Wednesday, February 21, 2018

ESCAPE HATCH

Why is it that I'm having so many dreams these days? More to the point, why is it that I'm remembering so many of them?

We must escape from a repressive regime. There are a number of us, a group, infected by great fear and a sense of urgency. I wonder if we are Jews, but then I'm not a Jew, unless in an honorary capacity. But we must escape...

There is an organization that helps people like us who need to escape. We are gathered together and escorted to the door to what appears to be a small closet. Inside, the floor of the closet lifts up like an escape hatch, giving access to a space below. We file down the steps, unsure what to expect next, and find ourselves in a small room, like a cosy den, nicely carpeted and lined with rows of bookshelves filled with books. There are easy chairs and, I think perhaps a fireplace.

It's here we gather, talking among ourselves, and wondering what will be the next step in our journey...


Sunday, February 11, 2018

A TOTAL NIGHTMARE

I was never so glad to wake from a dream as I was last night. I was blind drunk--more so than I can ever remember being, even in my beer- and wine-swilling younger days. Yes I can't remember drinking in the dream, only the after-effects. I was on a big campus somewhere--a USC or a UCLA, that big, but unknown to me.

First thing I remember of the dream was arriving back, with Ellie, at the room we had been assigned and realizing that I had lost my wallet. "You must have left it in the laundry room," she said. And indeed, in my state of near-oblivion, I did remember having taken it from my pocket for some reason in the laundry room. I had a clear image of it: the wallet I use every day, just in the past few days with a corner of paper--a credit card receipt, perhaps--sticking out at an angle from one of the pockets.

Ellie wanted to come with me to help me find the wallet, but I insisted, no, I was perfectly capable of finding it by mistake and set out to retrace our steps. But soon, of course, I was completely lost in the maze of unfamiliar campus buildings. In a daze of confusion, I got sidetracked from the main artery and into a labyrinth of corridors and hallways, of which I remember nothing.

Eventually, looking through the space of one of the cavernous spaces, I thought to catch a glimpse of the main artery through a glass door at the other end. Imagining I might be able to find the laundry room if I could only get re-oriented, I headed, still drunk, towards that door, and found myself threading through row upon row of baby cribs, dozens of them, lined up neatly, with proud dads and even a few grandfathers watching me with disapproval.

I did eventually emerge onto the main campus--but never did find that wallet.

The wallet, of course, I thought as I recalled the dream this morning, is the control center of my entire practical life; it is the keeper of my identity, my driver's license, my credit cards, my money. Who am I without it? I am reduced to pure spirit and emotion. But what are all those babies doing, with their disapproving fathers? Reminding me of my age, perhaps, and the less admirable actions of my life. Am I drunk because I want to forget them? Or because I am released from such responsibilities?

An interesting--and disturbing!--dream...

Saturday, February 10, 2018

MANGOES

I have no idea how we got here--I don't remember the first part of the dream. I am in the garden--which is not my garden--picking mangoes from what could not be described as a tree, more like a shrub growing up against a low wall, in sunlight. Only one of the mangoes looks anything like a mango, with smooth green and reddish skin; the rest look like very large, rough-skinned potatoes.

My two grown sons are with me, helping A neighbor comes to watch. He is one of those nosy, know-it-all types, and I am a bit annoyed by his lecture about mangoes. I introduce him to my sons. He asks if he can have one of my mangoes, and I recall that he has been generous to me in the past, so I tell him, yes, he's welcome to the one he's holding. He needs both arms to cradle this one, like a baby. It is a huge, unevenly-shaped thing, more the size of a boulder than a fruit. It reminds me of pictures I have seen of asteroids, hurtling through space. But I know that it is filled with rich, juicy fruit.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

SADNESS

Strange. I seem to be going through the gamut of emotions, these past three days. This morning I woke in great sadness from a dream about my mother. We had received two packages from her, odd bags labeled and addressed in her familiar handwriting. Opening the first, I found a mess of pretty much useless stuff--the kind of stuff she could never bring herself to throw away. Perhaps because of the experience of World War II, it amounted almost to a sin to throw things away. "Waste not, want not" could have been the family motto.

