I recall singing that song when I was a small child and wondering what did it mean? – Life is just a dream?
Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
But where did this come from and who wrote it? A bit of research suggests that the earliest printing of it was in 1852 but who wrote it and why seems lost in the mists of time. If anyone knows, please let me know…
I thought life a dream when I was a child or rather, I thought it a game that I controlled. It was a sort of virtual reality (as it would be called now) and I was sat in a box connected to a machine that gave me vision and senses. So to be honest, I didn’t puzzle too much over the idea that life might be a dream. I rather accepted that it was.
I have lost so much as I have grown and yet I have gained so much. My imagination as a child was beyond equal. I could create other worlds right there in my head and my dreams and my waking life seemed interconnected and one. I could fly back then. Magic – physical magic was real and so were elves. There was a girl I loved so much trapped on an island of towering cliffs looked after by her wicked witch of an Aunt that I dreamed about over and over again. One dream ran into the next even weeks apart until I finally rescued my love and the wicked witch met her destiny.
There may have unlimited imagination as a child but there was no experience of life. In the Mystical Hexagram, written with Sue Vincent, I talk about the hardened horny matter that is built up by life. We talk about the burning away – the transformation through fire – of life’s experience. The breaking down of this hardened horny material that we build up through life.
It’s as if we build ourselves a prison.
It starts early with our parents who, knowing no better, burden us with some of the hardened life material. Next, its other kids (peer pressure) and our teachers (culture, way of seeing things etc.). We lose our ability to just imagine and it is replaced with the straight jacket that is normality and acceptance. We no longer ‘row the boat, gently down the stream’ but rather fight the currents going in God knows which direction and to what end? Oblivion?
Life loses its innocence, its gaiety, it’s merriness. It’s no longer a dream but a nightmare.
That is until you remember how to imagine. How to center yourself and imagine. Learn how to dream again. How to cast off the horny matter and transform the experiences – no matter what they are – into something of eternal value and meaning. Something spiritual and energizing. The combination of childish imagination skills and the adult’s experiences of life to at first remember to row, gently DOWN the stream (with the current – Just as Asteroth said ‘don’t fight, go with the flow’ – see Inner Journeys:Explorations of the Soul), merrily understanding, it is YOUR dream and you can create your own reality.