Written by Chia Ti Lik
19 Aug 2008
When i was young, i had a number of recurring dreams.
Many of the dreams did not make much sense, probably a mixture of fact and fiction enmeshed together by a subconscious imagination and left to play when the psychological conditions permit.
As i grew older these dreams disappeared. Probably hidden by being thrust into adulthood. Little time left to think and maybe to sleep. These dreams disappeared. These days sleep is a rare commodity.
I never thought i would be reminded of one of those dreams until last night when I had a “development” of that same dream. Not so much of a sequel to the dream but to borrow a term from the creators of Star Wars – a Prequel.
My recurring dream is of me being the subject of a picturesque scene – an old man on a little boat out in the middle of the lake. In the darkness of the night. There were no stars in the sky. With only a beautiful, full and round moon and its reflection on the lake.
There was a stillness. As if the old man was unwilling to row his boat. Afraid to disturb the tranquility of the lake. Content just to drift. Just to be still. Just to float there. I also recall that the old man was looking at the lake intently. Admiring the beauty of the moon.
I had always wondered what all that meant to me. I was always struck by that scene. I had been wondering whether or not that was a premonition of my retirement days. Of being in the wilderness with nature. Nothing to rush about for. Just content to be with nature.
I came to have a different interpretation last night.
After a long 34 years, i was blessed with the Prequel of that dream.
I realised that i had been admiring the moon for a long time from the edge of the lake. I had my tripod. i had my telescope. Looking through the telescope, i sought the closeness with the beauty of the moon.
Now the moon had by its reflection presented itself to be closer to me than the object far up in the sky. It beckoned me to approach. Not content to be admiring it through the telescope, i decided to take my chances of getting closer to the reflection by leaving the bank.
I found a boat by the edge. It was a filmsy one. There was no oar.
Dismantling the tripod, i left my telescope and my gear on the bank. Removing my heavy jacket and boots to lessen the weight. i stepped into the waters’ edge to push the boat forward. I used the tripod as an oar.
When i reached the middle of the lake. The reflection of the moon was still there. There were however a few things that became different.
Coming up close, i realised the reflection was often disturbed by the ripples of each paddle stroke. The shimmering of the surface disturbed the reflection. I then decided to stop rowing. Crouching by the edge of the boat, face close to the water just being with the moon’s reflection.
This inaction in the middle of the lake was what had been recurring in my dreams from my young age.
Looking at the reflection, i began to realise that things are not so much within my control. The tranquility of the lake and its surroundings could only do so far as to preserve the reflection of the moon. Despite my not rowing, my controlled breathing. my determination to remain still on the boat so as not to create any ripples, things were still not going my way.
Under the surface were fishes which created ripples from their swimming. Tiny as they were, they still caused ripples. And the moon’s reflection shimmered as if with disapproval.
I prayed for the fishes to go. At times they did. At times they were naughty, they did not.
Then came the wind. The wind blew across the lake. The fetch they call it. The entire surface was disturbed. The entire surface shimmered with ripples and little waves. No long was it the calm and undisturbed and beautiful moon which i saw when i was on the bank.
I could restrain myself from moving. I could stop rowing. I could also control my breathing. BUT there was little i could do about the wind. AND yet the moon’s reflection showed its disapproval. This went on for a prolonged period of time.
It went on and on. The reflection did not seem to have the same willingness to understand. As each gust blew. The reflection was disturbed. There was nothing that i could do to prevent it.
Then came a realisation. Perhaps i was wrong. The moon’s reflection wasn’t really beckoning to me. It was merely open there for all to admire. BUT NOT TO APPROACH.
As the shimmering of the reflection on the fetch when the wind blew would not have been visible to a man standing on the edge, that was a meeting of each other’s expectations. I could have been safe and warm on the bank. Feet dry and with my gear with me. With all the prospect of being able to turn around and head back for home at my fancy.
BUT now when the level of committment has been escalated, the distance of the gap reduced, the adulation increased, the reflection instead seems to waver. AND waver at every gust of the wind.
I realised then that i was caught in the cold. In the middle of the lake. Without my jacket. Without my boots. my feet were muddied and wet. The boat was flimsy. I did not have a proper oar.
And there i was all alone in the middle of the deep deep lake. Cold and handicapped. Was the moon to blame? Why did she beckon me? But the moon had always been there. It would have been free for me to admire from the distance. Take gazes at the moon from the telescope in the safety of being on the bank.
It was the moon’s reflection that beckoned me. Or did i misread her? Maybe she did not want me to approach, maybe she preferred the distance to remain.
But it might not have been due to her alone. There were these naughty fishes in the water. There was also this cold and horrible wind. But all these affected the reflection. And that reflection’s disturbance affected me.
There was this feeling that i had been had. That it was all only a game. That one needed to be non-committed and to have a certain level of nonchalance to remain in a position of strength to stay in the game.
Now i really had no one to blame except myself. i had in the naivety of the moment chosen to abandon the known for an unknown, I was the one who abandoned my gear. my telescope, my jacket and boots what kept me from the cold. And i denigrated my own tripod to that of a makeshift oar.
No one else was really responsible for this plight. :) I looked into the darkness and realised that it would be impossible to return to the edge and to be able to find my gear in the darkness in the tall grass.
The situation then opens up the prospect of the choice of sticking by the whimsical shimmering surface or leaving the dream and making a painful return back to shore, cold and wet.
Till a greater clarity dawns upon myself and a revelation of sorts is achieved, there is only one way to ensure that one does not jump from the frying pan and into the fire – that is to stay on the boat and hope for moments of tranquility what i had bargained for to come more often.
That is, only for as long as the boat does not start to take in water and i have not yet reached the end of my tether.
In the distance, the shore beckons.