Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dream On

This happy little two-day sabbatical has done me good. I'm rested, refreshed and rearing to go back to work. Also, it's given me a deeper appreciation of one of Richard Gere's decidedly more daring films. Having absolutely nothing to do at 1 AM prompted me to watch it on Zee Studio last night. Called "Mr. Jones" it is superficially a story of a man with bipolar disorder, prone to climbing the dizzying heights of euphoric contentment before plunging into the depths of depression that make him repeatedly suicidal. One such attempt lands him in a state-run psych ward where he meets a rather wistful and beautiful psychiatrist who grows attached to him and learns to appreciate his whimsical, if slightly delusional world view.

At its centre, it is quite a seductive study of a mental illness, making manic depression vaguely attractive, with its own skewed interior logic. It makes me understand what I'd always thought was a strange quality about crazy people. They're so convinced about their world view that some times we cant help but envy the strength of their conviction.

Anyway, moving on to what is the point of this post, there is a scene in the film that I really liked, in spite of the rough-handed way the rest of the movie played out the implications of the scene.

In it, Mr. Jones and his psychiatrist are talking on the rooftop of the hospital (most real-world psychiatrists will immediately tell you what a stupid and dangerous idea this is) and she's asking him about what sort of dreams he's been having lately, a valid question if she still believes in Freudian dream analysis. And now Mr. Jones does something really wild, he gets up from his chair and climbs to the ledge of the rooftop in one swift motion eliciting a squawk from his psychiatrist who finally sees the potential folly of this particular setting.

He spreads his arms out while she begs him to climb back down and he says, "I dream about flying!" She continues her entreaty while he surveys the view and he asks her, "What do you dream about?" She replies that she doesnt remember her dreams but she used to dream of flying when she was a child.

He smiles and utters the single best line of the movie, "Why do only children have flying dreams?" She stammers that she doesnt know and he asks her if she thinks he'll really fly off this rooftop if he tried. She screams that he will die and he asks her if there's really a difference before climbing down. She slaps him and the movie moves on to their love story but the memory of the goosebump-inducing scene is what lingers beyond the rest of their 'romance'. We wish they'd let us into her mind to see if she understands that she's falling in love with not just the man, but also this disease. That it is his mania that makes him so certain, so charming, so delightfully romantic. That she will never really know her loved one, and that she is ethically compromising herself by becoming so involved with a patient she's trying to help.

Regardless, the question Mr. Jones throws at us is important. Why do we dream of flying as children and stop when we grow up? Is it becoz we know that it is one of those things beyond the realm of possibility unless we have an airplane or a handglider? Or do we hang on to the dream by transmuting it into a realistic dream of becoming aeroplane pilots?

Does this also happen with other childhood dreams? Maybe we simply put them aside when we realize they wont really ever come true.

Is this why children aspire to become astronauts while adults put up with the drollest of jobs, becoz you have to, you know, 'grow up and get real'?

When we're young, we have the future, bright and whole, ahead of us. We believe we have endless potential to realize all the million possibilities we've told ourselves our lives will segue into.

We think we're brilliant and wonderful and that someday we'll definitely win an Oscar or a Nobel or something really, really important will happen for us.

But a lot of times, as we grow older, the realm of possibilities shrinks and aspirations shrivel up and die. And that is a real pity.

I think Mr. Jones senses that better than a lot of people becoz he is cursed with the ability and the sense to feel both the expansive high of optimistic hope and the suffocating cynical vise of desperation. That is why he alternates between living life as if he will die any minute before proceeding to attempt to die the next minute. We are fortunate that we do not share his fate, but atleast we can learn a lesson from it.


Ramya said...

love what you've written here. i haven't seen the movie, but i think i would relate to what the psychiatrist feels. this one line - it is his mania which makes him so certain - i read over and over again, because it reminds me of a boy. coincidentally, he, when we went climbing hills, used to spread his arms and run across fields screaming that he's flying.

i think we become a lot more 'serious' as we grow up and are constantly trying to cope with changing circumstances. i think most adults are fascinated by children because they are a reflection of what they used to be, and want to be again. i think we all desperately want to remain kids, but retention of that simplicity and freedom of thoughts and dreams is impossible.

or maybe we are conditioned to think so.

Tangled up in blue... said...

You know, there must be something to it. I remember when a friend of mine was on a self-pitying/self-diagnosing spree, he declared he thought he was bipolar. And I said to him that I thought that bipolar disorder is probably the only mental illness patients actually enjoy atleast on the 'up' days.

