The Third Letter (February 1989)
Joyce had a strong dream last night. I had stayed up late, searching for a focus for this letter, and went to bed asking for help from my dreams. In the morning I awoke disappointed. Nothing. But then Joyce, who had no conscious awareness either of my searching or my asking, who hadn’t even known that I was working on this letter, shared a surprisingly powerful dream. It’s as though, in some uncanny way, her dream came in response to my own unspoken need.
In the dream she is attending a workshop on environmental issues. Many of the people attending this workshop are railing against the government or the corporations for their unresponsiveness to the critical problems facing the planet. Joyce is moved to say, with great emotion, that we have no right to demand radical changes from those “out there” when we ourselves are unwilling to effect comparable changes in our personal lives.
“The changes that we must turn to first are personal,” she emphasizes. “And they’re going to have to be radical.”
She then uses herself as an example of radical personal change, briefly recounting some of the alterations in her own lifestyle over the past 15 years—giving up electricity, running water and television; drastically reducing her level of income; learning to rely upon home health care, home education, and home-grown food; exchanging her personal car for a community vehicle…
Her intent isn’t to brag or to set up her lifestyle as a model or pattern, for each person’s circumstances are unique. It is her intent to be brash and abrasive. She concludes by actively challenging everyone to examine their own lives; to see if they are asking the same sacrifices of themselves that they are asking of Dow Chemical or the House of Representatives.
“Does your desire for change,” she asks,”run deeper than the mere willingness to recycle aluminum cans or send $25 to the Sierra Club? That’s a worthy goal for some, but not for us. We must become willing to consider inconvenient, even impossible changes; changes sufficiently radical to disrupt and transform our personal lifestyles!”
What strikes me this morning, upon hearing her dream, is its sharp contrast to waking life. Joyce doesn’t enjoy speaking before groups and only rarely gets riled. “Brash” and “abrasive” are two of the last words I’d choose to describe her. Yet in the dream she was outspoken and provocative, seized by a sudden and compelling realization of the magnitude of the impending changes.
Joyce takes the dream figuratively, as representing various portions of herself. As such, she finds it somewhat threatening. “Even in the dream,” she tells me, “I understood that although a person may have made a radical shift, a further octave is being called for. It’s an ongoing process. No one can afford to become complacent.”
While agreeing with her assessment of the dream as being largely symbolic and personal, I also feel that it came in answer to my own asking from the night before, and therefore take this opportunity to share it with you. The crocuses and daffodils in our front yard join me in wishing everyone an enjoyable and transformative spring.