by Roger White
Sometimes dreams are just dreams—simple brain-dumps of the day’s events, snippets of the recent odd encounter, short reels of hazy memories, a sweeping up of the mental flotsam bobbing betwixt the lobes, all stirred together, jumbled and spiced by the bit of bad pork tenderloin you had that day. So if you’re spending a great deal of your waking hours trying to affix deep meaning to the fact that in your dreamscape the night before you were a naked submarine commander delivering the eulogy at Edith Bunker’s funeral while stray dogs with marshmallow fur licked your bare feet, you may be wasting your time. Just a silly dream. A bit disturbing, but just silly, nonetheless.
But other times, I do lend credence to the notion that our dreams are really trying to tell us something. Case in point, the other night. I’d resigned myself to slumber after attempting to digest as much of the national news as I could stomach. As with 99.79 percent of Americans today, I went to bed somewhat emotionally dyspeptic. How did we get here? How has this country’s public discourse plummeted so far as to be steered by intellectual knuckle-draggers and emotional toddlers? I drifted off utterly dismayed by the realization that today’s political arena makes the likes of Dan Quayle and George Dubya look like cerebral giants.
In my dream that night, I was walking up a hill, in an urban setting. Much of the cityscape was in the distance, and the pavement was steep and difficult. Suddenly, a disabled person whizzed by me, in a motorized wheelchair built for speed. The young man yelled at me to get on, so I climbed aboard and off we went. I could barely hang on; this guy was motoring. The next thing I knew, we were in a college classroom. Students were milling about, reading the campus newspaper, waiting for the professor to appear. The guy who’d given me the wild ride invited me to stay, so I did.
When the professor walked in, he immediately challenged the students reading the paper. “Do you think what you’re reading there is the truth?” he asked. “How would you know?” From there the conversation sparked, a lively discussion ranging from ethics, motives, and circumstantial morality to the varying definitions of truth and self-preservation to the power of mob mentality. The concept of meaningful compromise was entertained, and it was then that the discussion landed and remained on politics. “Compromise,” the professor said, “has become a dirty word among politicians now—and, sadly, it should be their most powerful, useful word.” Especially, he added, when in many cases we’re talking about means, not ends. For example, everyone wants to be safe, to live in a safe society, he pointed out, no matter what color your state is. Some see the proliferation of firearms as a threat to our safety, he noted, while others see those guns as the very protectors of life and liberty. The fact is, we want the same thing—we just don’t agree on how to get there. There are many real differences among political factions, but in so many cases, the professor said, if you climb past the rancor and attempt a horizon view of the issue at hand, you see that we’re aiming for an equivalent or surprisingly similar end result.
Students freely joined the conversation, and the debate, though at times heated, was thoughtful, the level of dialogue reaching higher, connections of reason and belief growing deeper. The classroom veritably glowed, I saw, with meaning. It was thoroughly inspirational to me, and refreshing. I awoke feeling uplifted, hopeful. By God, we can work together. We can reverse this course.
Then I turned on the TV.
“You’re the puppet.”
“No, you’re the puppet.”
“Wrong. Nasty woman.”
Hmmm. I hear time-shares in Vancouver are pretty reasonable, pre-election.
Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, an obese but mannered dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.