Last night I was woken by a terrible dream.
I was in a hospital, or a hotel, or a care-home for the elderly. In truth, it was a mixture of all three. My companion, a young woman, had fallen into some medical distress and needed care.
The doctor struck me as being one of two possible things.
In one case, he was pretentious, but a masterful doctor. Limited by his own demons, he would care for my companion adequately, but without regard for what I needed or the comfort of his patient.
In the other case, he was a bungler and a fool with a mask of confidence. Not only was he a danger and a threat, but he would bring misery and death upon my companion.
It seems likely that he was the former, because he prescribed my companion some medicine which made her comatose, and she passed into a deep slumber. At some point she had been placed in a wheelchair, though she had been ambulatory when we arrived, and now she was taken from me.
Alone and somewhat anxious, I stood in the middle of the space in which we had met the doctor. It was not quite an operating theater, but not quite an emergency room. It lacked privacy, and many patients were coming and going.
After a while the space cleared, and even the partitions were taken away. I was not quite alone, but I realized I was the only person unsure about what their role was.
I looked around, but there was no suitable guide to tell me where my companion had been taken or what I should do next.
Instead, there was a man. I remember little about this man. When he moved he was animated, mercurial, changing shape and form. He would seem to tower over the people in the lobby, though he also appeared short. One moment he would be gaunt, another plump.
His voice echoed through the lobby. It was the sort of voice which had little to distinguish it other than its clarity and its tone, an ordinary man’s voice.
And he spoke for a while saying nothing of interest.
An alarm went off, indicating a fire.
The man proclaimed:
“There is no fire, it is a false alarm!”
But I could see down the corridor that orange flames were consuming a wing of the building. It was not the wing into which my companion had been taken.
The man insisted, again, loudly. “There is no fire!”
At this point the others seemed to believe him, though I was skeptical. I turned to the north, and saw that there were flames coming from that direction, blocking an entire hallway.
Now people did not believe him. I could see the infirm and wretched souls interned in this facility begin to make their way to the exit. It was not far from where I stood, and they passed me while moving slowly.
“It is not fair that some should survive unless all are taken care of!”
The man shouted from the lobby. He had conjured a pulpit, and was now frenzied and frantic.
People did not heed his point. I looked again down a corridor, this one in the opposite direction from the first corridor I had seen burning.
The sprinkler systems had deployed, though they seemed helpless to fight the fire. More people were fleeing from the rooms and down the hallway.
“Nobody should leave! Nobody should leave!”
Dazed, stunned, having forgotten about my companion, I staggered from the building.
It was only after I had made it outside that I realized that I had forgotten my companion, and my grandfather, in the building. I turned around to head back inside.
And I awoke.
I have been quite worried about the direction of society for quite some time. This is not a rare quality. The last time I had a dream like this was back in the early days of the pandemic, when I worried that I would lose students to the virus.
I suspect that some things I have seen going on in current events–I expect major economic trouble within the next five years, perhaps sufficient to destroy the currency–may have something to do with this dream.
The shouting man is a demagogue. He symbolizes order, corrupt and weak though it may have become. His frenzy is a sign that my analysis of the situation has become so dire that I have no faith in the world.
My companion is a trickier sort. Alone as I am, she may be a manifestation of my anxiety about facing the coming events alone. While I am not afraid for my sake, it has occurred to me that the only pleasures that may remain to us are those of the people we love, and as someone who has never seriously pursued a romantic relationship I am in a position I would have sought to remedy had I predicted it–or rather my current view of it–sooner.
I believe this is why my companion eventually became conflated with the image of my grandfather. Young women and old men both serve as enforcers of order.
I suspect that the sudden appearance of my grandfather is a psychological manifestation of a generational driving force. Because I am now a man by any account, but I have not had a wife nor any children, I must reconcile my actions with my goals of starting a family which I have avoided dealing with.
It is a reminder that the universe is a judge, and those who do not play the game within the boundaries it prescribes will ultimately not become a grandfather figure, will not influence the future.
In short, it is time for me to stop being alone. The coming times seem difficult, but there is never such a thing as an easy time. My goal must be to seek permanent and lasting values, things that cannot be taken away with the loss of material or social status.
The Spirit of the Dream
It is often helpful for me to avoid the recurrence of a troubling dream by pulling it apart.
The spirit–such as it is, being a product of the psyche–must be found from within the dream and brought to light, made sense of.
To me, this spirit (perhaps here it is best to use the German term zeitgeist) lives in the form of a poem, as follows.
Divide et impera.
Do you know what I am?
Beneath my wool, what is there?
In my veins flows venom,
and my heart seeks revenge.
I am weak and downcast,
eternal and ever-grasping,
and I will not forgive sins.
Instead, I will bring forth hell,
and complete my pursuit.
I am demagogue,
See the words on my lips,
they are great and mighty.
My tongue gives me power,
and my cause is a shield.
I cannot be assailed.
I would shatter swords,
and turn away armies,
I would breathe out flame
and boil the seas away.
And who are you to that?
Nothing but a speck,
you (ignoble) fragments.
Go, get you home forthwith,
you will not help my cause.
I am the world elsewhere,
I am no creeping thing.
I have consumed many souls
who did not love the Lord.
So what do you have?
Who are you to stand?