case the school principal.

Friday, 12 February 2016

The Lotto Win

I have not posted a dream for some months. That's the way it goes with dream-watching. We keep it up for a while and then lose interest and give attention to more  important things.

Today I was leafing through old documents and came across a memorandum of a dream that occurred on 22 January 2014, as follows:

Last night (22 January 2014) I had another psychic dream. I dreamt of somebody winning a large amount of money. This morning, I woke to hear on the radio news of a betting coup that took the bookmakers for several million, Paddy Power alone losing one million.

This recalls a dream I had some years ago of a flood in Cabra, to wake to the radio news of an actual flood in Cabra.

My children, Niamh and Tomas, had experiences of vague dreams about tsunamis in advance of actual tsunamis.

Of course there is more to a dream than the coincidence with outside events. These coincidences are probably only a device used by the subconscious mind to alert us to the importance of the dream itself – in relation to some aspect of our own life. The challenge this morning is to decipher the personal message of last night’s dream.

When I dreamt of a flood in Cabra, the message concerned the break-up of my family. In the dream, the flood, which was more extensive than in real life, prevented the family leaving the Phoenix Park, where we had been having a good time together. Having prevented our exit by the Cabra gate, the flood then invaded the Phoenix Park and caused the separation of the family, as my wife fled the flood with two of the children, while I led the other two to high ground, where we were isolated. Afterwards, when the flood receded, and I re-united with my wife, two of the children were missing. The flood was a metaphor for life. This metaphor often occurs in people’s dreams, and gives rise to the phrase “River of Life.” The message was that the River of Life was about to bring about the break-up of the family, which soon afterwards happened in the shape of Niamh going off to Australia and Ronan going to live as a scholar in Trinity College.

So, on to the details of last night’s dream:

It begins with the family travelling in a double-decker bus. Diarmaid is driving the bus. Instead of the driver sitting in front of the bus and downstairs, Diarmaid was sitting at the back, upstairs. This had obvious disadvantages, but it had the advantage that he could see how the bus occupied the road as he travelled along. The journey was hazardous. I was afraid that the rest of us, dispersed around the bus in front of him, were occluding his view, but he kept assuring me that he could see fine. He did not use the breaks. Perhaps they were not working. The bus kept trundling along and had to swerve this way and that to avoid obstacles. It took up approximately half the road, so when he had to veer out to pass a parked car, he had to veer back in again snappily to avoid oncoming traffic.

Then we came to the gate of the Phoenix Park, a gate kind of like the North Circular Road Gate in real life. We had to turn right, across the oncoming traffic, to enter the park, and there was some doubt in my mind as to whether the gate was wide enough for the bus. It proved just about wide enough, and the traffic leaving the park held back sufficiently for us to pass through the gate and swing to the right to follow a road around the periphery, heading up towards Cabra and then Castleknock.

Is there any significance that this psychic dream returns to the same venue as the other dream of twenty years ago? I don’t know. What are the characteristics of the Phoenix Park in my family life? It is a place where we often enjoyed family outings when the children were young.

Eventually, after many alarms connected with Diarmaid’s driving, he eventually parked by the roadside, and we all tumbled out of the bus. The day was bright and airy and we hopped and skipped along the road. Then Niamh came out with her prediction of a lottery win.

A stanza of Nostradamus, she announced, had just revealed to her the winning numbers of today’s lottery, the Euro Millions.

“O no,” I said, “you can’t ever correctly interpret Nostradamus in advance of the event he prophesises. Take what happened back in 1998 or 1999. A French expert on Nostradamus had predicted that a Russian Satellite would fall on Paris on a particular day. As a result of this, hundreds of people left Paris for the weekend, but the disaster never happened. Actually what Nostradamus predicted,” I explained, “was that ‘the King of Terror would appear in the sky’ on that date. In fact, the ‘King of Terror’ turned out to be nothing else except an eclipse of the moon. Nostradamus’ verses have two forward-looking senses,” I said, “one is to predict stellar events by reference to his great knowledge of astronomy, and the other was to prophesise things that would happen to coincide with these events. The ‘King of Terror’ appearing in the sky was not a prophesy but a prediction of a date on which an eclipse of the moon would happen. By making this accurate prediction, Nostradamus hoped to arrest some readers to the probability that the accompanying prophesy would also come true. In this case the prophesy was that a new despot would be born in Russia on that date. My guess is that he meant ‘political birth’ rather than actual birth, and that the object of his prophecy is Vladimir Putin.”

