Sunday, February 19, 2017

A dream, barely remembered, but one that will never be forgotten

It was five years ago, in January 2012 that I had a very vivid and disturbing dream that affected me for days.  I wrote down the details, but told no one about the dream for two days.  Usually I try to avoid telling a dream until 24 hours have passed.  You ever try to tell a dream to your spouse when you wake up; it's still fresh in your mind, but you can't, for the life of you, convey why the dream affected you?  You just sounded silly, right? The more vivid the dream, the more difficult it is to retell. 

So, I waited two days to tell this one to my wife.

In the dream, I was employed to assist in the removal of an old woman's body from a nursing home.  She was a complete stranger to me.  My boss and I entered the nursing home and we went to her room.  There was one other person in the room, a woman who was going to clean the room when we left.  The old woman, the "deceased", was in her bed.  My boss and I took the old woman's arms, she was very tiny, frail, and her skin was so pale it was almost translucent.  We lifted her out of the bed by her arms, so that we held her upright.

When we lifted her, the woman groaned, and my boss looked at me and said, "happens sometimes."  But I was surprised when the woman looked directly into my eyes and said, "Where are you taking me?"  I realized then that she wasn't dead.

"She's alive!" I said.

My boss looked at me and said, "No, she's been examined and declared dead.  She's dead.  What you're seeing is an autonomic response; she's gone."

I couldn't believe it.  "Listen, the woman knows what we're doing.  She's alive."

My boss said, "Let me put it to you this way: she is officially and unquestionably dead.  I have seen the death certificate.  It's not our job to question that; it's our job to dispose of the corpse."

"Ok, I'm not arguing with that," I said.  "I agree, she's officially dead.  I'm not arguing with that. I'm just saying that she's not physically dead."

So my boss says, "Well, I'm telling you that's she's physically dead, ok?  Are you going to argue with me?"

I thought about it and said, "No, I'm not going to argue that point.  I'll concede that she's officially and physically dead.  I am not going to dispute that, but I am under no moral obligation to assist you in what you are doing, and I will not.  What happens now is on your conscience."  And I turned and left the room.

I woke the morning after the dream with a vivid recollection of it in my mind.  I felt really good about it.  The dream confirmed my decision to stop fighting against forces I can't change, and to concern myself only with preserving my own individual sense of honour; my individual sense of morality, decency and humanity.  I can't dedicate myself to the impossible; changing the world, or even changing other people around me.  I'm only responsible for me.  And that's where I draw the line.

But when I told the dream to my wife, she had a completely different reaction, and her response was immediate.  She said, "No, you had more than a moral obligation not to participate.  You were supposed to do all you could to help that woman.  You didn't go far enough in the dream.  You had an obligation to fight for her, regardless of whether or not you could win that fight; because she was helpless to fight for herself."

You talk about being drenched with cold water.  My wife was right.  And that hit me hard.

We fight, not for ourselves only; but for those who cannot fight for themselves.  Morally, we cannot abstain from that fight.  Morally, we cannot choose to leave the room.

But there is only so much, and it is so little, that any of us can do to change the direction of world. None of us can (or should) spend our days picketing outside a military base, or marching with protestors in city streets.  If you have voiced your concerns to others who know and trust you, quietly, privately, but resolutely, expressing your opposition to the systematic reduction of liberty in America (the foundation on which the nation claims to stand), and to the growing acceptance of xenophobia and intolerance,  I believe you've done all that any of us can do.  

When you speak up to haters, no matter how quietly; when you offer an opposing position, no matter how tentatively ... you have done your part; you have sowed a seed, because you have shown others that there is another side, equally as strongly felt, and usually better grounded in reason.

Your silence, however, will almost always be interpreted as tacit agreement.  There's never going to be any way to measure the effectiveness of your dissent.  Never.  Do it anyway.