That Crazy-Ass Willy Wonka Boat

I'm on a boat!

Did you ever see Willy Wonka, the movie with Gene Wilder in the title role? I absolutely loved him in that part—equal measures sugar, spice, and a whipped frenzy of weirdness. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the demonic boat ride Wonka hosts for his factory visitors. They all step onto this tricked-out gondola and cozy up for a nightmarish faster-than-light rush down a tube peppered with disturbing images: a chicken with its head cut off, a snake, a set of frightened eyes with forks sticking out of them (oh, wait…I think that’s Luis Bunuel…and the dead chicken might just be because I’m hungry….) Anyway, the images are creepy, ghoulish, not sweet at all.

I feel lately like I’m on that boat to nowhere with scary images popping up when I least expect them. I am searching for something…I am looking for direction. And like the passengers on the Wonka boat, I am hurtling toward some destination unfamiliar to me, unknowable to me. There’s no earthly way of knowing/in which direction we are going, Wonka sings sweetly before working up to a fever pitch of maniacal screaming: And the rowers keep on rowing/ and they’re certainly not showing/ any signs that they are slowing! My rowers keep rowing along, and I have absolutely no idea where I’m going.

I have ideas bubbling, percolating, begging to be given attention, but I’ve lost my internal navigation. I used to be absolutely trusting of my inner voice; if an idea felt right, it was right. Now, because of events such as massive rejection and a mighty yawn from the universe in general, I question every instinct, I second-guess every sign. I am on the boat, the rowers are throwing their backs into it, but I lack even a rudimentary map.

I’ve had dreams of late, and I know the answers must lie there, but I wake up before I get the message. Two were very clear, though: I saw a meditation space cleared for me, candles, a statue of Kwan Yin (and no, I’m neither Chinese nor Buddhist), and a blue-and-white patterned quilt waiting for me to sit still long enough to catch some clarity. In the second dream, I was crouched under a bruise-purple sky on a field of battle. I held a World War I-era weapon, an ancient black-iron spear with a spring, and I was told to load balloons onto it without popping them, and then I was to fire the balloons at some unnamed target. I felt that my life was threatened, and I could not for anything figure out how to load balloons through a spear. If you know, please give me a hint.

I think I should probably be quiet, and let the war play itself out, wait for the boat ride to be over, and then maybe Kwan Yin will tell me what the hell is going on.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ron Goetz
    Nov 22, 2010 @ 09:10:50

    Since you’ve put it out here for us to see, let me respond. If I had the two dreams you described, here is how I would interpret them.

    The first, apparently, is indeed an invitation to calm and quiet your self. It doesn’t much matter whether you call it meditation, contemplation, centering prayer, or what–what counts is that you’re listening, sensing.

    The dream does [seem to] specify a non-Western (non-Christian) approach to your centered listening, which you’ve highlighted.

    As a recovering fundamentalist, I turn to the Scriptures for my categories and labels.

    • “The kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
    • “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
    • “And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” (I Kings 19:12; KJV “still small voice”)

    No matter what sort of ultimate-reality language you use, I think most humanistic/religious thinkers concur that the most important insights we gain come when we listen to that inner voice. (Sorry for the mundane-ness here, but most truth, boiled down, is mundane.)

    As for the imagery in dream two, I can only go from what you’ve written. First, you’re “crouched under a bruise-purple sky on a field of battle.” Crouching is a posture of fear and hiding, of caution, and, most importantly, of non-movement–but nevertheless prepared and ready to move.

    You have already interpreted the “bruise-purple sky on a field of battle”: you live in a battlefield covered by injury, damage, and violence. Who is injured and damaged by violence seems a bit ambiguous, but it seems likely to me that it has been inflicted on others rather than yourself. But the sky covers you, too. If this dream is writing-guidance then it doesn’t matter. To write about injury, damage, and violence will require you to draw upon your personal experience while sitting on your blue and white quilt.

    Now for the ancient weapons. Let me say again that I’m writing as a recovering fundamentalist and that this is how I would interpret these images if the dream were mine.

    A WW-I vintage weapon and an ancient, Roman/Greek era black-iron spear with a spring. Using balloons for ammunition, balloons undamaged by the loading process.

    The ancient weapon, for me, would be the Bible. The WW-I weapon would be any writing medium more recent–from writing books and pamphlets to blogs, or written historical and theological resources.

    The spring, which doesn’t seem standard on any spears I’ve ever seen, would be something dynamic and powerful. Spear + spring = Bible + Holy Spirit. This equation is significant to me because many or most people who “use” the Bible do not have the dynamic element of spirit energizing their work or words.

    Balloons. Certainly not considered the ideal offensive weapon IF your intention or motivation is to inflict harm, damage, violence, or revenge.

    Both Jesus and Paul urged us not to fire back with bullets or poison gas.

    • “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14)
    • “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
    • “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
    • “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” (Luke 6:35)
    • “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” (I Thessalonians 5:15)

    No one, not religious liberals nor religious conservatives nor non-religious spiritual folks, finds it easy to truly repay evil with good, to not want payback for the “bruise-purple sky” that colors the entire landscape.

    The little detail, “I was told to load balloons onto it without popping them,” suggests to me that force and violence is to be minimal or completely absent from the writing process, from loading your “ammunition.”

    Maybe our dreams got mixed up in transit. I think these metaphors were meant for me!


  2. Stacey
    Nov 22, 2010 @ 16:53:47

    What happened to your idea a few posts ago — to create for your own pleasure? Perhaps that’s what the dreams are saying — perhaps the one is rejecting you is yourself? Not giving birth to your beautiful stories/ideas because you fear that someone ELSE will reject them, or they are not worth enough unless someone else says so . . .
    I love the simple words of Emily Dickenson:
    A word is dead
    when it is said,
    some say.
    I say it just
    begins to live
    that day.

    Don’t massacre your unborn words! Give them a chance — feel good once they are said, perhaps the creation process that is truly the most important part? Otherwise, they are like those popped balloons against a burnt battlefield. They really DON’T want to be popped — they want to soar . . . ????
    Just my $1.99 worth :-0


  3. lpreble
    Nov 22, 2010 @ 18:18:09

    Ron and Stacey – wonderful, wonderful insightful comments. Thank you so much for reading this and responding! I believe you’re both right on…and maybe this blog is part of helping me sort that out. Thanks for your interpretations and the energy put into them.


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