And sometimes I wonder if the only reason children are as happy as they are, or as happy as adults want to be atleast, is becoz someone else always holds the reins of their life and becoz this life is just starting.

And if that's true, maybe it explains the strange calm maturity that terminally ill children attain or the reason why kids who've seen too many bad things are said to have 'grown up too soon'.

Stupidosaur said...

I often have flying dreams. The dreams is always in a combination of familiar settings made weird. In these dreams I am not just floating, I am not even flying flapping my wings like a bird. I dont know swimming but maybe it is somewhat like a feeling one might get when swimming.

I kinda arch my back and ryhtmically spring it forward. The 'wave' includes my torso and ends with gentle kicking by my legs (ok it might seem like I am parodying swimming here, but this is the first time I set to describe this dream and when starting I realized it is so similar to swimmiers, except that I am not pushing water/air with my hands. I am kinda tightly but lightly tucked together and gently torpedoing forward). Each such wave or stride takes me a bit higher up and I just stay there, till next I do the next wave to go higher. To go down I just losen up a bit and I sink down. It is like as long as I keep my body 'poised' and taut I stay there.

In all such dreams I discover this flying power usually alone and when at 'night' or when the 'sky' is black in the dreams. Sometimes streets have yellowish 'sodium lamps' too to boot :). Once discovered this power seems most natural to me, like sure keeping our body tight we can grip empty space.

Then inevitably i try to convince others (usually known in real life, or stranger 'friend' in the dream that this is so natural and they should do try it to. I remember showing them either in a very high ceiling room, trying to stay at corners or walls, keeping away from the ceiling fan. In another dream I was demonstrating it outside and was actually complaining about high tension wires (there were unnaturally large numbers and meshes of them in that dream) all around and devising routes and moves around them. Some were close calls like those acrobats slip beneath the burning rods of increasingly lowered heights.). Another thing about this 'technique' (believe me it is same in so many of my dreams!) is I can propel in any direction while being any orientation (even upside down) as long as I keep myself taut after reaching a particular position, and from there generate waves for motion in next intended direction. This motion for directivity is somehow very intuitive in the dreams.

In none of the dreams I was able to teach it to people. But in one of dreams it was accepted that i could do it, and was actually sent on some flying mission. Cant remember. It was all 'official sounding' people in the dream. I remember flying very.

I wake up from such dreams feeling a slight pleasant gentle tension in my muscles. Every time I am slightly surprised it wasn't real. Maybe I actually do some of those movements in my bed lol.

Stupidosaur said...

And yeah I am 27 :P

Tangled up in blue... said...

Stupidosaur, I myself dream of flying in a giant yellow zeppelin or a blue hot air balloon. I suppose it's a helium fixation of some kind.

And the parallel you draw between swimming and flying isnt as off as one wud imagine. Both involve transforming one's body into shapes that are more hydro/aerodynamic respectively.

And the reason your muscles tense up is becoz our muscle groups are active in REM sleep though our brains inhibit actual movement of the limbs and trunk. This mechanism does not work in those with conditions like somnambulism or somniloquy.

Some dreams are more vivid than others while some dreamers experience more vivid dreams than others. You probably have really vivid dreams, too or they recur often for you to remember them as clearly as you describe them here.

Gustaf said...

The one truly seductive thing about bipolar disease i feel is the fact that its prolly the only mental illness patients actually enjoy. atleast on the 'up' days.

S. Susan Deborah said...

How did I miss this post? Let me see. It was posted during my 'chicken-pox' period and hence missed reading this lovely ruminating post. I always like the way how you start off with something and coax that incident into something sublime and comtemplative. As children the world is so very different, na? I remember as a child I wanted to grow up fast as I thought being older grants one many priveleges. I didn't even have a single thought of responsibilities and all that crap. If I had known that earlier, I wouldn't have dreamt of growing older. Who knows, I would have remained a kid always.

And, honest to god, some of these psychological movies make mental diseases so very romantic and intellectual. Many people with such diseases spout intellectual talk and make 'normal' people seem inadequate. Have you read Paulo Coelho's "Veronica decides to die?" After reading that I so wanted to 'get mad.' How funny is that?

Ah, Karishma, I could go on like this but I shall stop for now. I wish there is a day when I can read all your posts together and go on a thinking spree. One day, maybe . . .

Joy always,

Tangled up in blue... said...

Thank you so much for your comment, dear Susan! :) I was rather elated when I saw your post and it said the exact same thing that this one had and I absolutely had to show this to you. I always have this immediate feeling of joyful connection whenever I sense someone expressing the same thoughts I've had with such amazing clarity in their words! :)