My mother often sang the mesmerizing song, Row Row Row Your Boat. The last line of the second stanza grabbed my attention – ‘Life is But A Dream.’ While I understood the meaning even at my young age of four, it was beyond my vocabulary to explain what I already knew. Of course, years later, I had the vocabulary to articulate – ‘The world we perceive is in reality an illusion, not unlike a movie being projected onto the screen.’ It was to my chagrin that no one understood my musing.
This song is a classic example of a deep, profound and sophisticated truth hiding, like an underground stream of water, in an unlikely place. It winds its way through your mind like a riddle or a Zen koan, coming up when you least expect it and asking that you consider its meaning.
The first printing of the song is in 1852, when the lyrics were published with similar lyrics to those used today, albeit with a different tune. It was reprinted two years later with the same lyrics and another tune.
Zen koans, or parables, were translated into English from the book, Shaseki-shu (Collection of Stone and Sand), written in the late thirteenth century by the Japanese Zen teacher Muju (the ‘non-dweller’), and from anecdotes of Zen monks gleaned from various books published in Japan at the turn of the 20th century.
Many gurus and philosophers agree with the mysterious observation, stating that the world we perceive as real is an illusion, like a film being projected onto the screen. More people than not, are caught up in the projection and fail to understand it for what it is – an illusion. They are completely caught up in the illusion, imagining that they are in a life and death struggle and taking it very seriously.
Conversely, the enlightened few live their lives in the light of awareness that what they perceive as reality is a passing fancy. As a result, the enlightened behave with detachment, compassion, and wisdom, while everyone else struggles and writhe upon the stage in the play of their life.
The enlightened have the wisdom to know that life is but a dream does not mean that they ignore it or fail to do their best with the twists and turns of their life. Rather, like an actor or actress who plays the role fully even as she/he knows it is only a role, they engage in the unfolding drama, albeit with more freedom because they know that this is not the totality of who she/he truly is.
The enlightened know that life is more of an improvisation than it is like a play whose lines have already been written, whose end is already known. Like an improviser, they know they have choices to make and the more they embrace the illusionary quality of their performance, the lighter they can be on the planet, on others, and on themselves. They can truly play with the shadows cast by the light of the projector, fully engaging without getting bogged down.
Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD, Metaphysician – Certified Hypnosis Practitioner, Author and Speaker. Dr. Dorothy facilitates clearing blocks, fears and limiting beliefs. You can live the life you desire. She brings awareness to concepts not typically obvious to one’s thoughts and feelings. https://drdorothy.net