 What a lecture I was giving!

“When political leaders hold power too long, they become infected with a notion that they have some kind of divine right to rule. But segments of the population become disaffected as they cling to power. Putin has now held on too long. Russia will soon go the same way as Syria. The trouble is already beginning in the Ukraine. When demonstrations break out in Russia, Putin will suppress the riots violently and spark even wider uprisings until the whole country is in chaos.”

I had introduced Nostradamus to the family one Halloween, when the kids were getting too big for going around the houses doing trick or treat, and I looked for something spooky to excite imaginations as we cracked nuts.

My lecture was cut short when we all became aware that Diarmaid was missing. Nostradamus was put on the back-boiler. We anxiously retraced out steps towards where the bus was parked, but there was no bus there!

We had a fairly extensive engagement with a group of gardaí, even in a garda station or van, but they had no knowledge of Diarmaid’s bus or his erratic driving. We had an encounter with road-workers who were laying tar on the road, somewhere around where the bus had been parked, but they had not seen Diarmaid either. Then a fellow with a bike said to me, “Why don’t you ask Nellie O’Dee?” Now, I didn’t know any Nellie O’Dee. “Who?” I said. “Nancy O’Donnell,” he said: “we just call her Nellie O’Dee.” No wiser, I followed the direction his finger pointed and saw some people camping on the other side of the road. They could be set-dancers, or, alternatively, people involved in drugs, or maybe just campers. I went looking for Nancy O’Donnell, and was pointed to a girl who said she had called Diarmaid over to give him a present (which she had held for him since Christmas). She said Diarmaid had told her he had better not leave the bus where it was, but take it to a bus-park, and assumed that that was where he was gone.

Now Niamh announced that she had just nipped into a shop and bought a Euro-Millions lottery ticket and had won the millions. She showed me the Nostradamus stanza, and, by the hokey, there was the prediction, clear as day. The date of the win was absolutely clear. The verse went on to refer clearly to two politicians of our era. When you took their names and coded them into numbers, you got two numbers. Multiply these two numbers together and you get a large number. Breaking this large number into two-digit numbers gave you today’s lottery winners.

The Diarmaid adventure being forgotten, a happy atmosphere once again prevailed.

The mystery of how the subconscious mind knows about current events, (flood in Cabra, gambling coup, tsunamis), remains, but is trivial as regards my personal emotional life. That the flood, of my dreams, being the River of Life, brings change to my life is clear. But what emotional event is indicated by our bus adventure and Niamh’s imaginary lottery win? Why the bus and why the Phoenix Park?

I imagine that each of the participating children represent some aspect of my own personality. I had a dream once of my wife being swept away by a torrent, and a new life emerging. That turned out to be me finalising my decision to take early retirement from my civil service job, (a constant in my life for 40 years, like a wife), to embark on a new career as consultant.

What aspects of my life or personality do each of my children stand for in my dream world? Diarmaid is the artist, creative and unpredictable. Ronan is the mathematician and stability personified. Tomás is the actor and performer. Niamh is the teacher, adventurer and psychologist.

Surely Niamh is not the person with the mathematical focus to extract dates from obscure verse, translate names into numbers and perform strange mathematical processes! She must represent the teaching or preaching area of my psyche. So the dream seems to predict some new direction in the preaching or teaching area of my life!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Collecting Plums

This one (night before last) was a bit of a nightmare.

I found myself in a confusing location. There was, perhaps, some kind of festival going on, with people moving in different directions between performances. They may have been enjoying themselves, but to me it was just confusion.

There were strawberries and plums growing in the place. I wanted to pick some strawberries, but when I bent down to pick them, I found that each berry I went for was disgustingly half-eaten, no doubt by snails.

I turned my attention to the plums. First I went for the bright red plums, but every time somebody else got there before me. Then I noticed an abundance of darker plums, much less visible, dispersed in between the clumps of bright red plums. I felt a few dark plums and found they were nicely ripe for picking, with the right combination of firmness and softness.

