My favorite dreams have always been those in which I am flying. Well, actually, not flying, but jumping off the ground, and going incredibly high, and then as I start to come down, it’s as if I am able to glide and almost float, even just inches off the ground, before I push off again, and float high and far. It’s a great dream that I’ve had maybe hundreds of times. The trouble is, I can’t figure out what loads that mental DVD into my subconsciousness, and allows it to run on some random night. Wouldn’t it be great if we could pick and choose our favorite dreams, and be able to play them at will?
The trouble is – that’s not how it works. At all. I think dreams are really a kind of random madness. We know they aren’t real. Some have said that a dream occurs when the brain is in a closed circuit – there is no external stimulus. It’s more like a loop that has nothing that anchors us to real life. Others say that dreams are really mental de-fragmenters, like what happens on a computer, when there are leftover bits and pieces of data that just clog up the speed and mess up the brain’s function. The dream comes and gathers up all that “stuff,” and then disposes it.
Even others say that dreams are the brain’s way of trying to either solve an issue, or break free from an intolerable happening in our present real life. Yet others say that, because we receive thousands, if not millions of bits of input to our senses every day, we indeed would go mad if we could not have a process to process the random data either into meaningful collections, or remove it from our short-term to our long-term memory. Isn’t it odd that we sleep when we are so tired, but it seems that then is when the brain works the hardest to get us ready for the next day?
And then there are those… other dreams. I’m not really talking about nightmares, with ghouls and snakes and chainsaws and being chased or all of that reasonable stuff that would and should scare you. A nightmare, by the way, is not a horse that comes to you after dark. It’s from the Old German, meaning a shadow or terror that comes at night. It was believed that a nightmare was really an evil spirit that would befall an innocent sleeper, bringing into their thinking horrible or disturbing images. If that’s true, that’s a really lousy thing to do, but then again, that’s why it would be an evil spirit, I guess.
So, I’m not talking about nightmares – things that are scary or unsettling – I’m talking about those simply bad dreams, where I am caught in having to do things that are frankly either stupid/nonsensical, or so exhaustingly tedious that I actually feel like when I wake up, I am more tired than when I went to bed, even if I slept all night.
Take last night, for instance. For anyone who has been reading my writings, you will know that I have actually been officially retired for 41 days, and even took a couple of weeks before then as a terminal vacation of sorts. So, I have been “out of work” for nearly two months. Last night, however, between the hours of 10pm and 6:15am, I was put to work by “something” that required me to organize a committee. I had to figure out and write down the purpose and authority for the committee, and recruit all the members, and to find a place to meet, and when to schedule the first meeting, and then I had to of course copy some important multi-page documents. It was all a truly lovely time, and helped me relive a part of my previous work that was perhaps the most boring and tedious possible. Added to that, no one would tell me what this committee was for, or who it was to help or oversee. No one would answer phone calls, and I kept losing the piece of paper with the names of possible members, and when I would see them in person, they would simply turn around and leave. I then found a meeting place, but couldn’t find the key to open the door, and when I figured out how to get in, I let people know we would be meeting there in a few minutes, and then I opened the door, and the entire place was filled with trash and rotting food, and people were starting to come, and I couldn’t find trash bags to put things in, or how to get it all out of the meeting area.
Then, of course, I remembered I had to write up/copy some pages of those important documents. I couldn’t find the documents. I couldn’t find paper. I found the copier, but the cord had been cut. There was no ink left in it. I got it fixed, and then the paper wouldn’t feed. When I finally got it to work, it copied everything backwards, as I listened all the while to grumbling people in a room full of garbage, and I still had no idea who we were to be, and why we were even meeting, except that it was very important somewhere and somehow.
I am tired all over again just thinking about it. The other trouble with bad dreams? They are never resolved. All that work and that mess, and I never did figure out any reasonable answer, except that I was better awake than asleep. It was a bad dream. It was also an unfair dream, I must say, since I no longer have to do that kind of work, and waste my life that way. There ought to be a rule that says you don’t have to have dreams like that after a certain statute of limitations!
Aren’t we curious things, we humans? Of course, our cat, Hermes, who is a pretty smart little guy, will sometimes run in his sleep, and when he wakes up, will come trotting over to where I am, meowing and complaining until he gets some pats and scratches, and feels better. Probably is a bad dream. Maybe I need some pats and scratches too. I think it’s also important to realize that our dreams, good or bad, are not things that happen to us while we are taking a break from living – they are part of our living, and affect us the same as whether we are eating ribeye or lima beans (the two opposite ends of the delicious scale). What did my bad dream mean? I’m sure I could psychoanalyze and decode the different parts and could interpret many different theories about it. However, they are all simply that – theories, which could also mean that perhaps I shouldn’t have put the dry roasted peanuts on my ice cream last night.
Dreams are mysterious – but of course, life is a mystery, sometimes surrounding us with only the question “why” that has no answer. Sometimes we float and hover, and sometimes we can’t get the copier to work, and the place is full of trash. Sometimes we are scared out of our wits, and sometimes we are able to live with a quiet comfortable calm. The ebbs and flows to our lives are to be cherished for what they are, even if we are not thrilled with the ebb part. Today, perhaps I should claim the whole day, good parts and bad, and not try to live piecemeal, ala carte. Serenity and joy comes with the intentional courage to take our entire life and cherish it as the gift it is, even when sometimes we don’t like the wrapping paper. Sweet dreams.
Word for the day: crapulous. It’s not what you think – at all. It’s pronounced the way it looks, but it has a far different meaning, sort of. The word describes the result or effect of immoderation in appetite or imbibing. The root is of course, Latin, crapula, which means “intoxication” but more precisely, the consequence of excessive eating or drinking. Headaches, nausea, bad reaction to loud noises, groans as you reach for the Tums – they all describe a crapulous situation.
Our word today, and that “other” word are not from the same root – even though it sort of sounds the way someone might feel after a night of excessiveness. “Crapulous” is straight out of the Latin and even Greek for intoxication, but that “other” word actually comes from a British cockney or dialect word for the residue left over from rendering fat. Indeed, that would be an appropriate definition, and only later in history was the word assumed and applied to other things, but, again, it was never related to our splendid word for today. So, if you see someone looking crapulous, hand them some Pepto-Bismol, and wish them well…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.