Posted by: Mark Nielsen | June 19, 2011

Lion Man / Angel Man – A Dream No Longer Deferred

"Homesickness" (1940)- A Rene Magritte mid-period Surrealist work both autobiographical and also suggestive of each person's strained or stranded state, partly human and partly angelic, on a precipice, estranged from Nature and from our King, perhaps from our True Self

“If I were alone in a desert and feeling afraid, I would like a child with me.”

-Meister Eckhart-

There must be something essential about lion imagery for me, since I had yet another powerful dream last night featuring personal interactions with a live lion.

I blogged about my first dream, a couple years back, in which I had been keeping a lion chained in my garage as a pet, but had forgotten or neglected it pretty badly. From that dream, I developed a sense that the lion was my own power or my generative “soul” — i.e. a True Self that was chained, semi-domesticated but still dangerous, exceedingly hungry, mostly alone.

Since then, several relevant developments:

  • I am divorced. Still lacking in vision, lonely, spiritually hungry, but not as “propped up” by the social trappings of a traditional family life. Healing and getting stronger, but still with miles to go.
  • I have slowly but steadily renewed my commitment to write fiction and poetry — to work more consciously with archetypes and symbols like lions, kings, thieves, addicts, trees, spiders, angels and other spiritual “shorthand”. Using these symbols is a sort of calling I feel — to describe and perhaps better understand what C.S. Lewis once termed the “Deep Magic” (in the Narnia series – featuring, of course, Jesus-as-lion in the character Aslan).
  • The British “newgrass” band Mumford and Sons released Sigh No More in 2009, a spiritually profound LP and my favorite of the past three years, including the hit songs “Little Lion Man” (see below), and “The Cave”.
  • I just yesterday finished reading a short children’s novel, George MacDonald‘s The Princess and the Goblin (1872), which features caves, royals, and wild mythical creatures… so the dream below is partly a bubbling up of those themes. Here’s a relevant quote that I relate to ideas of sin and frailty, from the book’s Wikipedia entry: “These goblins (also known as “gnomes” or “kobolds“) are grotesque and hideous beings, who centuries ago were once human, but due to varying reasons, were driven underground and were malformed and distorted by their new lifestyle.

Now this morning, I was brought back to that central image of the lion as a key to unlock some of the mysteries of my soul and of life in general.

Squiggly-lined TV Dream Sequence Zoom-In:

I’m in a very casual sort of Progressive not-for-profit office space with a handful of other adults, listening to a new employee orientation being presented by a youngish woman (say 28?) with brown hair. She’s explaining the activities of the organization, and in particular the methods and responsibilities for relating to the company lion.

Image courtesy of Psalters, a band of gypsy musicians who personify the courageous "fringe" element of faith that I am drawn to. Photo taken at an ancient monastery, I think in Turkey (definitely Middle East somewhere).

Gradual zoom out to a lion who is present at the meeting on a small raised platform, sort of lying in the sun as it streams through a window. The woman is grooming and physically interacting with the lion as she speaks. Meanwhile I have a fundamental sense of inner peace and purpose, and a measured excitement about being involved with this work and these people, and with the lion. (A feeling I have not had in years in my peppered, somewhat floundering professional life, nor in my personal life as much as I would have hoped or expected.)

Cut to a few minutes later: I am eating a piece of smoked Polish sausage [and yes… I AM aware of the sexual undertones here, though I am decidedly straight]. As I am eating, I stumble forward onto the lion’s carpeted platform, and find myself partly underneath a desk or in an unused fireplace space [can’t recall the space precisely, just that it was tight]. As I turn around on hands and knees, I am suddenly face-to-face with the lion, who is now standing and alert. Additionally, there are several other Big Cats present which are also taking an interest in me, including a leopard and a tiger. (Are these my fellow workers, now transformed?) I am more than a little scared now, on my hands and knees with a piece of sausage in my mouth, sticking out about an inch. I am extremely vulnerable. The big cats are sniffing my face. But they do not attack, nor try to take the food from me. I begin to relax and trust them, and slowly crawl out of the cave [or desk, den or smaller protected but constricting space into which I had fallen]. I finish chewing the food.

Dissolve to a few minutes later: I am now laying down on the platform in the sun, where the lion had formerly been. He/it is right next to me. I am leaning my head upon his breast. He is steadily and patiently licking my hair, my whole head… in other words, grooming me. I am calmer, steadier, and more at ease than I have ever been.

*  *  *  *  *

I am tempted to say more by way of interpreting the dream, but I will not. It can speak for itself, and whatever is universal about it will speak to those who need it.

Instead, I wrap up this entry with the full lyric of Mumford & Sons’ Little Lion Man, which has been my “theme song” for awhile now. Again, it speaks for itself. On the “not your fault” line, today I catch a glimpse of Robin Williams holding a weeping Matt Damon, saying the same phrase, in the Oscar-winning pivotal scene from Good Will Hunting (see page 111 of the script). Meanwhile, the bolded phrases below are the ones that strike most closely at the target of my heart (though it’s tempting to bold-out the whole song):

Little Lion Man

Weep for yourself, my man,
You’ll never be what is in your heart
Weep Little Lion Man,
You’re not as brave as you were at the start
Rate yourself and rake yourself,
Take all the courage you have left
Wasted on fixing all the problems
That you made in your own headBut it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn’t I, my dear?
Didn’t I, my…Tremble for yourself, my man,
You know that you have seen this all before
Tremble Little Lion Man,
You’ll never settle any of your scores
Your grace is wasted in your face,
Your boldness stands alone among the wreck
Now learn from your mother [Mother? –Ed. note] or else spend your days Biting your own neck

But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn’t I, my dear? (x2)

Didn’t I, my dear?

Ahhhhh……

But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn’t I, my dear? (x2)

Didn’t I, my dear?


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