I have come to believe healthy human civilizations need to share dreams.
Scientists have observed that if you deprive human beings of sleep they will soon display psychotic behavior: hallucinating during their waking state and general mental deterioration. The cure for this particular psychosis is simple: let them dream. As soon as sleep deprived subjects are allowed to sleep, they enter an intense phase of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. REM is how scientists measure dreaming, as opposed to other deeper forms of sleep (alpha and delta-wave sleep). Human beings have a biological need to dream.
I have come to believe healthy human civilizations need to share dreams. When we enter a darkened concert hall to hear music or watch a play or a movie, we are entering into an artist’s dream space. We are watching and participating in an illusion. These illusions may be beautiful fantasies, or something more a like a nightmare, but we are all sharing an imaginary world. By that same token, when we open a book, plug into our MP3 players, listen to a bedtime story, or watch the television sitcom, we are entering into the artists’ imagination, “the stuff that dreams are made of”.
When the Inner City Muslim Action Network announces that they will be sponsoring a Community Café featuring musicians, poets, and artists, I drag my kids there. My children are not particularly enthused with the idea: they like the B-Boys break dancers the best, my oldest is slowly developing an interest in jazz, but it always helps if my husband and I bring our phones so the kids can play games. We are lucky if we can get them to stay there for longer than the time it takes to drive from suburbia to downtown. Why do I do this when it only reinforces my reputation as the “Mom who plans lame adventures”?
I want my children to experience the collective dream of our American Muslim culture. I want them to understand that being a Muslim doesn’t only consist of listening to Friday khutbahs, going to Sunday School, and not eating pork. I want them to go to a place where they can see Muslims actively creating, and participating in the Fine Arts. My children may not grow up to be artists, but we can all be inspired by the artists’ vision. We all have the potential to be parents, friends, neighbors, and stewards of our community and our environment. The artists put forth their dreams, and we have the potential to make them a reality.
Many Muslims are proud of the liberation movements of Tunisia, Egypt, and God willing, many other Muslim majority nations. I too celebrate their victories, but for me the bigger, harder challenge remains: what will you create with this freedom you have? If you have no vision, no sense of purpose, then it really doesn’t matter if you waste away in a totalitarian state or a pluralistic democracy. Only in pursuing our dreams to their reality can we truly fulfill our human potential. If you were to ask these Muslim artists what was their inspiration, I’m fairly certain they would say their inspiration was a gift from Allah. Their art is a form of worship, and who would block this pathway to the worship of God?