Dreaming of Nature and the Nature of Dreams
The First Australian Regional Conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams starts on April 19, and I have prepared a video talk for the conference titled “Dreaming of Nature and the Nature of Dreams.” The talk can be found on Youtube, and the statistical data I reference can be found in Google docs. More info about the IASD and the Australia conference is here.
I start the talk by briefly mentioning some of my early writings about the interplay of dreaming and nature: a 1991 article “Quest for Transformational Experience: Dreams and Environmental Ethics,” my doctoral dissertation/1994 book The Wilderness of Dreams and its notion of “root metaphors,” Herbert Schroeder’s chapter on dreams and natural resource management in my edited 1996 book Among All These Dreamers, the study of politically conservative and liberal people’s dreams and views of the environment in 2008′s American Dreamers, and Dreaming in the World’s Religions, also in 2008, with several stories of the inspirational roles that dreaming play in the nature awareness of indigenous cultures in the Americas, Africa, and Oceania.
The main focus of the talk is the findings I’ve made about the statistical frequency of nature references in dream content, using the word search methods of the Sleep and Dream Database (SDDb). For this presentation I created a baseline sample of 2087 dream reports of more than 50 words but less than 300 words in length, from a total of 1232 females and 855 males. The sample includes children, college students, and adults. All are American and all are educated and/or computer literate.
Using tools on the SDDb that anyone can access, I studied these 2087 dream reports for references to the following categories of nature content: Weather, fire, air, water, earth, flying, falling, and animals. (Can you guess which of the four classic elements (fire, air, water, earth) appears most often in dreams? Can you guess which animals appear most frequently?) After laying out my findings I discuss the technological and political issues involved in bringing the insights of dreaming to bear on waking world environmental problems.
About halfway through the talk, our cat Strauss makes an appearance over my right shoulder. It was a sunny day by Portland, Oregon standards, and the local birds were very active outside my window. It was hard not to look at what he was looking at!