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At 6:45 A.M., I awoke, shivering, with this dream:

On Sunday morning, I attend brunch at an elegant country club with flower-bedecked tables laden with choice foods, attended by aproned servers. Stylishly dressed families jam circle tables in the dining rooms that overlook the golf course. The chatter is deafening. Because I’ve a need for a restroom, I go in search of one. The next awareness I have is of a hand leading me from the men’s room, located in the basement through labyrinthine musty stinking corridors. The soot-encrusted tiles feel cold beneath my bare feet. I’ve lost my shoes. Bleary-eyed, exhausted, I plod along.

This dream could have causal factors: taking my thyroid medicine at 5 A.M., then turning on Relevant Radio, a recently discovered Catholic FM station, rather than resume my sleep. Just wanted to hear what they’re talking about, I mused, having been a non-practicing Catholic since May 2007, though still one at heart.

The smooth tones of an Archbishop, repeating himself at intervals, intrigued me. It felt like I was seated in the boardroom of a Fortune 500 Company; the commodities under discussion were the souls of the Archbishop’s nine thousand parishioners and plans to revivify their spiritual practices, as well as help his struggling young priests return to prayer. All in all, a rosy picture emerged of his Archdiocese.

Again, it was my curiosity that activated my Dreamer’s correction as noted above.

The image of the Sunday morning brunch suggests an essential feeding during a church service; the elegant country club, the veneer of the Catholic Church; the chatter, the gibberish of prayer; the men’s room, the undercover manipulation by the patriarchy; the basement, the shadow/unacknowledged sinfulness of the Catholic Church; hand, the right green forearm of salvation as depicted in Medieval stained glass windows; and the loss of my shoes, the absence of purpose.

The sickening aftermath of this dream lingered into the day, eventually dissipating in the writing this blog; its lesson: beware of curiosity and its contagion.

Or perhaps the dream is all about my shadow, not the Catholic Church.

 

 

Outside my study window, overhanging limbs of my London plane tree appear motionless; they seem to say, “Pay attention. Notice my hand-sized leaves, still green, though dried. Autumn has already begun, with no signs of change.” Something is out of kilter.

This stoppage seems to shake the foundations of any residual holdouts in the darkness of my psyche. True, eleven months of hospice care have pried open, at times painfully, such blind spots and deepened the acceptance of my mortality. Yet, denial still tricks like the black-hearted magician: his cape, snapping illusory versions of my slowly worsening symptoms to soothe my distress. It never works, for long. At least my old body is honest and for that I’m grateful.

In the early 1900s, the world also experienced upheaval: World War I and its aftermath, the Spanish flu pandemic, the Bolshevik and Russian revolutions, and the Easter Uprising in Ireland. A witness to those atrocities was the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, in response to which he composed “Second Coming”(1919).

Yeats’s imagination limped before the wanton destruction of life as he knew it and could not conceive of a pre-war world in which life would continue. The nub of what remained in his psyche was the Second Coming of the Anti-Christ as depicted in the Book of Revelation, called the rough beast in his poem.

Other chilling metaphors shadow our present upheaval and afford critical insight into its darkness. The falcon’s ever widening gyre speaks to breakaways from established values: untrammeled freedom is all that matters. The blood-dimmed tide describes the wholesale slaughter of combatants locked in conflict: no matter the aftermath of deals struck by superpowers.

Yeats views such lawlessness as the antecedent for The Second Coming—An epiphany of sickening depth: a Sphinx-like creature, its gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, moves its slow thighs across the desert, certain of its destination: Bethlehem.

Until now, the beast has not arrived, but our world seems ripe for it. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold—says Yeats of his world. The same holds true for ours. Mushiness countermands foundations, changes yes to no at dizzying rates, lets slide the obvious. It’s too costly to stand for anything. Of more comfort is mindlessness.

A stark scenario, to be sure, only countered by prayer and meditation. Aside from spin-doctors’ manipulations, there is a Power still at work in creation: within our very hearts, always a safe refuge in the storm.

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