Recently I found this dream recorded April 13, 1997,in a letter I had written the day after the dream to my friend, F. The letter that I do not recall writing lay in a file and it was quite by surprise I happened upon it last week.
Dream: I was in my workshop, my woodworking shop at the time in real life. I had a can of acid or lacquer thinner in my hands. It broke in two and the acid spilled over my hands and down the front of me and onto my dog Jack who was with me onto his head and back. I did not act quickly but sort of in a sleep walk state—I went to the sink and filled a bucket with water and soap. It was the kind of automatic calm that can overtake you in an emergency. There was a rag with a lot of soap powder on it. I was holding Jack in a tight embrace, washing his head and back with the soapy rag. This part of the dream was so visual—there were already big scabs formed on his head and I remember thinking how I must have waited a long time to wash him and the acid must have really burned his head and back to already have formed scabs. It must have laid on him full strength a long time. The water bucket fell over a couple of times while I was washing him and I had to stop to right it. The water went everywhere and under things and I kept wondering if anything had gotten ruined from it, but I felt out of control to attend to everything and I felt myself unable to do anything about so many things, like the situation was bigger than me and the only tangible thing was this dog and myself. Perhaps I had been cleaning myself off during this time but I don’t remember. At this point in the dream my friend, F’s voice came in as an overlay like a radio broadcast. She was telling me a story she had heard on NPR about a man who had been whipped by his commanding officer for some failure on his part, and then ordered to whip the men under his command. And that while the whipped officer was whipping his own men, as he perspired, the wounds from his own flogging stung and glistened with sweat and heat. I woke up with my arms tightly wound over my chest still holding Jack to soothe him. Jack allowed this tight enclosure around himself so sweetly as if he had abandoned himself to me completely.
The soul is a strange doctor. It reads you your cure in reading you your turmoil and anguish. It slows the meter down and drip-by-drip you see the eventuality of your spirit. Your body and mind and feelings in a pile-up on the expressway, but the beauty of its telling is its fondness for you, the tightest embrace, utterly human in dimension.
It is nineteen years since the dream occurred. A big cycle of completion. And nineteen years later I see more clearly that Life is largely holding paradoxes in our hands. Things break. Containers of love break. Love contains darkness and light. It contains pain and joy, despair and hope, it contains vulnerability, it contains sweetness and surrender. Love contains everything. And when its container breaks in our hands, for no apparent reason or perhaps we are holding it too tightly, perhaps we are not paying attention— who knows but it breaks, the paradoxes of love and life spill over us, we get burned AND we are held tightly in that wounding AND we heal. In the dream I feel surprise that the burns Jack has experienced have already begun to scab over. Jack surrenders completely to being washed and held. He is my model and guide. I feel overwhelmed and only able to attend to the burns and the washing. I feel that no matter what else has happened this is my task. The soap powder is mysteriously already on the rag. The water spills over and over in the dream soaking everything running everywhere. Life’s essence the souls essence is uncontainable; it is what cleans us washes us heals us.
The man who is whipped because of a personal failure is ordered to whip his own men and while he is carrying out his orders he feels his own wounds smarting, glistening in the heat and sweat. He does not protest, but he feels this pain in his own awareness and the pain has made him conscious; through his pain he is learning about his own humanity, his failings and his anguish. A thoroughly human being and a true warrior.