A Diplomat’s Dream Diary

Yesterday on NPR I heard a review of a new biography of American diplomat and Soviet scholar George F. Kennan, George F. Kennan: An American Life, written by John Lewis Gaddis. My ears perked up when I heard that the author had access to “Kennan’s diaries, even a dream diary.” Kennan lived to be 101 and requested his biography not be published until after his death—Gaddis started working with Kennan on the biography in the late 1970s.

Gaddis says about Kennan: “Well, if you had to single out one individual who probably did more than anyone else in coming up with the big idea of how the second half of the 20th century could be less dangerous than the first half was, I think Kennan would be right up there at the top of the list.”

I’m curious as to how much the author details about the dream diary in his book. Frank Costigliola, who is editing the diaries, says of the 20,000-page diary, of which the dream diary is a part: “The diary reveals in sharp detail the personal life and the political, philosophical, and spiritual concerns of America’s most famous diplomat. . . . Most of this magnificent diary focuses on Kennan’s inner life, on his critiques of societal developments, and on what he discerned with his acute senses. . . . In addition to the separate ‘dream diary’ kept from 1964–77, Kennan included in his regular journal accounts of strange and not-so-strange dreams. . . . ‘I am a teacher,’ he affirmed on several occasions. He also saw his role as ‘that of the prophet. It was for this that I was born.’”

Sounds like fascinating material for a dream researcher/writer—we don’t often hear about how dreams affect the life and work of such public figures. Kennan said the diary “might be more important in the light of posterity (assuming that there will be any posterity) than anything else I am doing these days.” We should all take this to heart, as to the importance of our own journal writings and inner work.

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The NWA Friends of Jung meets the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month in the library at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Sunday Dream Group meets the 1st and 3rd Sundays from 2–3:30 in the library at St. Paul’s.

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