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At 4:30 A. M., I awoke with these depth-dreams:

There are no radios anymore. Instead, on everyone’s wrist is a digital device with a screen, programmed by those in power. No one needs to know anything else. However, the material is frequently modified resulting in generalized confusion.

I’m horrified, exhausted as I watch armed camps fighting each other: one is good; the other, evil. No one knows the outcome but the destruction is cataclysmic.

Both dreams come from the collective unconscious of the psyche, a discovery made by the Swiss psychiatrist, Carl G. Jung in the early twentieth century. Content from this depth has universal implications, differing from those found in the personal unconscious in which recognizable aspects drawn from daily living are pieced together in dreams.

The first dream has an Orwellian ambiance around it and suggests the ultimate of mind control, already foisted upon the global population for decades. Even now, it’s hard to get a clear sense of the news, shredded and Scotch-taped to larger stories, later reported by tieless newsreaders and those wearing shrink-wrapped dresses. It’s all about titillation, distraction, while sucking spirit dry.

The second dream about the war suggests the continuing deadly conflict, here on earth, between the Archangel Michael and the damned Lucifer as found in the compilations of the prophet Enoch, an ancient Hebrew apocalyptic text, Book One dating to 4 BCE.  In my lifetime, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Afghanistan reveal the flip side of this angelic deadly conflict; it continues with al-Qaeda and the war of Terrorism. In the dream, the outcome is uncertain.

Only the mystical dimensions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam offer a response to such evil: compassion, per the research of Karen Armstrong, scholar.

“Young men, never give up!” so said Winston Churchill on October 29, 1941, to the Harrow graduating class, his alma mater from which he almost flunked out. Then he turned from the podium and sat down. After an interval, he returned to the microphone and in louder tones, repeated,” Never give up!” Then, returned his seat. Still another interval passed and the admonition voiced in even louder tones, “Never give up – never-never-never-never-give up!” Again, he resumed his seat on the platform with the dignitaries. He had no more to say.

The mood in that hall must have been uneasy, given the likely expectation for more consoling words from their Prime Minister. Yet, they were sparse, stringent, intended for high school boys already experiencing the horrors of World War II. That this commencement address should still be remembered says much of Churchill’s reading of the times.

Our times, too, are harrowing, with Covid 19’s continuing menace. Who could have imagined global losses of life and health, of income and business failures, of the shuttering of performing arts and sports venues, stressed families, and the 24/7 possible sting of infection, even with recommended protections. True, vaccines are reported in the near future, but grief has had its way with us: The wound still weeps.

That we are all changed is certain—more resilient, mindful, even compassionate toward others. But how and when shall we begin formulating fresh ways to view ourselves as individuals and communities? Incorporating what’s been useful from the experience and moving on? Will another Churchill rise from the ashes for our times—perhaps from our own resources? Is he/she already here?

Your word is a lamp for my feet, so prayed the Psalmist who sought to know and follow God’s will, within the specificities of his time and place. This spiritual practice, for centuries internalized by others, has opened onto ultimate joy, but not without sacrifice.

This prayer first became mine during formation as a novice in 1958, easily practiced among others brimming with youth and enthusiasm. Then, the will of God was spelled out in the Order of Day posted outside the office of the Mistress of Novices. Over time, I learned to hear God’s will sounded by the clapper of the hand bell marshaling everyone to the next activity. Only thundering footsteps along terrazzo corridors marred the silence, observed by everyone. Somehow, it worked very well, within the quiet of our hearts.

Despite leaving the convent years later, I still carry this imprinting; it serves me well, especially with the eruption of new limits impinging upon my former independence. No longer do I go outside. No longer do I prepare my own food. No longer do I scrub my back. No longer do I speak for long intervals without oxygen. No longer can I spend long hours at my word processor. And so many more No longer cans … At times, these bristle with wintershock.

Were it not for my compassionate family, friends, and spirited caregivers I would have lost track of the light’s lamp and fallen off the path. This work is too onerous to attempt alone.

So with the Psalmist, I renew the prayer, Your word is a lamp for my feet, and surrender to the Unknown, awaiting all of us, on the other side of time.


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