I dreamed last night that I was a super-hero. This isn’t the first time I’ve dreamed this. The Legion of Super-Heroes and Justice League of America were my favorite comic books when I was a boy. I wrote and illustrated a personal comic that I called the Danger Squad, which included heroes like Liquid Lass, Barricade Boy, Chronos Kid, Curative Girl, and Captain Skua. Liquid Lass could change into any liquid. Barricade Boy could erect impenetrable force shields around himself and anyone else. Chronos Kid could travel through time. Curative Girl could cure any illness. And Captain Skua was, plain and simple, a Hawkman rip-off.
It doesn’t take an advanced degree in psychology to note that most of the heroes above possessed protective or evasive powers, not aggressive ones. I was a plump bookworm of a kid, emotionally sensitive and bullied daily by an older brother with whom I am now friends. Consequently, I equated aggression with my abusive sibling, and in my house, compliance was rewarded, not aggression. That didn’t stop me from hitting my little brother in the shoulder regularly, but it did force most of my anger underground. And as any esoteric tradition will tell you, the best way to strengthen a spell is to hide it: under a rock, in an old book, at the bottom of the sea. I did not dare permit myself to acknowledge my rage, even in my dreams.
My dream-life was important to me. When I was very young, I dreamed I could fly. I am scared of heights, and in my dreams I was not free of this fear entirely; but it was glorious to feel free from the world down below, to be able to soar and glide effortlessly above everyone’s heads without the encumbrance of my plump body to weigh me down. As I got older and sadder, my flying ability got weaker and weaker. Eventually all I could do was float a couple of inches above the ground. Then my flying dreams stopped for a very long time. When they returned many years later, after I had worked to acknowledge and treat my childhood abuse symptoms, I was overjoyed, but flying dreams are still rare for me, and I have always envied psychics and mediums who claim to be able to generate “out-of-body” experiences regularly, at will.
Last night my super-hero dreams was complex. A man was teaching me telekinesis, the ability to affect material objects with the mind alone. In the beginning of the dream, my telekinesis was very weak. I could make very small objects roll over to me when I pointed my finger at them. Gradually—and I cannot express the wonder and joy I felt in the dream when this happened—I was able to move larger objects. And at one point in the dream, I could move people. At last I was powerful—and as soon as this dawned on me, the dream shifted.
In the second dream I had awakened from the first dream. I tried my telekinesis again, but could only affect small objects slightly, or part of the time. I was frustrated, but when I awoke from the second dream into the consensus reality of my bedroom and my sleeping cat, the vividness of my dreams was still so strong that I tried moving a small object in my room by pointing at it, hoping against hope that my dreams had been real. Of course, physical reality has its own laws, and direct mental manipulation of physical objects is rare to impossible here. So there I was, back in my room, fat, old, poor, and arthritic. “Real” life: ugh.
But something that happened in my first dream came back to me, the significance of which I had not noticed while it was taking place. At one point in the first dream, my powers had progressed to the point where I could sense what other people’s latent super-powers were. I remember telling a troubled, rather shadowy young man that although I couldn’t sense specifically what his magic was, I knew that it was very deep and special. Don’t give up searching for it, I said to him. You will find it one day, and it will be wonderful.
Whoever you are, reading this, don’t give up on yourself. If my dream-self thinks it’s not too late for me to find my magic, it’s not too late for you, either. We may not end up wearing tights and fighting aliens, but there is more to physical reality than fighting. There are worlds within worlds, and they are waiting for us to explore them together.