“To him who is in fear everything rustles.” ~ Sophocles.
I have always been fascinated by my dreams. I still have a clear memory of a dream I had as a child. I was in a forest where all of the trees were ghostly white. There may have been animals like statues, also white. The problem with dreams is that they can tell you a complete story, full of characters and situations that somehow can never be fully explained in words. Unfortunately for my friends and family members, some of my dreams are so entertaining that despite that difficulty, I try to share them. But they seem so real.
My stress dreams are the funniest. I am usually trying to drive a vehicle (sometimes a dump truck!) up a perpendicular wall. The fear is that when I sink the clutch (of course it is not an automatic!) the truck will fall off! Although there are those who can translate your dreams to numbers, to the winning lotto ticket or other numbers game, the real key to dream interpretation lies in what the dreamer thinks it means. The answer, as always, lies within.
There are times when it would seem that we are living through a nightmare. We may have personal problems, but the global traumas that are currently unfolding seem more Hollywood than real, with no happy ending in sight. Humanitarian crises in Syria, extreme weather events, pandemics, where is Will Smith when we need him? It is understandable that religious people think we are at ‘the end of times’, that those placard-bearing eccentrics are right after all: “Repent! The end of the world is at hand!”
At times like these we should not turn to the physician for anti-anxiety medications. We undoubtedly need scientists to identify effective interventions and new practices. We also need peacemakers, mediators to find solutions to brutal regimes and wars. But it helps to look to history, to realize that our planet and the people on it have been through endless cycles of doom and destruction. Man has been looting and pillaging and burning since the dawn of time. Bacteria and other pathogens, like cockroaches, have long figured out how to outlast us all.
It is easy to give up on people, to imagine the worst of everyone. We certainly have many examples that confirm how deplorable mankind can be. But at the same time there are glimmers of hope. After all, if everyone that I know is basically a good person, striving to do their best in an imperfect way, where are all of these ‘evilous’ people, the ones who are bringing about chaos and destruction? Surely they must be in the minority? And are they completely bad?
In the 70’s there was a murderer who was executed by firing squad. He had requested that his eyes be donated after death, which inspired a punk rock song, ‘Looking through Gary Gilmore’s eyes’. Can you imagine if you had a corneal transplant only to discover that the donor was a murderer? Would that change your perspective? Could you live with that vision? We often talk about walking a mile in the shoes of another person. What if you could look through my eyes? Would it change how you saw the world?
The Buddhist perspective of life requires that we look objectively at the things that are happening around us. When bad things happen, could they have been worse? A fender bender is annoying, costly and upsetting. But what if the delay prevented you from being in a worse accident further down the road? Or suppose it forced you to acknowledge that you have been driving while distracted, not exactly texting while driving, but glancing at your phone from time to time. If you can find something positive in every situation, that stops you from moaning, whining and complaining and helps you to appreciate even the obstacles you encounter.
It seems as if there is much in the world to cause us to be fearful. We get our information from social media, from water cooler convos instead of trying to get the facts. ‘I heard that…’ can send further disinformation through the world. In the 70s (again showing my age) there was a commercial for a shampoo (I think) that showed what happened when ‘she told two friends, and she told two friends’ and so on. If we are not careful we can contribute to the spread of fear and rumors, instead of sharing facts. Our latest scare is Kovid-19, the so-called Corona virus. Are we in imminent danger of a Zombie-like invasion? Or is this a virus to be treated with respect but not panic? https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/share-facts-stop-fear.html
At any given moment there are plenty of things to fear. If you are a parent you never lose that sensation, that concern for the wellbeing of your children. When unexpected symptoms appear and diagnostic tests are ordered, we can always imagine the worst lurking in our tissues. And sure, there are plenty of times when the worst is true. But it helps to put things in perspective. How do you handle life’s unexpected challenges? We cannot hide under our blankets in fear, we have to confront the monsters and look for humor in everything. The healthiest people I know are those who choose to laugh at adversity, to dance during disasters, to create instead of wallowing in the crisis. It may not change the outcome, but at least you will have fun as you are battling the enemy.
On this cool South Florida morning (50 I hope you can see things through the eyes of another and gain perspective on their world view. I hope you can laugh, dance and create even in these challenging times. I hope you can find the good, the positive and the uplifting in order to lower your cortisol levels and increase your serotonin. May you find balance in all things.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!