Don’t Go Back to Sleep

Last night, I had a dream that the world had devolved in a way that seems to me very logical in the way things are going. Now, I once heard someone say that you should never recount your dreams, and if you must, you should sum up their plots in one sentence. I cannot do that with this dream, and I seem to want to share it.

It started out mundanely enough. Don’t all dreams? I was wearing a frog on my shoulder and walking, naked to middle school. Just kidding.

In my dream, I went to the Project South offices to help in the getting ready for their upcoming 25th anniversary party/fundraiser. I was preparing platters, joking with the staff that I was very worried about what to wear that night, when all of the sudden someone came running into the room with news. That was when I realized that things were quite different than I realized.

The young man was arriving from what had started out as the Occupy Atlanta movement. He was urging us to get down there right away because we were under attack. I started to remember, in my dream reality, that the whole world had settled into two encampments. Do you remember the Stephen King book and miniseries, The Stand? It was a similar scenario.

In my dream, all people who identified as liberal/Democrats/progressives were in one camp – literally – and all conservative/Republican-types had settled somewhere else though nearby enough that guerrilla warfare could ensue. Independents, libertarians, and anarchists had finally had to make their choice to be in one camp or another, or else they were literally living independently—out in the wilderness. Sometimes, the most ruthless of the independents acted as messengers or traders between the two camps.

The scene changed to inside the liberal camp. At the heart of it was a stadium, not like a football stadium, more like an ancient Roman amphitheatre or arena for battles between men and tigers. The crowd was restless and chanting; it was hard to discern the nature of their unease. I made my way to the front.

There were two young, white men bound, a little bloodied and stripped to their waste at the center of the fray. They had laurel wreaths on their heads. In my dream, I thought to myself, they kind of look like frat boys on their way back from a bacchanalia. The frat boys were from the conservative camp—infiltrators, spies! They vigorously wrestled with the leather ties at their hands and spit on their captors, looking at them with utter disdain. The throngs of people in the stands chanted for their deaths.

And then, my friend, Elise, came forward, stepped in front of the young men, and held her hand out to the crowd. “No,” she said quietly.

The dream changed again. We were in a small cabin on the outskirts of our encampment. The young men had been given showers and new clothes. I was skulking around the door, listening and peeking in, as Elise attended to them. Even though she was taking care of them and had spared their lives, they were still taunting her.

“This is just what a liberal would do!” one mocked.

“Careful,” the other retorted, “she’s secretly a fascist. If they win, that’s really what they’ll do. They’ll turn us all into fascists!”

“Young man,” Elise quietly said, “do you know what a fascist is? My family is from Europe, and I can tell you that you don’t know what you’re saying.”

There was an awkward pause, where everyone seemed to be thinking.

Again, scene change. I was somehow able to travel the whole world quite rapidly, with ease, but without things appearing to go by too quickly. I was gliding very close to the ground. I was working with someone or something unseen. My task was using stop-motion photography and global positioning technology. We were trying to capture every possible image of every possible part of the globe. Even though I was enjoying these beautiful, lush landscapes, there was a strong sense of urgency to what we were doing. Everything needed to be captured and catalogued as quickly as possible, but I wasn’t sure why.

After having traversed many beautiful landscapes, I paused and took a break. I was hovering over this beautiful lake with a mountain and forest spread out before me. A light mist danced across the lake. In my ability to just sort of lay in the air wherever I wanted, I reached down and dipped my hand in the mist and swirled it around. I watched as that stirring made the mist dance in ripples further and further away from me. My glance made me look up to see dark black clouds had started rolling in. They were as close to the ground as I was and were eating everything like The Nothingness from The Neverending Story.

I suddenly remembered something the two young men had said when they didn’t know I was listening in on their conversation.

“They really are being nice to us,” one boy said.

“I know. It makes me feel bad. Perhaps we should stop the clock.”

With that, I awoke with a start in that way you do from dreams when everything becomes frightening. Because somehow, I knew in my dream that what I was experiencing was the world coming to an end. Something had been set into motion by humans that couldn’t be reversed, and my body was about to be enveloped by nothingness.

* * * * * * 

I do this thing when I awake from nightmares where I try to keep myself from falling right back to sleep. My logic is that it’ll prevent me from going right back into the same dream. As I lay in my bed and tried to get every muscle to unlock, I thought I know what the answer is. I was sweating a little bit. I know what the answer is! But I swear, this morning, as I write this, I can’t remember the answer anymore. I’m not even sure what the question is. *

* * * * * 

Post script: After I finished writing this initial text, I went on to other things. I was soon re-reading an email from an old college friend who had just seen the latest version of Godspell in New York. He thought that “Turn Back, O Man” was a song that I could really rock someday. [Clearly, it’s been too long since this friend heard me sing.] Still, being unfamiliar with the show, I went and found the clip on Youtube. I was struck with the words and their timeliness in relation to my dream:

Earth might be fair 
And all men glad and wise 
Age after age 
their tragic empires rise 
Built while they dream 
And in that dreaming weep 
Would man but wake 
From out his haunted sleep 
Not till that hour 
Shall God’s whole will be done 
Now, even now 
Once more from earth to sky
Peels forth in joy 
Man’s old undaunted cry 
Earth shall be fair 
And all her people one 
Turn back, oh man 
Forswear thy foolish ways! 
Old now is earth 
And none may count her days

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