Two nights ago I dreamed.
In my dream the Vice President of Sales of my company smiled at me and addressed me in his usual cordial way. But he had hired a mafia hit man to kill me because my software product was hard for his people to sell. Violence and confrontation were not his way, so he used his financial resources to solve the problem for him.
They saw me quickly. I was already within range of the men with their guns. And it struck me how petty and selfish murder was. How my children would be denied my presence at their weddings. How I would not meet my grandchildren. How my wife would be made to cry by my having been taken from her, and how she would bear the heaviness in her heart for the remainder of her life wondering how I might have suffered before death.
And anger welled from within my heart and I wanted to strike them. Kill them back.
At that moment the bullets struck and the ground hit me before I realized I had fallen. And one of the assassins, to be sure I was dead, lay his head on the ground beside mine and looked into my eyes, mocking that of the two of us only he would arise from the dirt. His face was that of a devil. His flesh was clotted blood. His eyes were yellow with hepatitis. His teeth were jagged and rotted with decay.
There was no hate at that moment greater than mine for him. Then the memory of my daughter reading from a Sunday school catechism book flooded my mind and I knew I must not die with hate in my heart. That the only way to escape the assassins was to love them. Eternal life be unto him who loves his enemies.
My eyes opened automatically when my wife began shaking me. I was shouting in my sleep.
No love warmed my dying heart but the voice in my throat was loud enough to wake her up.
"Who do you love?" she asked me. "What are you dreaming?"
"It's terrible," I said. There was no sleep the rest of the night.
Last night, I dreamed again.
My eyes were the eyes of a foot soldier in Iraq. My squad was suiting up for a night operation. We were heading to a dangerous part of the city to root out insurgents. My commander was younger and less experienced than me. He had been chosen because he had rank, and he only had the rank because his family had influence with men in power.
He wore the bars because he was their son, and not because he knew what earning them meant.
And I was almost taken down by my sinking heart when he ordered me to the point. His rash and inexperienced decision-making would get most of us killed.
It was clear to me, then, what was the value of a life. That my volunteering for this duty had seemed patriotic and strong to me, but now I was to be squandered at the whim of my superior officers who would simply replace me when my body was dead. Mine was to be a military funeral for a senseless death in the line of duty. Because of obediance. Because the statistics demanded that some of us would be lost due to misuse and wastage. It was a calculated risk taken by all parties.
There was a child at home who would never know me beyond a picture on the television. A wife with whom I had promised to get old who would from this moment forth know me only as a sad episode.
And all my education and plans would be reduced to the dust inside my coffin, because my life had been not worth as much as a wealthy family's misplaced pride.
"What's wrong with you?" my wife said, waking me up. "Why can't you sleep?" she said, not aware of the concept of irony at that late hour, or perhaps at any time.
I buried my face in my pillow so she wouldn't see I was crying.
My daughter was very angry today.
She sat in front of the computer seething, slamming pencils and pacing.
She told me she had been talking to a friend on IM and e-mail. And now look--look what they wrote.
The message seemed innocuous to me.
"Don't you get it?" she said. "She's saying I'm accusing her of being a bitch, and so she's saying that's what I am."
Those words were nowhere in the message.
"What did you say to her?"
She told me. Those words were nowhere.
"What's really going on here?"
"Dad. Look. You don't understand."
"I guess I don't. But unless you guys have some secret code, or maybe there were some other messages that led up to this, I don't see where you should come off with that idea. Looks like your friend just wants to know how you feel."
"You don't get it, Dad."
"Maybe you're thinking something, so you think she's thinking something? But really, it's all in your head and not on the page. Could that be it?"
"Dad, can I have some privacy?"
"You know, honey, I'm going to tell you something and, I don't know, I'm just a random father, but I'm yours so I get to tell you these things. I think I'm right. There's not enough information in e-mail or your instant messages. You send each other abbreviations and you think you're having a conversation but you're filling in the blanks between the little abbreviations with words in your head. And if you have some crummy words in your head, you think your friend said them. But maybe she didn't mean that at all. Maybe the crummy stuff is coming out of your own brain, and not out of her mouth. Think about that. It's hard enough to have a live conversation and be understood because of all the things people leave unsaid, or say mistakenly. And here you are trying to talk for hours by typing strings of capital letters. Maybe it's not what you think."
"Dad..." She crossed her arms and looked at me with her chin lowered.
"You are so much like your mother," said me.
And then I didn't wake up. And it wasn't a dream.
Joseph Campbell said if you want to start understanding your dreams, write them down.
Robert Monroe said if you want to start understanding your dreams, write them down.
The Buddah suggested listening to your dreams.
Jesus had dreams.
Martin Luther King had dreams.
My wife probably thinks I'm having an affair because I wake up in the middle of the night crying and shouting my love for demons.
But that's the way it is.
No matter how well I write, no matter what I say, people will see reflections of themselves.
A very smart guy told me that. It was not a dream.