I’ve developed a theory about my dreams. When the events in a dream are plausible, even if they are unlikely, then I consider the dream to be a “processing dream.” My mind is working through events and thoughts while I sleep and the dream is just me observing the process. I’ve learned not to think too much about these dreams.
On the other hand, when the events are implausible or downright fantastical, then I know that a part of me is trying to communicate something. The messages I receive are rarely direct, but I have learned to respect these dreams and act on them whenever possible.
Last night I had a very implausible dream: I was a student in two schools. One was a natural fit for me, but the other was my daughters’ school. More than that, I was a fellow student in their classroom! Even in the dream being my daughters’ fellow student felt wrong to me, but I accepted it as necessary for some reason.
After a few scenes in the classroom, I had a disturbing conversation in the lunchroom with my daughters’ teacher just before I woke up. As I thought about the conversation and in particular my in-dream responses, I saw a little clearer what has been bothering me about my children’s school.
One reason why we first enrolled S and J at their school years ago was that, while school billed itself as a school for “gifted children,” as Jung wrote before, we thought that the school’s definition of “gifted” was more than just “intelligent.” We had thought that the school was one which honored and cultivated each child’s gift. What we have come to realize, is that the reality is that “gifted” was in fact a code-word for “intelligent,” and not in the sense of Dr. Howard Gardener’s theory of multiple intelligences, either. At S and J’s school, “gifted” only means “smart” in the most traditional and limited sense.
This helped me to understand even further why students who excel academically have been ridiculed by some of S and J’s classmates. Those students have been taught that the only “gift” that matters is “being smart.” As I thought about this after waking up this morning, I began to wonder if my own daughters have been getting the same message at school year after year.
This inspired me to have a talk with them. First, I made sure they understood that their mom and I believe that everyone has gifts, and that when we work together to co-create in this world, all gifts are needed. Then I issued two challenges to them for the coming week:
- Try to identify as many gifts in your classmates as you can;
- Look for opportunities to co-create and make something bigger than you could make yourself.
I reminded them of a scene in the movie, Fantastic Mr. Fox where Mr. Fox goes around the room, identifying the natural-born talents of all his friends and then they all go about co-creating a solution to their common predicament by using those talents together. I told S and J that these skills are true leadership skills: being able to identify the gifts of others, and knowing how to co-create.
After telling Jung about the conversation I had with S and J, she picked up the latest issue of Harvard Magazine which had just arrived and completely by accident opened up to the article, “Renewing Civic Education” wherein the authors discuss how higher educational institutions in this country have lost their original mission and then go on to discuss how they think the mission could best be re-engaged.
As Jung read the article out loud to me, I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard this statment:
“Civic education cannot flourish if intellect is privileged over morality and action, as is usual today.”
This was exactly the problem in my dream, and this is exactly what we have observed throughout our daughters’ schooling. Intellect has been routinely privileged over morality and action. To be fair, morality and action do get the occasional nod, but they have not been treated as equals with intellect.
When talking about “gifts,” I told my daughters what I thought their gifts were and that I wanted them to be proud of their gifts but I also told them what leads me to respect a person or not. I told them that it’s not the size of the gift that influences how much I respect someone, it’s what they do with it.
When I was growing up in my small, seaside New England town, there was a man named Johnny. I guarantee that anyone who lived in my town at the same time will remember him. He was a simple man, “of very little brain” as Pooh might say, but he had a smile a mile wide and a twinkle in his eye that was brighter than any lighthouse. I always felt lucky on the days when we crossed paths downtown because of the way he selflessly shared his joy. My heart and my step were always lighter after he smiled at me. It didn’t matter that I knew he shared his joy the same with anyone he met; I still felt like I won the lottery everytime I saw him. Johnny was a man who used his gift to the fullest, and the whole town was better because of him.
What are the gifts of the people around you and what could you co-create together with those gifts? Dream on that, and watch what happens.