Dream Pilots and Scarf Turbans

Wade Rathke Posted by Wade Rathke.

Wade Rathke is the founder of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) – a nationwide activist network engaged in community organizing.


Dream Pilots and Scarf Turbans

New Orleans   There are two other fascinating things that I learned in France that particularly stand out in a life of education and adventure.

At dinner one evening the aunt of one of the ReAct crew started telling me about her work over the years as a “storyteller.” That led to her sharing a reverie about how much she enjoyed flying in her dreams. Now we all know that dreaming in black-and-white is meager life experience compared to dreaming in Technicolor, but flying in your dreams, I had no idea. She told me she flies often while dreaming and over the years has even developed a signature way of taking off with giant running steps until she is in the air. How cool is that?

She told me she was doing a series of shows with her company in the mountain communities around the Alps for four or five nights in a row. She was constructing stories out of the pieces of dreams that the audience would share with her. As a whim she decided to ask people in the audience to raise their hands if they flew in their dreams. The first night there was one dream pilot, the second there were two or three, and then four in the third night. Her company thought she should stop asking and she promised she would but on the last night, everyone raised their hands that they were flying in their dreams.

I couldn’t help myself. The next day I found myself asking organizers in the office whether they flew in their dreams or not. Some did. Some did not. More women were dream pilots than men, but some men also were determined dream flyers. I was amazed, and, frankly, I felt left out. I couldn’t remember ever hearing people talk about flying in their dreams, and not being a dream pilot myself, I never thought to ask, but it turns out that there is secret society of dream pilots all around us. Now that I know so many are flying, I have a simpler question: where do they go?

That life lesson seems more universal than French, but during the weekend training in the mountains way above Grenoble, only a couple of hundred meters I was told from where Jean Paul Killy, the famous French skier won his gold medal in the Winter Olympics held there, the crew would move in the mid-afternoon, as the sun warmed, to the porch of the local utility company’s chalet, accessible to its workers for holidays and arranged by one of the Alliance members. After a half-hour or so I noticed that the majority of the staff had wrapped sweaters, scarfs, and t-shirts over the top of their heads, turban-style, though the sun was still hitting them full in the face. The session was about structure or some such, but after they had exhausted all of their questions, I said that I had one that I would like to ask though it wasn’t exactly about organizing: why were they piling all of this stuff on the top of their heads while they were getting burned to a crisp by the sun at this altitude? Being a red head who can get a sun burn crossing the street and a consumer of the constant skin cancer warnings that come with my breed, I just didn’t get it. Adrien Roux, one of the coordinators, simply answered in English – “insulation.” The rest of the crew nodded in agreement. Sunburn, who cared, for the French it was all about not being a hot head.

France, what a country! For the rest of us hotheads, we’ll just have to dream the best way we can, and leave the flying for the fortunate few.