I picked an armful of plums, but found it difficult to hold them without dropping them. If there were only a plastic bag. Yes, there's a store of small, green coloured, plastic bags, dispersed between bales of cotton pulp in a warehouse. I went into  the bales of cotton.

If I were been hunted by the Gestapo, I could bury myself in the bales, so as not to be visible. I went deeper in amid the cotton bales. Somebody was calling me. I bet they could not see me, but I wasn't sure, because, without turning round and looking back, I couldn't know whether I was fully hidden or not. Best thing was to keep still and wait. They passed on and I collected a bundle of plastic bags and returned to the plums.

There I found my wife standing beside my mother's grave. A woman was wanting to say prayers over the grave. I told her to push off, but my wife constrained me, telling me to be reasonable. The prayer-woman told me she wanted to consecrate the grave, but I told her it was consecrated already.

I needed to gather a lot of stuff from my father's grave. The prayer-woman said she would come too, and I followed her away from mother's grave. We must have gone astray, for now we were a long way from father's grave. She said, "Quick, we can get a lift on the truck," and she ran and jumped onto a truck as it was just moving off.

The truck was carrying large sheets of  corrugated iron. I ran after the truck and jumped onto a corrugated sheet, trying to climb up over it into the truck. I was having difficulty staying on and was in danger of falling off, so I grabbed hold of an iron cable with both hands. The iron cable hurt both of my hands as I clung on and the truck speeded off, but I had to cling on anyway or I would fall off. The driver of a truck-crane saw my plight, and, shouting to my truck driver, positioned his crane to catch my cable and hoist it and me so that I would be in position to drop into the truck.


I guess what sparked the dream was an email I received and read just before bed-time: I had submitted an idea  for an input device for  wrist-computers for confidential evaluation to Lambert & Lambert. Their reply was in accordance with my expectations.

They mark inventions out of 107. Ideas that score above 96, they offer to finance. My invention scored 78, a decent mark but short of the mark to receive their financial support. They said my device was feasible, with high profitability, high consumer appeal and moderate competition. However, the prospect of a successful patent was only moderate, with "risk of being rejected or issued with narrow or non-useful claims." Where do I go next with the invention? My horoscope for the following day (Evening Herald, Sarah Delamere) is interesting and pertinent: "Ask for assistance, if necessary. Now is not the time to be too proud, so don't be. You must believe in yourself; equally you must be aware of your limits. Life is currently a fine balancing act. You must spot when you need help and engage in dialogue."

The red plum of successful patent, financed and marketed by a partner, is not immediately available. I am now thinking of the darker plum of publication.

What's this about my mother's and father's graves? Firstly, both parents are actually in the same grave, so the graves in the dream must be symbolic for something else. Forty years ago, I dreamt of my dead father coming back from the grave and had to kill him to get rid of him. This was the Oedipus Complex expressing itself in a dream: my need to shake off the psychological baggage of paternal dominance and become my own man. Now, my new dream is telling me that I must go back to my childhood to recover essential stuff.

As to the half-eaten strawberries: this reflects my actual garden. I grow alpine strawberries in my rockery. These are tiny, but intensely flavoured and they ripen continuously from spring-time all through the summer into autumn. If you leave them too long, the snails will get there before you, so it is best to pick them when they are red but still firm.

The general weariness of the dream actually reflects muscular weariness from having mixed cement for a garden project - a task that left my old muscles weary.

The pain in the palms of my hands reflect stretch-pains from practicing the Yoga prayer-pose.

The prayer-woman represents, perhaps, those people we have to allow into our lives, doctors, dentists, taxmen and the like, and whose input becomes critical at times.


Monday, 1 June 2015

The German Conference

I dream I am at a conference in Germany. Delegations from many  countries sit around a vast conference table.

The Chairman calls the meeting to  order and invites the Secretary to give a report.

The Secretary says that at the previous meeting, the conference had been informed that the Cathedrals and Basilicas had become too expensive to maintain and there was a proposal to sell them off. "However," she said, "a member of the Irish Delegation, Mr Proinnsias O'Cillin (that's me) proposed, instead, that stakeholders should be found to make investments in cultural, artistic and economic aspects of the churches and their economic value exploited."

