January 15 is the birthday of the great French comedic playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Moliere, and I will celebrate his anniversary with a champagne toast.
Why? Many years ago, I had a dream about my Moliere, which changed my attitude about life. Not everyone believes that dreams have meaning, but I do. Not in the way that dream interpretation books would have it. I always loved the Biblical story of Joseph, who had to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. But your typical dream book doesn’t really talk about fat cows and skinny cows, does it?
I believe most people have their own internal dream vocabulary and dream messages, but they don’t care to try to interpret them. I do. I’ve even had friends ask me to interpret their dreams for them. As a writer, I’m always looking for great story ideas and plots. Some dreams are perfect for that. Just ask Mary Shelley.
I have had dreams with warnings, dreams that came true, dreams coded in rebus, and dreams that came with lessons. In this dream, Moliere came to me bearing a whole lesson plan.
In my dream, the great playwright was old and sick, dying from a lung disease, and for some reason it was my job to take him to a place to die, a place of the dead. It seemed to be somewhere deep down under the streets, perhaps in Paris. (Why beneath the streets? Was I dreaming of the Catacombs of Paris? I have no idea. It was a dream, you know?And better the Catacombs than the sewers.) I was horrified by this mission, and I kept protesting that he was the great Moliere, he couldn’t just die (even though he's been dead since 1673), how could this be? We descended far down into a dark tunnel. Out of the darkness a small gray bat flew straight at me, frightening me, and I ducked. But the playwright, as old and sick as he was, bent down in one smooth motion, grabbed the bat, and threw it against the wall. It shrieked loudly and fell to the ground. (I don’t know if bats shriek in real life, but this one did.)
First Lesson: Don’t let the old bats get you down! I know, this sounds a little snarky for a somber dream about a dying playwright, but that’s the lesson that came to me as soon as I awoke, and it made me laugh. There have been a lot of screeching old bats assaulting me since then, and I always think of Moliere casually tossing them aside.
We continued down, farther and farther in this dark, dank, horrible tunnel, until I thought I’d go mad. I’d almost given up on ever seeing the light again, when we came to a large ballroom full of bright light, with crystal chandeliers and a sumptuous feast waiting for us on the banquet table.
Second Lesson: No matter how long or dark, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I never said these were deep lessons. But lessons they are, nonetheless.
The banquet table was set for twelve guests, all renowned writers. And me. Moliere and I were ushered to our seats at the table. Me, dining with Moliere! I was in heaven, or maybe just dreamland. After we were seated, some kind of strange “machine of fortune” on wheels (it looked like an old-fashioned slot machine) traveled around the table to every dinner guest. When the machine came to me, it spilled a wealth of “tokens of fortune” into my hands: gleaming jewel-like coins in gold and silver and colors of emerald, sapphire, ruby red, and amethyst. So many coins I couldn’t hold them all in both hands. I turned to Moliere and offered them to him—and I realized as he took the coins from me that he wasn’t dying now, he had grown young and strong again. He smiled at me.
Lesson Three: You can have anything you want, if you’re willing to share it. And sharing the wealth makes that wealth greater, not less. It’s not always true, but it’s a lovely thought.
I suppose you only get one dream like that in a lifetime. But it would be nice if Moliere dropped by again sometime. (Not in a deep dark tunnel, though, please. And no bats.)
Happy birthday Moliere! Bubbly, anyone?