David Priilaid hates descriptors, but 5 things that best describe him are:

  • He is an academic working at the University of Cape Town
  • He teaches entrepreneurship with a view that people have lost their voices and with insight can rediscover their “abilities to sing”
  • He is a post-anglican evangelical charismatic christian
  • Has experienced 10 years of Jungian psychotherapy and is a great fan of James Hollis
  • Loves Steely Dan, Bill Evans and a good glass of Cape Red at his right elbow

I had this dream in the early hours of Sunday 29 November.  The vivid and technicolor character of it made me feel that this was some kind of vision.  You as reader can be the judge.

A major social project had been commissioned to excavate and unearth an old artifact.  The project felt a little like some sort of archeology, though the terms never seemed explicit.  Teams were commissioned to do the work.  Cohorts of ten to 15 workers.  This was a global enterprise.  And a massive administration had been put together to coordinate the process.  The bureaucracy was run from giant glass faceless buildings – three storey’s high large low slung, with brown and charcoal slanted glass – non-descript but self imposing and dwarfing the people that worked therein.  Just the architecture of the buildings made people feel insignificant.

In the dream I witnessed one instance of rebellion against the system.  People just left through a wider distant exit; and those leaving didn’t even feel that the system would notice.  They “got” away with it.  It was like escaping across the old Berlin wall.

Finally our team from UCT (University of Cape Town) was returning from our session of work.  Other teams were also involved.  One from Harvard, I saw.  Our team was about to leave, our job completed, when we each received letters from the administration heads (bosses) telling us that we couldn’t leave until a joint fee of approximately R4000 had been paid because someone had not paid their way, perhaps even absconded (as in the paragraph above, though again, not explicit).  The message was inscribed, beautifully, in gilded cursive on decorative parchment-styled paper.  The words too, were carefully crafted, even appeared as pretty rhyming couplets, but on closer scrutiny, the message reeked of political spin and social engineering.  It was straight manipulation – and something inside me snapped.  I had finally seen enough and knew the system for what it was.

And then I moved to a scene where the work happened.  It was a work yard.  It felt ancient and dusty, the floor a hard screed of dried cracked mud.  This is where excavation occurred.  The yard was dominated, though by a contraption that now feels like one of those circular treadmills, where animals or people were yoked to long poles that rotated around a fulcrum.  There was a slope too, and a pitched roof that ran up the slope to a point of exit at a higher level. It felt like a place of great labour, endurance and suffering.

As I “snapped”, I saw one of these yard animals snap too – you could see in its eyes that it had had enough of this system of work.  The animal was a beaten down beast of burden.  It could have been a bull, or a sheep or an ox.  It was some kind of mixture.  It had a light brown coat of short fur which was mud-caked and you could see that it carried old scars on its back.  Regardless, this animal moved slowly up this covered rock strewn corridor.  You could see it suffering as it scrabbled up this path.  Then as it scaled the summit, it moved onto what I can only describe as some kind of exit platform.

And then something quite remarkable happened.  As it stepped onto the platform, this animal was transformed into a creature of gold.  It gleamed of gold – as if this is what it was made of.  Inside.  It was imbued with dignity, awe and splendor.  Its coat was streaked – as with day-glo – in colours of green, purple, gold.  It held its head up high, and it was a magnificent to behold.  I as the dreamer followed this creature up the slope and watched, in awe.

Then a team of work-horses was also sloped off to the exit-platform.  Once more this team of pack-animals was transfigured – this time into a set of Pegasus creatures, with wings – and once more wearing slashes of the same fine colours: green, purple and gold.  The narrative of the dreams seemed to be implying that this is how these creatures really are – and how they should be seen – and treated accordingly.  And thus the tragedy and irony was clear to behold: the “system” had debased them, abused them, and treated them as creatures of labour.

Next up went a team of people.  Again they too were transfigured into super humans – almost angels, it seemed.

The entire transformation process was touched with a deep sense of quiet resolve, pride, dignity – and an underpinning of anger – as if to say – “ok: let me show you who we really are!  And you treat us like slaves!  We are outer-worldly supernatural creatures, struck in the coin of God.”

Finally I saw the super-structure that was being excavated.  It too was transformed.  Where once it had seemed as a skeleton, an ancient ruin of rickety brackets, now it was was gold; an inverted pyramid – the base at the top, a pyramid vessel of gold, with liquid gold sluicing off the top.  It was if this structure was alive, brimming with gold and fire and energy, a vessel of the sun.  The structure rose slowly from the ground – and then seemed to tower over us, dwarfing us in its magnificence.

And this is where the dream ended.

David Priilaid
Hout Bay