Tag Archives: Dreams

Bishop in a Wheelchair

I had an unusual dream last night that’s worth reporting.

I was on vacation with my wife in a beautiful hotel. I stepped out of the hotel and found myself in a cavernous and very swanky mall. One store was devoted to housewares from Israel that were made of pure gold with red enamel. A Victoria’s Secret sort of place occupied a kiosk. Everything was very worldly. “What a good idea to attach a hotel to a mall,” I thought. “A traveler can have everything he wants.”

However, I was surprised to find that the stores didn’t interest me. The escalators, on the other hand, were a marvel. They were as much challenge and game as mode of transport.

One of them was not only an escalator, but a waterfall with glow-in-the-dark paint mixed in for good measure. You had to hop from moving step to moving step without getting wet.

I was standing at its base when a giggling boy tumbled down it, unhurt but drenched in water and paint. Grinning through the goo, he told me about a place in the mall where they had mock battles, and you could fight a king. He was having the time of his life.

So up the escalator I went. It was a “down” escalator, but no matter. A few nimble steps over the flow and I had reached the second floor.

I soon found the arena of which he had spoken. From the walkway, I looked down on a mock combat that was taking place below. Everyone was dressed in medieval costume and the atmosphere was festive. A jewel-encrusted sword was at my feet. No sooner had I picked it up than a family with a young boy arrived. He was thrilled when I gave him the sword. I went on my way, back toward the escalator, where the dream took a sudden turn.

The escalator was now the normal kind (no more fun and games) and wide enough to accommodate three men abreast. I heard a man proclaim loudly and officiously, “Make way! A bishop is ascending the escalator!”

The Catholic prelate soon came into view. He was in a wheelchair, dressed in black robe and red headdress, and flanked by two men. A further retinue followed. One of the two attendants was the minor church official who had made the announcement; the other was an executive who worked for the the mall. The latter was obsequiously confessing his sins to the bishop.

“Father, I have sinned. I have been been angry. I confess that I have even been angry within the last three minutes.”  I understood the source of his recent irritation to be people he had had to deal with while coordinating the bishop’s unimpeded and honored progress through the mall.

As soon as the bishop and his retinue had disembarked, a great crowd surged up the escalator; they had been barred from it for the duration of the bishop’s ascent.

I was incensed that these ordinary people had been made to wait. How dare the bishop take precedence when his only claim to superiority was to be highly placed in a church that had tortured and burned so-called heretics not all that long ago!? How dare he assert privilege when his priests have abused innocent children up to the present day!? And why does the mall executive bow and scrape before this man!?

I thought, “Should I register my disgust by striding right across the bishop’s procession, or should I keep my peace?”

As I dithered, the dream ended.

Get Out of My Bathroom!

To a newcomer like me, one of the most mysterious themes in the Tao Te Ching is acting by not acting. For example, take Chapter 37:

The Tao is constant in non-action
Yet there is nothing it does not do

If the sovereign can hold on to this
All things shall transform themselves
Transformed, yet wishing to achieve
I shall restrain them with the simplicity of the nameless
The simplicity of the nameless
They shall be without desire
Without desire, using stillness
The world shall steady itself.

A Type-A personality like me reads that and asks, “How can non-action leave nothing undone? How can the world steady itself unless I make it steady?”

I may have inched a little closer to understanding this last night. I dreamed that I wanted to take a shower, but people kept coming into the bathroom. (Yes, it was one of those what-if-they-see-me-naked dreams.) I kept getting angrier and angrier. The last group was an electrician and his entourage. They wanted to ask questions about the wiring or something, but they just would not get it through their heads that I wanted some privacy. I finally grabbed one of them by the neck and shouted, “Get out of my bathroom right now!” At that point I woke up.

Often, we dream solutions to our waking-life problems, but this time it was the reverse. When I awoke, I had the solution to the problem in my dream.

I realized that all I had to do was leave the bathroom, wait for everyone to follow me out, politely answer a few questions and then explain that I would answer any further questions once I had had my shower. I had the sense that they would not have followed me back in.

By working with people’s nature (letting them follow me out and being courteous) rather than against it (grabbing them by the neck and shouting), I would have been in the spirit of Chapter 17:

The highest rulers, people do not know they have them
The next level, people love them and praise them
The next level, people fear them
The next level, people despise them
If the rulers’ trust is insufficient
Have no trust in them

Proceeding calmly, valuing their words
Task accomplished, matter settled
The people all say, “We did it naturally”

Experts in the Tao, what do you think? Am I starting to understand?