Tunnel on an unfinished portion of the Atlanta Beltline. (crg)
The other morning I was awakened from a dream that I very much wanted to finish. I tried to go back to sleep just to see its outcome, but it was lost to me.
This is no artifice, as Coleridge claimed of his poem “Kubla Khan,” to fit the Romantic Age virtue of being unfinished, when, in truth, the poem about Xanadu’s “pleasure dome” in a “holy and enchanted place” and drinking “the milk of Paradise” is considered complete. It too came to him in a dream that was partly lost when he was interrupted capturing it in words.
In my dream, a young printer, with a magician’s dark moustache and goatee and flair, intended to introduce me to a new book. I explained I loved the excitement of beginning a book I really wanted to read: I told him I like the stiff, virgin feel of cracking a book open, covers resistant and pages clinging to one another. I mentioned that a writer friend would smell the binding of each of his new books, and that I now pay attention, not only to how a new book feels in my hands and looks to my eyes, but what aroma wafts my way from its binding glue.
Smiling in anticipation of his revelation, he showed me a tiny hardbound book, enclosed in plastic, as he delicately reached for the tab that would zip open its packaging, like those found on hard plastic grocery produce containers.
The title of the book was The Cracked Turban, and I understood it exposed the far-right’s mistaken notions about Islam. Obviously “cracked turban” was a metaphor, as a turban is made of cloth, but probably meant to reveal how very far from reality Islamophobia is.
The mysterious printer told me something equivalent to “This is going to knock your socks off!” I expected an extraordinary aroma when the airtight package was opened, not to mention my hope for an intriguing book that would be a pleasure to read and to have.
Then I woke up.
I so wanted to know what was going to happen next!
On my walk that morning and during my morning prayers, I struggled to understand its meaning. Now, I subscribe to the relatively recent theory of dream interpretation that parts of a dream are the result of randomly firing neurons, and its meaning lies less in its parts than in how your brain builds a narrative from them.
Wade and I have had death on our minds as his 83-year-old mother struggles with her health. On my walk I thought how life is an unfinished dream, and how death might be a much anticipated and intriguing book that each of us will open.
I am reading Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross in my morning prayers, and his emphasis on our soul’s need to be free of our senses to unite with God immensely bothers me. Obviously, my sense-ability about wanting to smell, see, and handle the mysterious book in the dream demonstrates I still embrace my Zorba-esque “pagan” desires as a necessary part of my spirituality. With many body theologians, I believe God and/or the sacred is to be found in our bodily experiences. Judaism and Christianity are both, in different senses and in my view, incarnational.
But I believe that incarnational theology might lend itself too readily toward materialism and even idolatry, both societal demons Muhammad wanted to drive out in establishing Islam.
Clearly the dream represents my political bias and political passion: to welcome the very people the alt-right wants to purge.
And also clearly, the magician-like appearance of the book’s printer and mysterious nature of the book’s packaging, size, and promise shows my reverence for books, no matter how “small.” Note it was a printer, not a publisher, who wanted to show me the book. Having once worked in a print shop, I respect the craft and toil of producing printed material.
Producing, handling, and honoring “hard copy” could be another example of incarnational theology. Islam respects Jews and Christians for being “people of The Book.”
An afterthought comes to me. Before I encountered the printer, eager to show me an exciting new book, a female archivist came to me in my dream and offered to help me organize my papers (and this has happened in real life—someone in our church). It’s telling that my narrative jumps eagerly onward to the introduction of a new book to enjoy.
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