Dreamed 1981/1/6 by Chris Wayan
I step into the abbey. A Personage appears and gives me strange instructions. My intuition hisses "That's stupid!" but I follow them anyway. I feel I ought to--this is a mixed Taoist/Buddhist initiation rite, and they're bound to be a bit wacky.
Yeah. Well. Following directions, I get into trouble and lose my body. Stranded? Or just plain dead? I wait and wait and STILL obey his instructions, waiting for the fairytale ending I was sure of.
None. I'm tottering along dank dark halls. Am I a ghost now? I'm not sure, till I see my own rotting corpse. I'm not exaggerating: they're leaving my body out, to rot--and from the way the monks talk, they want it to spread disease! This cult has gone very wrong.
So I write a message on the wall to warn people: three characters--"huo wo gu"--fire, me, bones. I hope they understand my crude scrawly simplified characters, and burn my bones! Nowadays, in the Song Dynasty, the bodies of children who die of contagious diseases are often just hastily tossed in rivers.
Being possibly dead and certainly sick and miserable doesn't excuse me from my ordeal. I leave the castle, wearing chain mail and heavy leather. My feet and hands are vulnerable, but I have a gas mask on my face, and an asbestos hood. The ghost of my high-school friend Carter walks by me sometimes. Before me is a firetruck. They're arranging the hoses and flamethrowers.
Of course firetrucks carry fire, what else would they be for? This is my ordeal. To pass them while they blast fire at me. No one's ever made it before--the truck catches them no matter how fast they run away. But I figure my suit gives me a chance, at least.
So... I run AT them! It all goes slow-mo--like wading in glue--but they're slowed down too by the nightmare-glue, leaping for the hoses. They can't even get the hose connected by the time I'm out the gate!
But then... I slow down, waiting for the fire. Do I miss my trial? WANT the fire? Apparently! I mope down the road with mixed longing and fear. They can't catch up now, unless they have a lot more than flamethrowers. Bombers with napalm, they'd need. China's advanced for the Middle Ages, but they don't have planes.
No. But it turns out they do have bombs. So they set off an H-bomb! Kills them all, craters the monastery, burns the whole county, knocks me miles down the road. Enough to vaporize a ghost let alone a body. Challenges my suit, all right!
I should be atomized, I probably am, but I'm so furious they'd destroy a county just to kill me that I simply refuse to let them win--maintain my body image stubbornly, with no substance at all.
I walk on, a furious ghost of a ghost, through the smoldering countryside, till I meet the shaken ghost of a friend of mine, Carter. We walk on up the Road and climb a hill. At top of the pass just ahead, we'll be where my dreams started tonight: where a mountain resort stood under a liquid-jewel moon, in the first dream of the night, a happier dream.
Reach the pass--Carter says "I think I won't repeat THAT path!" and goes off on a side trail. And I follow him, off the cycle of ordeals.
Because people who set off H-bombs have no right to test or judge me! Or anyone else.
A NOTE YEARS LATER
When I dreamed this, I saw no specific advice beyond "When people abuse you, leave. When you're abusing yourself, quit." But now this nightmare is one of a chain with a subtler theme--"You meet challenges that shouldn't be met."
The shamanic tradition of dreamwork expects a lot of nightmares, sees them as a sort of psychic boot camp where you learn to handle any fear or taboo thrown at you. So I accepted even malevolent monks who kill initiates, spread plague, and set off nukes... till the very end of the dream at least. Accepted it all as an ordeal of initiation. "Learn to stay calm even if the H-bombs go off."
I was raised as a Gandhian pacifist, so my response to violence was stoic, as a kid--in school, I endured a lot of bullying and abuse, because I refused to fight back. I still don't like to, but I've changed my thinking a bit. I feel a certain complicity in evil if I don't resist it. And one of the best resistances is loudly refusing to consent, rejecting abusive challenges and ordeals. If forced, focus on their crimes, not on your response to the ordeal. And, if they don't quit, try to cause the abuser enough pain and humiliation to make them stop, and tell them so. For letting them off the hook encourages them to go on abusing, indeed teaches them it's OK.
No chance of that here, of course--they were such a death-cult they killed themselves. But they took a whole county with them! If I'd objected earlier, even fought them, even killed them, I might have saved a lot of other lives.
Don't get me wrong. Walking off the path of ordeals was a big, positive step for me--letting go of the role of martyr beaten into me as a kid. But it was only one step.
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