Thursday, January 11, 2007

Speaking of dreams

I’ve also been having this recurring daydream for a time. I don’t think I’ve had it as an actual dream. I suppose technically it’s a vision. There’s almost no plot. It’s just a vision of half a dozen people hanging around this large fictional house where Dad just brought me, strangely without anyone else from our family. I seem to be somewhere between my teens and twenties. Dad’s been dead for twenty years, so this is far from realistic. It is what it is.

At first I thought about this in terms of the volunteer work I do with the needy, a substantial minority of whom being homeless. The scene does look like the people who hang out around our building, before or after getting services, waiting for rides, whatever they’re doing. In the vision this is clearly a house, though. Somehow I know we don’t own this house. The furniture belongs to the owner. Who knows where she is? I’m not even sure I saw Dad. I just know he brought me here and now has gone off somewhere.

Among those strolling through the yard are two Navy fighter pilots, F-14 pilots, in their flight suits. They say that something happened to their plane. They don’t know where it is now or how they wound up here. They’re just waiting for the Navy to pick them up. “Really, that’s your story? You’re sticking with that?” After that I don’t bother finding out more about the others.

Strangely the pilots look like Kevin McKidd playing Lucius Vorenus in HBO’s Rome and James Purefoy playing Mark Antony. Well, those characters are surely dead by now, whatever happens to Lucius in the rest of that series. Somehow I have the characters before me who are lean and mean, not the happy-go-pillaging Titus Pullo, the power engorged Caesar or the boy Machiavelli Octavian. I like that portrayal of Octavian, even though it seems so extremely precocious. Octavian is usually played nothing like a boy destined to become the great Augustus.

It was clear to my Twilight-Zone-conditioned mind that these pilots are dead, even before I recognized their faces. Dad spent much of his career as a civilian advisor to those who looked after the engines for F-14’s. He’s dead now. I suppose it all means something.

What am I supposed to do? Only one thing occurred to me. Let them sit down. So I invited them in, but as sternly and intimidatingly as I can, which at this point in my life is considerable, told them to be on their best behavior. The owner could come back at anytime, and anyone caught with their feet on the furniture might regret it forever.

That was it. That was my role. I don’t know who needed that, if it was Dad or some military men generally. Maybe no one needed it, and my mind was just playing. Either way, letting them sit down was the thing to do. It’s like it is with my clients. I do what I know to do. I never get the complete story of why my clients have been beaten by life. I get bits and pieces of the story and go with that. The alternative is to do nothing. I find that unacceptable.

So is there life after death? There is as a concept, whether or not it exists in any more real way than that. So it comes up in my mind in various ways, including symbolic images like these. So I approach it as I approach life before death, as best I can.

Some don’t want to do that. They say it’s ridiculous to consider life after death. As I saw someone write in a comment recently, “When you die, you’re just fucking dead!” I used to think that was the only possibility. I’ve never seen a body that looked capable of coming back to life. I used to have no problem with the idea from mainstream neuroscience that the mind is nothing more than the brain. I’ve seen dead brains. There’s nothing going on in them that can support a mind, so of course there’s nothing left of us when we die.

That changes as soon as you allow the possibility that there’s more to the mind than the brain. Working with brain illnesses and injuries, with normal humans, and with experiments in animals shows quite strongly how important the brain is to the mind, but is it everything? Neuroscience explains so little about our will, about just how extensive our memory can be, about dream-like experiences, it’s not a settled issue that everything about the mind can be squeezed within a brain.

It’s a problem to think that way, because where then would the rest of the mind be? One has to postulate an existence beyond the physical universe, and many people don’t want to go there. They want everything about life to be physical. Maybe they’re right. I can’t explain my life purely through physical mechanisms, but maybe I’m missing something. Time will tell.

Until then, arrogant people will insist on an atheistic worldview just as other arrogant people insist on one particular theistic worldview. I’m convinced none of them know of what they speak that well. They all make mistakes. None of them have my experiences.

So many people pretend they know whatever they need to know and decide how to live from that. I don’t believe it. I know a lot, but it’s not enough to tell me how to live. Things come up for me, from other people or from within me, and I don’t understand that much why. I just do what I know to do and speak to God about the rest. It’s not that strange. Some people just think it is.

I don’t think I’ll see this vision again. There is a sense of completeness in me about it. Where in the brain is that? Is it even in the brain? Was it just play? Was everything about Dad gone as soon as the blood stopped going to his brain? Is that true for everyone? Do some people grow spirits in their lives, whatever that means? Did Dad need me to tell him to sit down? Did I need to tell Dad he could sit down, whether or not he exists any more, whether or not it was Dad or just someone close enough?

There are many questions. I need to know there are many answers, that there are many possibilities. For those possibilities I have one response. I do what I know how to do. I do what I know is right. Sometimes events give me reasons to regret not knowing enough, but that doesn’t alter my basic approach. Let them sit down, unless God tells me not to.

Why is that so hard for people?

No comments: