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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, April 04, 2004
    As if in a dream dreamt by another
    In A Seventh Man, a 1970s study of conditions encountered by Turkish migrants working in Germany, John Berger describes the migrant's experience:

    Yet his migration is like an event in a dream dreamt by another. As a figure
    in a dream dreamt by an unknown sleeper, he appears to act autonomously, at
    times unexpectedly; but everything he does - unless he revolts - is
    determined by the needs of the dreamer's mind. Abandon the metaphor. The
    migrant's intensionality is permeated by historical necessities of which
    neither he nor anybody he meets is aware. That is why it is as if his life
    were being dreamt by another.

    Hence the title of an exhibition at The Museum of Liverpool Life, David Jacques: As if in a dream dreamt by another. Jacques' banners and audio tapes come from years spent listening to the stories of Liverpool migrants - family histories formed through outsiders finding their place here, making this their home, ceasing to be 'them' in any valid sense, but nevertheless bringing a sense of 'difference' into the lives they made. Like the Welsh grandmother who learned how to affirm her Presbyterian values within the 'exotic' ways of the very Catholic place which became her home; the Finnish woman who appreciated the humour those around her shared so easily, but whose natural sobriety embued her family with a very different kind of character.

    All this got me thinking about the migrant in me. In 41 years I may not have got very far (five miles from my childhood home, two miles from my place of birth) but it was when putting up April's Pic of the month that I realised I've moved eight times in the past eighteen years; it was when walking home with a parishioner last night, a woman well into retirement who has never, ever moved, that I realised this may be a sign of the migrant in me, a spiritual migrant perhaps or at the least a wanderer in search of ... something ...

    How much of my moving has been like a dream dreamt by another? Berger's terms are interesting. In retrospect, some of my moves were driven by 'historical necessities' - my unemployment and Liverpool's decline brought on by Thatcher's policies certainly contributed to my being the first in our family's memory to leave in search of university qualifications. And the move into the church (which accounts for four migrations in nine years) - propelled yes, by inner certainties, but also by the encouragements, hopes, enthusiasms ... dreams perhaps, of others ...