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Antonio de Pereda: The Knight's Dream (ca. 1650-1670)
On the banner: Aeterne pungit, cito volat et occidit.
"Eternally it stings, swiftly it flies and it kills."

" … not ever what they're not actually saying."

I dream in allegory, not coherent narrative. When The Muse asks what I dreamed, I'm speechless because I cannot translate them into words. They mostly seem absurd, haphazardly combining metaphors. I think of them as badreams (pronounced BAdreams) because they unsettle me and chase me away from sleep. Several times each week, I find myself awake, hesitant to close my eyes again, feeling not quite finished with sleep but effectively barred from reentering it. Each badream brings some message but these might just as well have been sealed within a bottle within a box and sunk deeply beneath the sea for all the coherence they seem to carry. They communicate anyway, beyond words, beyond any correlate in this world. Meanings seem to seep in and they often refuse to go away. Perhaps they carry significant information or maybe they're just distractions, synapses firing randomly to produce profound sensations signifying nothing. How could I know?

They often seem to carry warnings.
Last night, I caught myself dreaming of an evening The Muse and I spent with friends. We went to a small cafe down near the river in downtown Spokane. We drank beer and ate a satisfying dinner and our friends introduced us to several people who passed by our table. We must have been nearly two hours into this experience before I happened to notice that none of us had been wearing masks and that we had been sitting well within the six foot distance and that we'd been shaking hands and hugging and laughing our fool heads off. I sensed a stunning disruption happening and realized that none of us could unwind that time we'd just spent innocently stepped over the line. We might have just doomed ourselves, Tom and Mary and Amy and I.

Maybe I was reminding myself to remain vigilant, that This Damned Pandemic depends upon my inattention to thrive, and that a gross violation might most probably seem like nothing in the compromising moment, a familiar form of inaction doing nothing. Realization comes only after it might already be too late to undo it. I clearly ache for a break from guard duty. I suspect that I'm no longer a terribly effective watchman, inattention having long ago lulled me into a dulling trance. Real life sometimes seems just as surreal as my allegorical badreams. A life lived on guard seems like a life observed from afar and not one in which I'm actually engaging. I defer as a matter of course, hardly questioning anymore whether I should really be questioning every little thing. I defer and suggest that only one of us actually needs to go into the store. I say, "I'll just wait for you here," then spend another hour squeezed into a parking space, waiting. Waiting for what? Waiting, I guess, for some clear succession of hostilities I cannot see no matter how watchful I remain, suspended in a waking badream.

Fortunately, my badreams quickly extinguish themselves. Since I cannot translate the least of them into anything like coherent narrative, I cannot catalogue them onto some shelf for future reference. They are animals of the immediate moment. I might wonder after them like I might watch ice cream melting. Once melted, they don't look like ice cream anymore and they melt quickly. Some believe that dreams foretell futures, though mine disperse so quickly they're not still around to compare to later experience. Old Testament prophets dealt in dreams like concessioners deal in peanuts, by the pre-salted pound. The Lord, whoever that is, was largely believed to communicate with us humans exclusively via dreams, leaving the underlying meanings open to considerable interpretation. It might be that the voice of God only exists as allegory and that the meanings I make say most about me and not really about any all-wise deity. That my badreams awaken me might be their most significant meaning, not ever what they're not actually saying.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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