March 22, 2020

The dream cure

Healing temple of Asclepius at Kos, by way of wikipedia

The ancient Greeks had some interesting ideas about healing illnesses. One of these was the custom of using dreams to find cures. It worked like this: the patient would visit  and sleep in an Asclepeion or temple dedicated to the semi-divine physician Asclepius, son of the Apollo. The dreams of the patient would be used as the basis of the treatment.

I've always been interested in dreams and tried to pay attention to them. Sometimes they're just static, sometimes funny or scary, sometimes transparent wish fulfillment a la Freud. But sometimes, as Freud's renegade disciple Carl Jung argued, they're very deep. They can represent the insights of our unconscious mind, the oldest and biggest part of our mental apparatus.

I had a pretty good one last night that speaks to our current situation. In it, I was working to repair the roof of a house pretty far from the ground, something I'd never be able to pull off in real life. The slope of the roof was steep and I was in danger of falling off.

It occurred to me that I needed some kind of supporting connection, like a rope tied to something secure to keep from going over the edge. There were images of different kinds of knots--bowlines, square knots, slipknots and others I've long since forgotten from my volunteer firefighting and scouting days. Obviously, the knots and connections represented relations with others.

I think that's a pretty good metaphor for the social connections we need during this outbreak to keep from going over the edge, even if they involve social distancing or occur over long distances. Even if they're just remembered.

I'll take that. Thanks, Asclepius!

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