Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Butterfly Dream

(Bristol Temple Meads Station, October 2019)
'Long ago, a certain Zhuang Zi dreamed he was a butterfly – a butterfly fluttering here and there on a whim, happy and carefree, knowing nothing of Zhuang Zi. Then all of a sudden he woke up to find that he was, beyond all doubt Zhuang Zi. Who knows if it was Zhuang Zi dreaming a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming Zhuang Zi? Zhuang Zi and butterfly: clearly there’s a difference. This is called the transformation of things” Zhuang Zi,The Inner Chapters [Zhuang Zi/Chuang-tzu is said to have lived from 369 BCE to 286 BCE]

'To dream of a butterfly is to imagine a life of flying, freedom, and blissful ignorance of all human sorrows. Zhuang Zi’s evocation of such a happy dream feeling drew out of his intuitive recognition of the experiential power of people’s actual dreams of flying. To this widely experienced and deeply felt dream theme Zhuang Zi added the specific figure of the butterfly, a creature whose life-cycle involves a radical transformation of physical structure, from larva to chrysalis to butterfly. Dreaming of this particular creature not only means the power to fly; it also means the experience of transformation itself, life moving effortlessly from one mode of been to another, the Dao made manifest’ (Kelly Bulkeley, Dreaming in the World's Religions – a Comparative History, New York University Press 2008)