Nature's Greatest Gift -or- The Ecology of Dreams

Varieties of Gift Giving

Jane 28

I have dreams that tell me about future happenings. I don't know if you may call it a gift or not but to some people whom I shared my dreams and the relevance to my daily living, they found it so bizarre and hair raising.

Angela  32

Last night my six year old son had a dream that I (his mother) died.  When I asked him if that upset him, he said no. After we talked about it a bit, he did say that it made him feel sad. I'm not sure what to make of this. I know that the past week has been stressful in our family. My sister, who doesn't speak to me, has been here visiting our mother. My son spent some time with my sister over the weekend. She was very attentive to him and gave him gifts. I was upset about this because she has no other contact with us, doesn't keep in touch with us, and has made it clear to me that she couldn't be bothered. It worries me that my son adores her when she is around. I talked to my son about this. Perhaps that was a mistake. I am wondering if his dream is related to the knowledge of the stresses in my relationship with my sister, and what to do about it.  Thanks

Gail 25

I was traveling with a girl from work and we went to a National Park somewhere out west and she had a yellow lab with her.  We paid the entrance fees. We went to the park's gift shop and one friend tried to pay for food but her debit card was declined. I went to pay but the other friend paid first. We got into a Camry and started to drive to a large City. The friend who could not pay for her food would not wake up in the passenger seat and my other friend and the dog got out. She couldn't breath. I was feeling around blindly and finally clicked off her seat belt and she woke up. She began breathing again, I felt happy for saving the girl.

Don 34

I remember waiting for company to arrive, it was a Christmas party I think. My aunt is expected. I am in the garden looking into the house. The xmas decorations are up. When i get inside my Dad has taken the decorations down, even though xmas isn't over. There are no gifts under the tree. I start taking the decs down from the hall. So I'm taking the decs down and saying to someone "we normally leave them up longer that this." That's all I can remember.

Mr Hagen's Response; Dreams and the Spirit of the Gift

The four dreams above illustrate the differing meanings of the word "gift". In the first dream (Jane) gift means talent or genius. The second dream (Angela) has the tone and feel of the Trojan horse and the bearer of false gifts. On the other hand, it could be a sincere peace offering? The third dream (Gail) is about the gift of life, emphasizing the distinction between a gift economy and a market economy. The fourth dream can be read and seen as the Christmas spirit of giving or the lack thereof.

Lewis Hyde The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World explores the variety of phenomena and meanings of the word gift. Hyde argues that a work of art is a creative gift and not a commodity. Hyde concedes that a gift economy and market economy (earning a living) are difficult to reconcile. Hyde turns to the world of the folk tale, which he believes act like "collective dreams" to explore the nature of gift giving. Folk tales as dreams, provide an understanding of the psychodynamic meanings of the gift and market economies.

Beneath the surface of all change in nature there are "steady states" characterized by ecological cycles. Hyde sees the circle as "a sign of an ecological insight." Everything in the ecological cycle lives off others with only the sun being transcendent. We are all part of nature's homeostatic circle of self-regulating ecological systems. We know that primitive and ancient cultures understood this archetypal ecological cyclical and self organizing principle of nature and life because they represented it by the image of the uroborus (the snake biting its own tale). The IIDR has received many such dreams that speak about the ecological cycles of nature. August Kekule discovered the chemical structure of the benzene ring in a dream state, his unconscious represented the structure by the time honored ecological form of the uroborus. The uroborus is an archetypal symbol of the Great Mother, what we term nature (read IIDR interpretation The Great Mother).  

The Gift in Literature, Film and Music

The gift has a long tradition, it can be found in literature, film and music. In Charles Dicken's tale A Christmas Carol we are told the story of  Ebenezer Scrooge a man driven solely by profit and the market forces of greed, anxiety and cruelty. The labors of the day completed, Scrooge retires to bed on Christmas eve to find himself visited and haunted by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. In classic dream vision style his guides show Scrooge how he has conducted himself in his lifetime. This Victorian era story made visible to the reader strong and unforgettable melancholy images of darkness, privation, despair, coldness, sadness and death. Scrooge himself can be seen as the poetic ecological embodiment of the bitterness of winter. The dreams bring a realization and a renewal of the images that Scrooge possessed in his youth, those of hope, light, joy, warmth, giving and life.

The popular culture film It's a Wonderful Life (see film trailer) is a tale about the spirit of giving. Based on the short story The Greatest Gift by Phillip Van Doren Stern we are shown George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) a man down on his luck contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve. George is given the gift of being shown (by his guardian angel and guide Clarence) the consequences to a small town (Bedford Falls) if he had not been alive. The dream vision plotline is similar to a Christmas Carol in that the agonistic communal market forces of greed, deceit, malice and cruelty (embodied by the misanthropic Mr Potter) play a central role in the tale. The films White Christmas and Dr Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas are further illustrations of the archetypal philanthropic spirit of gift giving.

Elton John's Your Song gives lyrical meaning to the difference of gift economy and market economy.

For those who want to learn more about the ecological perspective, read; Urie Bronfenbrenner's The Ecology of Human Development and his ecological systems theory

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.