The Dream of Flight p34

For a soul as sincere as Rilke’s, oneiric incidents, however rare, are closely related to living substance. They are inscribed in the long dynamic past of our being. For isn’t the purpose of oneiric flight to teach us to overcome our fear of falling? Doesn’t that happiness carry the sign of our first successful attempts to conquer this primordial fear? What a role, then, it must have played in the consolation—the limited and rare consolations—of the Rilkean soul!


For one who suffered from the noise of a pin falling on the floor and from the terrifying noise of leaves falling in the fateful symphony of the fall of everything, what a pleasant surprise it must have been to greet beings with little wings on their feet in his dreams. If we truly experience the frequent connection between flight and fall in our dreams, we see how fear can change into joy. That is really a Rilkean turnabout.


The conclusion of the eleventh dream—which is so beautiful–shows this very clearly: “ Did you not know, then, that joy is, in reality, a terror whose outcome we don’t fear? We go through terror from beginning to end, and that precisely is joy. A terror about which you know more than the beginning. A terror in which you have confidence.” Oneiric flight, then, is a slow-motion fall, a fall from which you can get up easily with no damage done. Oneiric flight is the synthesis of falling and rising.


Only a soul as totally integrated as Rilke’s can retain in joy itself the terror that joy surmounts. Less integrated souls have only memory at their disposal to bring opposites together, to experience joy and pain in succession, as one causing the other. But this is an important revelation that we already owe to the dream: it shows us that terror can produce happiness.



If, as I will show, one of our first fears is the fear of falling; if the greatest human responsibility—both physical and moral—is the responsibility for our verticality –then think how much we owe to the dream that makes us more erect, that makes us dynamically upright, that arches our body from heels to neck, that rids us of our weight, that gives us our first and only aerial experience! How salutary, comforting, marvelous, and moving this dream must be! What memories it must leave in a soul who knows how to make connections between nocturnal life and daytime poetic reverie!



Psychoanalysts will repeat that the dream of flight is the symbol of voluptuousness, and that we purse it, as Jean-Paul says, “ to embrace beautiful figures.” If we need to love in order to loosen the hold of stifling anguish, then yes, the dream of flight can soothe at night an unhappy one. It can fulfill an impossible love with nocturnal happiness. But the dream of flight has more immediate functions: it is a reality of the night, an autonomous nighttime reality.

精神分析學反覆強調,飛翔之夢是性慾的象徵,我們追求它在於如Jean-Paul 所言「為擁抱佳人身驅」。假如我們需要愛只是為了舒散我們受到壓抑的痛苦,這樣說也沒錯。飛翔之夢能夠在夜晚安慰一個抑鬱不樂的人。它能夠以夜間的幸福實現一個不可能的愛情。但是飛翔之夢遠超這些顯見的功能,它是夜間的真理,是一個自動自發的夜間的真理。

If we approach it from the perspective of nocturnal realism, we will find that a daytime love satisfied by oneiric flight appears to be a special case of levitation. For certain souls whose nocturnal activity is very powerful, to love is to fly; oneiric levitation is a more profound, more essential, less complicated psychic reality than love itself. The need to become lighter, to be freed, to take great freedom from the night, appears as a psychic destiny and as the very function of normal nocturnal activity: of a restful night.



Air and Dream by Gaston Bachelard

Translated by Springhero 雄伯

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