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REM : Active Rest

I just had this not-so-peaceful dream the other night– not a nightmare, but definitely something that’s left me thinking a lot about what my priorities really are in my life, practically and spiritually. And I think that’s what first drew me to go through Peaceful Dream first– it’s quite the opposite of what’s been on my mind since Friday morning.

To sum up the dream, I was sobbing in the kitchen at church because I had paid so much attention to other things that I hadn’t prepared for my own wedding (though I am very much single at the moment, but it is also a really big day that I look forward to, God willing). The dream still had a nice ending since everyone that attended from my church brought something to decorate and my best friend, already in his suit and all, was directing everyone where to put the decorations and gifts they’d all brought. It ended up beautifully eclectic, and such an accurate reflection of the community I’ve seen at work there. But I guess what the whole thing reminded me of is this:

How you prepare in private will determine how you perform in public.

So I found myself feeling almost as unprepared as I was in that stressful dream to interpret this Peaceful Dream, written in a language I know next to nothing about. I want to know what these Mandarin words mean, and it stresses me out that I don’t know what is actually being said, so I read the author and editorial statements instead before getting too far into the piece wondering if there was anything I would really miss bout the piece if I didn’t know translations. Turns out, I was only experiencing the opposite of what the piece was intended to make the reader experience.

And now that I’m thinking about it, I probably should have put that together by the lack of interaction but encouragement of movement (particularly of the eyes) in the piece. Yes, as a reader you’re still and kind of just going along for the ride, but I also realized that there still is a subtle movement to the piece. And perhaps because it’s a much calmer place than my own anxiety-ridden dreams, I thought of experiencing this piece and its design much like water.

When water stays too still for too long– when it’s stagnant– it becomes a breeding ground for algae and mosquitos and other larvae of the like. This is something I’ve always learned to live by from my mom, but also as of recently with my faith. I mean think about it, when you’re too still and your mind is blank is usually when the darkest thoughts pop in your head. Proverbs 26:13-16 talks about this exact phenomenon, much like what I had experienced the other night:

The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.

Proverbs 26:13-16, ESV

On the other hand, when water moves too much, too powerfully, or too fast, it can be destructive. We can build the biggest house we want, but the truth is, the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and that’s especially true of a house built on sand rather than rock (think end of Matthew 7). But what this idea of rushing water (thinking of if this piece incorporated more input and interaction from readers), your thoughts might eventually overcome themselves. I think a lot about Ecclesiastes 4 when it comes to that, but Psalm 127:1-2 also puts together a good picture of how relying on your own work too much can be destructive:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.

 It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Psalm 127:1-2, ESV

But then there are peacefully moving waters, which I found this piece reflects much of that environment in the sounds and images of Peaceful Dream. Sure, water wasn’t the only image shown, but there was still movement to the leaves in the trees, and I could imagine the feeling of wind gently tossing grains of sand across the desert image used. This is the ideal– where work and rest coincide. It’s a bit paradoxical I know, but some things are simply meant to be known and not necessarily understood. How does work become restful? How do we learn to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10) while simultaneously and intentionally “walk[ing] through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4)?

So maybe I started out experiencing this piece a bit stressed about interpreting it and forgetting that sometimes art isn’t that complicated, even when it’s in languages we know next-to-nothing about. I do look forward to digging into it a bit more in class, but for now I think I’m good just experiencing the piece as it’s meant to be: reminiscent of a peaceful dream– a pleasant but active rest. I mean that’s all a dream really is anyway. In your entire sleep cycle, not only is REM deep sleep the most important part for your mind’s recovery, but it’s also the stage of sleep where your brain waves are most similar to when you’re fully awake and alert.

So again, how do we be still and keep moving at the same time? Sleep would be one answer, but my answer is just to know the balance and to know yourself as you were created– pay attention to when you become dependent on your will over His. I’ve always found (even looking back to before faith became such a big part of my life) that there’s no safer place than where God calls you to be. That’s rest: safety. And as Ormstad carries readers through this piece much like God carried Israel out of Egypt, we are left with only that choice whether or not to trust these creators with these works of art, one with this dream, and One with our life and testimony.

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