Then Taylor shifts eagerly in his chair. "Here's a shameless projection," he says. "Vince is a writer. As a writer myself, I'm going to see this dream telling a kind of joke on the first dream. These robotic fish represent all the pieces I've ever written, coming back to me from the deep; kind of lifeless, kind of mechanical, because I haven't really followed them back to the source."
Taylor's insight was informed by several details of the dream that I'd shared with the group, including the fact that in the dream, I'd been driven to the banks of the Schuylkill by an editor I often worked for. He was supposed to take me to the train station, where I was about to embark on an exciting cross-country rail adventure. But he lost his way, and we'd wound up at the river, watching the drone fish streaming to shore. Now Taylor was saying the dream was an unconscious rebuke for losing the sense of wonder that had made me want to be a writer in the first place.
I felt the Aha! before I could put it into words. I remembered being a kid, thinking that the world was full of wonder, that miracles happened and amazing revelations lurked just below the surface. Being a writer, I thought, would let me spend my life gazing into the murky depths, luring something strange and important to the surface, then capturing it, bringing it to life in a story, so that others could see that there's more to life than the day-to-day routine.
I still feel the urge to do that, but the fact is, most of the work I do falls far short of that mark. I work on deadline for editors who have to consider market segments, circulation figures and data gathered from focus groups. I aim to produce work that is accurate, efficient and interesting. If my stories don't always glow with the mystery and wonder I'd dreamed of as a kid, well, neither do those mechanical fish.
And that's the message of the dreams: The first is telling me the world is full of wonder, the second is telling me that by forgetting the message of the first, I've traded awe and mystery for function and security. The important thing, though, is that the dreams are about something more fundamental than the frustrations of working the way I work; they are warning me about the cost of living the way I live. I've lost touch with the possibility of miraculous revelation.
I've forgotten how weird and fascinating the world can be. I've embraced the soulless mechanical fish, swimming to shore dependably in orderly rows, and have forgotten about the shadow of that awesome behemoth swimming portentously in the deep. I've become goal oriented and down to earth. I've let life get all rational and mundane. You might say I've grown up. The dreams, I think, are warning me that there are consequences for losing touch with childlike wonder; that I'm paying a price for neglecting my inner whale. But with any luck at all, he's still sounding in the waters of my unconscious, waiting for the chance to rise.