The consequences of a dream

I’m currently reading The Complete Works of Primo Levi. A frequent re-occurrence in his descriptions of his time in Auschwitz are comparisons to his life before he was taken to the concentration camp. Levi will describe some inhumane condition or episode, and then a page later tell how, right after it, he dreamed of a meal with friends, or the sun on his face and blades of grass tickling the soles of his feet. I can’t help but think that such dreams must of been torture.

To a person living through a nightmare, a dream has two consequences. The first, the most obvious, is that it can be a hook which your hope and will can hang upon during times of impenetrable darkness and great suffering. The second is that the dream will serve as a contrast to the reality of your situation. The more perfect, powerful and idyllic the dream is, the more it illustrates the reality you occupy.

To a man or woman in the most desperate of conditions, a dream is both a blessing and a burden. To dream can help you survive, or it can be the death of you. A dream can be something beautiful and invigorating, or it can be a plague, an instrument of terror that slowly and surely sucks the life from your body, mind and soul.