Dream of: 22 June 1996 "Sine Qua Non"

I was sitting in the back of a classroom which had about 25-30 students in it. No one else was sitting around me – the way I liked it – and a door was just behind me and to my left, so I could quickly leave the class when the time came, and I wouldn't have to talk with anyone.

The subject of the class was dreams. Although I thought I knew more about dreams than most people – probably even more than the professor, an attractive woman probably in her late 30s – I had no intention of actually taking part in the class, other than just sitting there and listening, and I was thus startled when the professor called out my name and asked me to explain the meaning of a term which was used in the study of dreams. At first I thought I would just remain seated while I answered the question, but then the professor asked me to stand up, and I did so.

Once I was standing I didn't mind so much that I would have to explain the term, especially since I thought I understood it. Besides, I felt as if I cut a good figure, with my blue jeans and casual button-up shirt, and I didn't mind having people look at me. My only concern was whether I would have a good speaking voice and whether I would be able to clearly explain the concept. But that fear was quickly put to rest once I began speaking. Although I began hesitatingly and even looked down at my book at first, I quickly gained confidence as I heard the resonance of my voice and I perceived that I was speaking rather eloquently.

The term which the professor had asked me to explain was "sine qua non." I began by saying that I was going to first give the literal meaning of the Latin phrase, and I said it meant "without which thing." But almost as soon as I had spoken I realized that "without which thing" was not the literal meaning, and that I should have said "without which not." So I had to back up and give the literal meaning again. I then went on to explain that the phrase had now come to refer to something essential, without which something else couldn't exist.

I next proceeded to explain how this phrase was used in the dream context. I explained that we weren't talking about the nature of dreams themselves, and that we weren't using the phrase to explain an essential governing force in dreams without which a dream couldn't occur. To myself I also thought how disdainful I had become of people who theorized about dreams, people who tried to explain how dreams came about, who tried to come up with some central explanation of dreams.

I explained that I used the phrase "sine qua non" in reference to individual dreams and to a central element which would occur in the individual dream. I also thought to myself that this was the area where I had some expertise – actual dreams themselves and the way the elements within the dream related to each other. I pointed out that dreams had a central element which determined the nature of the dream, and that without that element, that particular dream wouldn't have occurred. This central element was the "sine qua non" of that particular dream.

I thought it would be best to illustrate what I was saying with an example, and I chose to use "light." I explained that sometimes when I was dreaming early in the morning when the sun was coming up, in my dream I would perceive the light of the sun and I would incorporate the light into my dream. Sometimes the light would then become the central element in the dream, thus becoming the element without which that particular dream couldn't have occurred, or the "sine qua non" of that particular dream.

I thought I had said enough and was satisfied with what I had said. To my surprise, as I sat back down, the other students began applauding me. I thought I had spoken well, but I hadn't thought I had said anything anyone else would have thought worthy of praise. It was a pleasant surprise.

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