Opening the first package--I never got to the second--I discovered two small decorative bottles not quite filled with a clear liquid that turned out to be some kind of fruit brandy. I tasted a drop from one bottle, and it seemed to be still good. A label affixed to the bottle with scotch tape told the story of its origin, also in my mother's handwriting, now shaky with age. I remember reading it carefully and telling Ellie she should read it, too, but I don't remember what it said.

Also in the package: two big, ugly English silver teapots, one still highly polished, the other black with age; a few other silver items, including a long box which I never got to open; a yellow baby's onesie, which perhaps my mother imagined little Luka could still wear; a pair of fashionable high-topped floppy brown boots with heels, of the kind my mother herself would never wear--could they have been my sister's? And a random tangle of other old, unusable clothes.

I thought, in my dream, that it would be nice to call my mother to thank her, and to have a catch-up conversation. Communications, I remember thinking, are so much easier today than in those days when you had to pretty much book a transatlantic call and yell into the telephone to be heard. But then I woke, remembering that my mother is long, long gone, that I can no longer call her; and that my sister is gone, too (curiously, tomorrow, February 8, would have been her birthday...)

So yes, it was with great sadness that I woke this morning. These past three days I have woken overwhelmed with three of the four major emotions, anger, fear and sadness. I learned long ago to name them in a semi-rhyming scheme: mad, sad, glad, scared. Would it not be nice if I woke tomorrow with the "glad" one: joy?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

FEAR

Yesterday morning I wrote in The Buddha Diaries about waking with anger. This morning, I have to report that instead I woke with fear. I'm generally pretty good at checking in on my emotions, and I'm pretty sure this was what it was: fear, a sinking feeling somewhere in the pit of the stomach as well as a chill in the heart.

So what am I afraid of? Again, I focused first on the political. I'm afraid that our government is out of control, that everything is grinding slowly to a standstill. The right is unable or unwilling to hold back a president whose dominant mode of operation is sheer chaos, currently degenerating into panic. The president's behavior suggests strongly that he is guilty of some malfeasance; my instinct tells me that his apparent fealty to Putin and Russia dates from long ago, and has to do with money-laundering and other shady business dealings--but that's no more than a guess. And the other side, the Democrats, lack the power to act as a serious counterbalance to the chaos on the other side. It's a frightening spectacle.

Associated with that, I fear very much for the future of the planet and our human species. I have four grandchildren, ages eighteen to six, and I have reason to fear for their future. If the climate continues to change, we can expect not only worsening weather conditions, but huge, destabilizing population shifts, with attendant social and cultural unrest. There will be the risk of resource wars, as water supplies and food sources dwindle and demand for them continues to grow with unrestrainable population growth. Humankind has not yet learned how to address such problems in a peaceful and compassionate way, and I fear it may now already be too late.

Such are my fears on the global scale. When I look past them, a little deeper into my own heart, I have to recognize, too, the fear that goes along with the passage of time--which appears to accelerate in proportion to my age. I am already long past the life expectancy (78.74 years) for a contemporary American male, and can expect not too more many years of life on planet Earth. Am I afraid of death? I suppose I am, once I get past all the truisms with which I comfort myself about death's inevitability and all the equanimity I've managed to build up in my years of meditation practice. Somewhere deep down, there is that fear.

More than that, however, is the sense of unreality that unsettles my mind. I found myself, this morning, recalling the haunting tones of that line from the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields": "Nothing is real--and nothing to get hung about..." There are moments when everything seems unreal to me, from Tr*mp in the White House to the view from my bedroom window and the texture of the towel on the hook in my bathroom. There's a kind of shimmer of unreality about it all, and if I'm a little less than conscious, a little less than attentive, I find myself floating groundlessly, adrift in an ocean of illusion.

I suppose there is value in this, too. An opportunity to learn, and to sharpen the attention. But the sensation can be frightening when it arrives, quite suddenly, and engulfs me without warning...