Chicago is a big, beautiful city that I saw for the first time as a mass of lights through the window of a 737 airliner this past Friday night. With my dad next to me and my siblings awaiting my arrival at Midway airport, I felt more like the child seated three rows in front of me than the almost-21 year old college student that I am. Giddy with excitement and grinning like a fool, I practically skipped off the plane and over to where my siblings were waiting. It felt wonderful to be back in the role of daughter and sister. There were people older than me to worry about logistics and the responsibilities of the weekend; I could simply enjoy myself. The house we arrived at in Lincoln Park was full of hardwood floors, cozy nooks and warm laughter. After a dinner of deep-dish pizza (of course!) and conversation, I made my way upstairs to the corner bedroom I would be sharing with my brother and sister. My bed was a full bottom bunk with mounds of pillows and periwinkle blankets that I quickly buried myself in. I fell asleep quickly and in a state of utter contentment.
In the smallest hours of the night, I jerked awake to total darkness and confusion. I was tangled in my blankets but I didn’t move, terrified of the unknown. Where was I? Why was I in a bunk bed? How had I ended up in this random room? How was I going to get out? Questions flitted through my mind and my heart beat like a hummingbird’s. I remained in this state of panic for one long minute until it clicked that I was in Chicago and not Baltimore. I had nothing to worry about; my travels had taken me to a safe environment, a place without worry. But my dreams had crept into reality and transported me to a state of terror completely out of sync with the true state of things. I had traveled to Chicago wrapped lightly with thoughts of relaxation; my dream travels tore away my expectations and left my physical body and mind with stark-naked terror.
The ability of a dream state to so completely take over one’s reality is nothing short of incredible. I did not travel just to the city of Chicago that Friday night; I went to some other realm so intensely real that I stayed there for moments after I woke up. The power that this mental travel had over me was so great that it overwhelmed the feelings of contentment and peace that I had been feeling upon falling asleep. The feelings wrought by my dream travels trumped the feelings my physical travel had evoked. Mental travel was a more powerful experience than physical travel.
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lewis points out the power of mental travel by showing how affected his characters are by their dreams. After spending time on the Island of the Voices, the members of the Dawn Treader sail on to encounter a “darkness” that envelops the ship (Lewis 153). The voyagers realize that the darkness is the land where dreams come true after they rescue a man driven insane by reliving his own dreams in this land. As the people on board the Dawn Treader realize what the darkness symbolizes, they become absolutely frantic with the same abject terror that I awoke with in Chicago. The reaction of every human on board to the thought of traveling through their dreams is more overwhelming and complete than any other reaction they display toward travel in the book. “The whole crew were tumbling down the main hatch as quick as they could and flinging themselves on the oars to row as they had never rowed before… For it had taken everyone just that half-minute to remember… and to realize what it would mean to land on a country where dreams come true” (Lewis 156-7). The voyagers act with an energy and enthusiasm that has never been used before in any of the other travels of the Dawn Treader, and they do so without prompt and within a miniscule time period. Lewis uses the Dark Island to underscore how very real mental travel is and how it can often times be more affecting than physical travel.
Even more pointedly, Lewis writes an adventure book whose premise is based upon travel that mentally takes the reader to foreign places. Reading is a form of powerful mental travel and Lewis encourages this travel through his endlessly creative writing. Upon realizing the power of mental travel, the limitations that we fetter ourselves with are dissolved. We can transport ourselves using only our minds, and do so in a way that is more complete than physical travel. Take my experience as proof; I have chosen to remember and write about my mental travel in Chicago while I easily could have written about Millennium Park, Navy Pier, or Wrigley field. The power of dreams and the mind are more than enough to take you away.