"How many Passions of Christ are there?" asked the Secretary. Nobody could answer that (I guess she was referring to musical compositions of that title). "Well," she said, with a nod towards me acknowledging that I had volunteered this information previously, although I did not recall that, "there are fifteen."

With this information, (as to the truth of which in reality I have no idea) the organisers had engaged stakeholders to hold fifteen Passion of Christ concerts, each by a different composer, this year alone before Easter, one of a series of series that had turned the fortunes of the Churches right around. Other engagements had been with Museum Trusts to exploit the economic value of the Sacred Vessels and Vestments of the Churches, Architectural Colleges to set up study courses in their architecture, Tourist Agencies to organise guided tours, Art Colleges to study the artefacts, and so on. Dormant assets had been brought back to life.

Besides reflecting on the beautiful churches I saw recently in Malta, I would say this dream is a reminder to myself of my participation in committees in the past and a tribute to (my understanding of) German correctness and efficiency, where my contribution to committee discussion would be acknowledged and considered, if the same could not be said of committees in the Irish Civil Service.

From my school days (with Ogra Eirann and, later, Dáil na nÓg, I had always taken the view that every meeting should have some purpose and objective. Whenever attending a committee, I have, therefore, always prepared something to contribute. Contrast that to many public-service committees, where people attend to fill seats and glorify themselves. An informant once told me of an interdepartmental committee that he attended as a young civil servant. His superior, whom he accompanied to the meeting, briefing him in advance said, "We are going to say nothing at this meeting, except to introduce ourselves and emphasise that it is important that our department be represented on this committee." In this briefing, two important rules were embodied:

1, Be there;
2, Say nothing.

To these a few extra rules could be added

3, Observe and learn what is behind this project;
4, Learn where the powers that be stand;
5, Align with the powers that be.

An empty vessel rises to the surface, while a laden vessel is easily sunk. Interdepartmental
Committees are established to take the wind out of the sail of over-enthusiastic Government Ministers. After such committees meet for a few years, the Minister is changed and the project is forgotten. Those who advocated the project are left in the lurch and the empty vessels progress to the high ranks.

Civil Servants remain faceless. They take no credit for their contributions. Liam O'Rinn, for example, who wrote the Irish words of the Irish National Anthem, received no royalties for this widely-utilised song: he did it in the course of his duty, and is never acknowledged as author, except when historians dig into the matter.

Nevertheless, we would all like some acknowledgment of our contribution. Instead our submissions go into a black hole, and we never know if they have ever influenced outcomes. So my dream conjures up a committee situation where I am given credit and my soul is elevated as a result.

Monday, 25 May 2015

The hijack

I dream I am driving home; but no, I am not driving, it is my daughter. At a corner on the way, I observe building in progress. There is a skip parked on one side of the way, and on the other a pile of concrete blocks. "Stop the car," I say to my daughter, "there is not enough space to get through," but a worker on the site signals my daughter to keep coming. There, indeed, was not enough space, and both sides of the car were scraped. Having passed through the gap, my daughter pulled up and we got out of the car to view the damage. I saw a shyster standing nearby and he was encouraging people to make a claim, and asking them to sign up and get a pile of money. My passengers all crowded round him, eager to sign up. (Passengers? where did they come from?) "Well, who would they be claiming against," I wondered. It was not their car. Who could they be claiming against but me, as owner of the car. This is an insurance fraud: none of them were injured, but I guess they will all be claiming to suffer from whiplash.  I must phone the police and insist that they come along and take details. I wake up.

This is a reflection of things happening in my life. My daughter, home from Australia, is about to buy a motor-car and will have to get insurance, of course. But more than that, it reflects a sort of a feeling that things are out of my control. Indeed, for the last week I and my wife have been duped by the family. All day Saturday is full of activities arranged for me and my wife by my daughter. When we arrived home on Saturday evening, the reason for this vague feeling of being out of control was revealed, when we faced a surprise birthday party for my wife! We had been manipulated out of the way, so that the party could get organised behind our backs. My dream was trying to express this out-of-my-hands feeling.