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There were two dreams in my very earliest childhood -- in the days when a child both dreams and remembers dreams -- that have followed me throughout my 65 years. One I call "The Blue Egg Dream," and I'll talk about it another time.
This one I call "The Twilight Loaf Dream.
While I have figured out, over the years, what the "Blue Egg Dream" was telling me, I'm still not entirely certain what "Twilight Loaf" means. I do have a rough idea of what it doesn’t mean, though – lest it sound prideful, it’s not that kind of dream. The message, whatever else it may be, is not that I am somehow special.
In the dream, I was in a fairly empty auditorium, the seats of which were in a semi-circular arrangement to accommodate the stage apron. The auditorium was lit from within, somehow, in a brownish-yellow twilight. The few persons in the auditorium along with me, were visible only in silhouette.
On the stage were God, and Jesus. I was so young when I had this dream, that I would have had no sense at all of the “Trinity,” nor asked what happened to the Holy Spirit. All I knew – but I did know this somehow – was that God and Jesus were different persons (small “P”).
In the dream, God and Jesus were demonstrating their power. They did this by throwing a loaf of bread out into the audience section, and calling out the name of the person – otherwise only visible to them, as to me, as silhouette with no identifying features – for whom the loaf of bread was intended.
It came my turn, and Jesus threw two loaves of bread to me.
That was the entire dream.
As I said above: it did not mean to me then, and certainly does not mean to me now, that I was somehow special and got an extra loaf because I deserved one. Because I was somehow “better” or “more deserving” than anyone in the audience. The only feeling I had then was, Jesus really is powerful if he can do this twice to just one person!
In later years – in fact, not so many years ago – as life had had its way with me, as I had met and often nearly been crushed by my own limits and inadequacies, I began to think maybe the dream meant I was so broken, so weak, that I needed two loaves.
To get through what I had to get through not so many years ago, I certainly needed all the help I could get – and beg, and borrow, and scrounge up, unearth, invent – and that interpretation has stuck with me. I don’t know how my mind stayed in one piece, or one place, except maybe in a twilight so heavy that not even I could see anything, a second loaf always got through to me.
This second dream doesn’t have the emotional power of the Blue Egg Dream. If it is archetypal – and I believe it is – it nevertheless doesn’t share the feelings of power and hauntedness of the Blue Egg Dream.
(In my experience, archetypal dreams – dreams the contents of which are basal Archetypes very close to conscious-level reality – always have a heavy, even “thematic” emotional character to them. They are the kind of dream, the emotional overlay of which will haunt you – even disturb you, bother you – throughout the following day; and countless experiences during that day, both great and miniscule, will re-trigger that dominant emotion.)
It was – and is – “just” a feature of my emotional landscape. Until I wrote this blog, this dream, unlike the "Blue Egg Dream," didn't even have a name. There was no Twilight Loaf Dream … until today.
If I had, or have, any calling, the dream was a way of saying the Holy One would see to my needs, even if they are excessively greater than – twice that, at least, of -- the needs of others in similar settings to my own. Jesus somehow would always get that second loaf through the twilight and into my hands.
If there is a correlate to that dream that has accompanied me throughout my life, it is one that shares nothing in common with the dream itself – no emotional coding, no color-coding, nothing like that. Nevertheless, it may be connected, and in any event it belongs in this blog because it is why I love Jesus to the point it is, or “should” be, almost an embarrassment in this secular and Jesus-mocking nihilistic (make-up-your-own-values-because-there-ain’t-no-others) world. It should be, but it’s not. If it weren’t for Jesus, I just simply wouldn’t be here.
I have suffered from depression all of my life. It is chronic – genetically based – depression that runs in my family, both sides. I always have been more or less functional, which means as awful as my depression has been, nevertheless it could have been a lot lot worse. As much as I wanted to stay in bed most mornings of my adolescence – and this wasn’t adolescent morning sluggishness; this was sheer unspecified dread – I always managed to get up. (Some poor souls do not.) I always managed to make simple decisions (I have heard of a well-known artist who once stood in front of the refrigerator for 30 minutes, door open, trying to decide whether to have orange or apple juice). I never made plans to take my life (although long before I had a name for my depression, suicide itself always “fascinated” me as a topic for reading and study. I had absolutely no idea why.) I made general plans for the future; I fell in love a time or two; I always had a couple of close friends, and the fact I rarely if ever had more at any one time was because I was (and am) a classic Introvert, too, not because I was depressed.
