We all get to do everything, because we’re all everyone: a revelation brought to you by the director and scriptwriter of my
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I seldom remember my dreams, but sometimes they are humdingers. This was one of a handful in which, within the dream, I reached full-blown gonzo enlightenment. And it was also a dream within a dream, the sort of thing that leaves one with a “reality”-questioning hangover. Except it is a mystical sort of hangover that isn’t unpleasant at all. (I first typed “mustical” there, which seems like a word worthy of saving for another time. Mustical. Hints of musical but also musty. And mushrooms. And mustard.)
It all gets fuzzy and fades as I write, but in the “inner dream” I was undergoing some sort of training, some sort of martial-arts and general super secret agent program. There was knife fighting — with an emphasis on cutting rather than stabbing or slashing, very sensible — but somehow the whole thing was also an enforcement program for Google and IBM. (I was in an IBM office, this was written on the windows, but also we were training to enforce Google Terms of Service. Worth noting that the last full-time software job I had, before deciding to downshift my career years ago in search of…well, something…was with IBM’s Telephony Lab. So.)
The program also involved being cut — sort of like Heidelberg dueling scars. I had to be cut on the face, with the objective of toughening us up. I remember feeling the pain in the dream, first sharp and then dull. But I could do it, it would make me strong. Classic ordeal path work.
But then, in the dream, I realized: I don’t have to do this. It is not what I want. Part of me does, yes, the challenge is attractive. But more of me says no. And I can change course. I am on an elevator, going up to continue my training, and instead I press the button for floor 0. (Not the first floor, not the ground floor, the zeroth floor.) I do not know if this will work. But it does; the elevator descend, I step off of it into the lobby and walk out of the building into the bright sunshine.
And the world is beautiful. A pleasant spring or summer day. People walking by and I love them all. Another man walks by me and he is me. He is me but he is going to stay with the program. Also, somehow, he is black, but in the dream this isn’t any racial point (though obviously of interest to any armchair psychoanalysts). The point is that he is me. He/I will stay in, while I/I leave. I’ll get to do both.
In fact everyone I see is me! And this means, I’ll get to do all the things! There is no “fear of missing out” because I — ***I****, Big Cosmic I That Unifies All — will do everything! Joy! Ecstasy of revelation! I start to float off the ground, fly, swooping!
I awake! It was a dream. A beautiful dream of enlightenment. But it still colors my world. It is a full-on psychedelic rush. I close my eyes and the bright geometrical patterns are vivid. I cosmically orgasm at every chakra, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I giggle like a child, like an ascended master.
I get up and walk to the bathroom. I smile at myself in the mirror. In the corner of my eye I see someone. I turn and say good morning to my housemate, walk toward him. Hello world!
Except it is not my housemate. As I am still cosmically buzzing, this is not a problem. He is familiar. A former housemate? Also just awakening, he is not hostile, he is confused as I am at first. I remember a few nights waking up in strange places after drinking too much — long ago, I have evened out my deal with Dionysus — and my heart goes out to him. The presence of a stranger in my home has provoked compassion rather than fear.
No, not just drunk. There is something deeper. He knows me but I conclude I don’t know him, though he is familiar. Maybe someone I met at a party once. (But, the dream echoes, he is me.) I don’t know why he’s come to me. He’s been homeless for a week, he tells me. He broke in, there is a mess on the floor downstairs, a shattered window. I think about my home insurance and having it fixed, as I tell him I want to help but this is not okay, he can’t stay here. I wonder at saying that as the dream afterglow vibrates with he is me!, but I also feel a deep echo of the sacred importance of boundaries. A contradiction! A dilemma! But I am optimistic. I don’t know the answer but we will figure it out, swallow the dilemma.
And then I wake up, again. Soaked in the cosmic vibrations of the inner dream that we all get to do everything because we are all everyone, and the human concern of the outer dream. (Or at least the outer dream so far, as I stop typing and look around for any hints that this too too solid world will melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew just as the other two did.)
I’ve been arguing politics on social media a lot the past week, and so the Bernie Sanders campaign slogan “Not me, us” pops into my head now as a summary of both levels of the dream. Cosmically there is not a “me” — as the Buddha taught. So there is no fear, no death and no missing out. No worries and no cause for worries. But here we are on this planet with all these other “mes”, to pluralize the singular, each of us capable of suffering, a suffering that is our suffering in a very real way.
And what to do? As I — not dream I/me/we, not the plural cosmic I but regular old Tom sitting at the keyboard — let that question settle into the echo of this nested cortical cinematic spectacular, a Taoist whisper suggests that the answer is not some Grand Plan To Change The World, but something wu wei-ish. It is helping all those plural mes to hear that echo, feel that feeling. Yes, those mes in MAGA hats and in antifa masks too, and those who have done terrible awful things, the murders and thieves and really bad poets and people who don’t take their earbuds out to talk to the barista when ordering coffee, even they are me and could hear that echo, feel a lightening of the heart.
And should every heart in the world lighten just an ounce, that is two-hundred and nineteen thousand tons relieved!
I google to get an idea of how that compares to the weight of a mountain — it is tiny in comparison — and am directed to a Buddhist essay by Thanissaro Bhikkhu which says “Is a mountain heavy? It may be heavy in and of itself, but as long as we don’t try to lift it up, it won’t be heavy for us. This is a metaphor that one of my teachers, Ajaan Suwat, often used when explaining how to stop suffering from the problems of life. You don’t deny their existence — the mountains are heavy — and you don’t run away from them. As he would further explain, you deal with problems where you have to and solve them where you can. You simply learn how not to carry them around. ”
And that is important! But I want to imagine not the weight of that two-hundred and nineteen thousand tons, but what happens if let it go. If we lightened each of seven billion hearts by one ounce, we would have to convert that two-hundred and nineteen thousand tons to energy! My quick calculations indicate that if we lightened every human heart by one ounce, and converted that matter to energy (E=mc2 and all), we could power human civilization for over 30,000 years!
My physics and poetry teachers would all raise eyebrows at the metaphor but I say it is solid. Whatever the answer to the dilemma, it will be recognizable by having the quality of lightness bringing energy — lightness bringing light.