I have long dreamed of tsunamis, although I grew up far from the ocean. The disaster seems to have stirred the ancient relics of our common humanityby Paul Broks / February 20, 2005 / Leave a comment
I was half asleep when I first heard news of the Asian earthquake, and didn’t think much about it. It might have been a dream. Later I was moved by the images of desolation and suffering, but was first transfixed by the figures. I tried to picture waves travelling at 500 miles an hour; 5,000 dead, 10,000 and rising. What does it mean for the earth to wobble on its axis (by an inch)? I watched with autistic fascination as the stats and graphics rolled out, but in time grew weary with the numbers. Rising death tolls, I suspect, give a perverse, unacknowledged satisfaction to some observers and I began to question my own fixation with the figures. Some things we reveal to ourselves only “under a pledge of secrecy” said Dostoevsky; other things not at all. I caught myself hopping casually between news and sports channels. Their common obsession with statistics was troubling. On either side of the reality divide, well-groomed presenters were giving the latest score and I was blithely collating the data. It took a single image to jolt me from my sterile fascination. A man, waist-deep in water, faced the camera. He bore an infant corpse as if it were an offering. It was not the grief-contorted face of the father that got to me so much as the oblivious beauty of the son.
The tsunami stirred something else lying dormant in the shadowlands of my psyche. I often dream of the ocean. Indeed, the night before this great catastrophe I found myself in a turbulent sea being tossed through the spray by waves as steep and grey as church roofs. For years I had the archetypal tsunami nightmare. I’d be standing on the beach and a rolling swell would surge from the horizon, rising up to a sheer wall of water. I’d run frantically as the shadow of the wave overtook me. I never survived. Giant waves are a universal dream theme, like flying or falling or finding oneself naked in a public place. These dreams resonate with primordial emotion—joy, fear, shame. You can, if you choose, delve into the particulars of symbolic content, but I’d rather not. It too often leads to penile flames and vaginal fireplaces. But the force of archetypal dreams is compelling. People down the ages and across the globe have flown, fallen and fled through the same dreamscapes. The residue…