Still, when the depression did its tsunami on me – and “tsunami” is the right word – my mind would unravel. Thoughts were just empty counters I moved around on a game board. I couldn’t arrive at a rational conclusion of any kind … I couldn’t understand what “evidence” for almost any belief or commitment would suffice, and so lived in a kind of suspended animation except for what others would tell me to do. There was no point, no purpose to anything. If I didn’t wax suicidal, I did wax supremely cynical, bitter, and even ferocious at … the world. (And I now am convinced all of that was suicidal impulses and ideation, camouflaged. I wanted to break with this mean, snotty, hateful world in any and every way I could, and I focused endlessly on its meanness, snottiness, hatefulness.)
Here’s something that I thought was perfectly normal at the time – that I figured was true of everyone: in my high school years, when the tsunami was on me, I thought the world was in black and white. I thought there was a visible fog throughout the world, leeching out all color, leaving everything just black, and white, and a ton of grey. I figured everyone saw the world that way, and those who obviously were high-energy and happy … I loathed for their phoniness. In fact, as I recall, Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye) appealed to me more because of his unending snide disdain for “phonies” than anything else.
You knew when the tsunami was swelling and soaring and headed my way, because I suddenly got interested in jazz (which I couldn’t stand, then or now) and contemporary abstract art (ditto). They were my best understanding – I see now (but not then) – of how to shred this world: completely shred its music and art, completely shred anything even approaching a standard. (This is unfair to jazz and abstract art alike, I now realize, so I hasten to say this was then and how I understood things then … when, by definition, my mind was unraveling anyway.)
Here is why I tell you this:
Without in the least realizing what it meant, I “discovered” – or rather, I stumbled stupidly, awkwardly and clumsily into the realization – that if I so much as thought about Jesus … it was as though a great, strong and yet gentle hand firmly grasped the tangled and deteriorating roots of my mind … held them back together and reasonably in place … until the biochemical tsunami had passed.
One day, as I walked by the ocean, my mind as chaotic and choppy as any gathering water storm, I “fantasized” – a conscious, deliberate fantasy – Jesus standing on the horizon. Suddenly there was a gateway out of this terrifying and sickening world. Suddenly this firm but gentle hand was there again, holding my rapidly deteriorating mind in one place. Suddenly … suddenly I knew I could make it.
I can’t say that always happened to me, thereafter and throughout all of my tsunami years. But I can say it happened far more often than not.
Jesus on the horizon of my life, gave me -- gives me, to this very day, even with the sheer miracle of anti-depressants soaring away on my behalf throughout my system -- my mind, indeed my life, back.
The evangelical phrase, "Look up to Jesus," has finally taken on a meaning for me. And a very powerful and personal meaning it is.
Was the brown-yellowish twilight my early childhood version of a fog-filled world in black-and-white?
Was that second loaf, the power of this Jesus to find me even in the fog-filled world of major depression, and keep me alive? That extra Food that only those with similar struggles find they need?
Was the appeal of Jesus (all my life, but with increasing intensity now that I am older, whatever that may mean) – this Jesus I cannot begin to “shake,” whom I love to an embarrassing degree in this apparently secular and nihilistic (we-make-up-our-own-values-as-we-go-along-because-there-just-ain’t-any-others) culture -- … of a Jesus who is engaged in reality, this-world reality … because I sensed, even in the day (or night) of the Twilight Loaf Dream … that Jesus alone could find me in my own darkness, and restore me to life?
Was this my first-ever, before-they-ever-taught-it-to-me-in-Sunday-School, glimpse of Jesus as the Bread of Life (John 6:35)?
So I believe. So I belove.
Over the years, I have had a lot of help from the Buddha, too, especially Amida Buddha (central to Shin [Japanese Pure Land] Buddhism). The Buddha in fact is my forerunner to Messiah -- John (or Jane) the Buddhist, thank you, rather than John the Baptist.
And so to this day, I go on with the help of Buddha, articulating the questions at the core of my foolish existence (a technical word in Shin Buddhism, equally true of Christianity, c.f. 1 Corinthians 1:18 – 2:16), darkened by ignorance fueled by a false sense of self (“flesh” in the New Testament) in a world of nothingness and emptiness (“vapor of vapor,” literally, at Ecclesiastes 1 – usually translated “vanity of vanities” but it means “vapor”; James 4:14; et al) … articulating those questions in a specially focused way …
But relying on Jesus to be the Power and Presence that is in itself the Truth, the Answer.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.