On Tuesday evening, I went to sleep in a fairly even mood. Things at work have started to slow down from the numbing speed of the last few months; everyone in the family seems healthy. Given all that can go wrong, things are good enough to let me drift off easily. To sleep, and then to dream.
As often happens when I’m content, my dream was perversely one of terror and panic. I don’t recall what psychological demon was terrifying me, mind you, but I do know that I was in a panic, adrenaline pulsing, without hope of salvation. I was sitting in the backseat of an old sedan, and someone who looked as if he had walked off the set of Mad Men was driving. Smoking and driving. Sweating, smoking, and driving. Things felt very edgy, hopelessly so.
As is the wont of dream logic, my yoga teacher appeared in the back seat next to me. Rather than ask me to twist my body beyond its own logic, she simply told me to relax, that everything would work out fine. “Focus on your breathing,” she said.
No big symbolism here. My yoga teacher is precisely one of the people I would think of if you directly asked me to think of someone who radiates a sense of calm.
Again, however, a dream logic jump, and I’m standing outside the car, in traffic, with the yoga teacher beside me. I’m terrified of the traffic going around us, and I’m taken by surprise when a guy—who looks oddly like one of the Mormons from Big Love (and that's scary enough)—grabs my shoulders, shakes me, and says, “My name is Roman Lee 5:5. Find your hope.”
I awaken. I make a mental note of Roman’s name and go back to sleep.
At 6:05, the alarm rings, and while I’m up turning on the coffee and making the morning toast, I google “Romans 5:5” on a whim. Here is what I find: “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” I’m so floored by the passage that I wake my Bonnie up to tell her the dream. She does what I would have done: she rolls her eyes and starts reading the newspaper that I’ve handed her.
OK, so, I don’t care to debate “what happened” here; I don’t want to argue about the possible connections between dream and reality. I certainly don’t want to argue about the thin line between dream and reality. The possibilities for “what happened” are fairly obvious: It could be that in some odd space of my brain, I had stored that particular verse. I don’t remember doing so; I don’t even recall the wording, but I’ve read the Bible before, and I’ve certain gone to enough Masses that I probably ran across it several times. OR it could simply be a coincidence. Not every Bible verse contains the word “Hope,” but there are lots of them that would have sounded just as mystical, and would have fit the logic of the dream equally well, if not better. OR it could be that I tapped into a collective unconscious. OR it could be that it was a message directed to me. Or it could be all gobbeldy gook. Remember, I still don’t know what “Lee” means.
But again, I’m not interested in debating its meaning. I am interested, however, in touching upon a topic I’ve brought up here before, only this time, I want to explore it in a somewhat different way: my problem—a problem I share with a large number of people—with faith.
Here’s what I mean: despite the multiplicity of explanations that occurred in that dream, the one meaning I will not seriously consider, will not allow myself to consider, is the mystical one. That is, while I might play with that one, while I might offer it as a possibility in conversation “just for the fun of it,” I would never seriously consider it as the reason. Although I lean far more to the spiritual than most of my friends and colleagues, I never take the mystical, the spiritual, the miraculous, seriously as a possibility. Not even in my own private mind.
And here’s what I’m wondering: is that denial of possibility for the good? While I yearn to have the faith of children, while I want a belief in something larger, I also know there’s a downside to such faith. It can blind; it can make one inactive; on its own ground, such faith can turn warriors into passive lumps. And I’m not sure that’s always a positive.
But the more I think about it, the more I think that maybe I’m approaching this dream entirely the wrong way. Maybe rather than pondering the meaning of the dream, the value of faith, maybe I should instead focus on the passage itself, or at least some part of it.
“Hope does not disappoint us.” What a remarkable phrase.
Think about it: we can be disappointed when our hopes aren’t fulfilled, but hope, hope itself, never disappoints. Hope moves. And without getting too corny or misty eyed here—something I’m prone to do—that message of hope may be a message that I need, that may be something that I can indeed translate into everyday life. While I’ve been maintained a stance of haughty pessimism in the last few months, my friends have begun expressing a childlike hope, a sense of political possibility. So, again, maybe, just maybe, this is what Roman Lee 5:5 wanted to tell me: Hope doesn’t disappoint. And maybe for now, hope is, if not enough, a good enough start.