Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Animal Dreams

My dreams often contain nothing of substance--no concrete symbols or colors on which I can build a translation using traditional dream interpretation. So I was surprised and amused to have two vivid dreams full of animals the other night.

It was Friday night, after the second presidential debate. The first dream showed someone bringing a handful of army ants to the next presidential debate, in Arizona. The army ants swiftly multiplied and began to swarm over one of the men attending the debate. In the process of saving that man's life from the ants, John Kerry fell into the horde of ants. Within moments he was dead, all his flesh stripped from him, nothing left but a pile of bones. I was horrified, crying, in despair at his death so soon before the election. "We don't have enough time to choose another candidate!" I wept. (Guess I forgot about Edwards.)

The second dream was more bizarre. I was back in Oregon, idly wandering in the abandoned orchard in front of my parents' house. Looking down the road, I saw an animal loping toward me. At first I thought it was a large dog, and slowly climbed back over the fence into the field next to the house as a precaution. When it was closer I realized that it was not a dog. Instead it was a donkey, carrying a monkey on its back.

When they reached the orchard, they turned and came toward me. The donkey repeatedly thrust its head between two of the fence's wire strands and pushed against the fence, trying to get through. I backed away a little, leery of its aggression. Then the monkey spoke to me.

"We've been blown off course because of the hurricanes," said the monkey. "Can you help us out?"

"I'm sorry, I don't think I can," I answered. I wanted to help, but honestly didn't feel capable.

Fortunately for the lost animals, a group of Native Americans came out of the house and offered to help them. They all sat down in a circle with the donkey and the monkey and began to speak with them. I went inside the house and watched through a window, trying to observe and learn without being intrusive.

I don't think I've ever dreamt of a talking animal before, and I'm not sure what to make of either dream. Obviously I'm afraid something will be done to sabotage John Kerry's chances of being elected President. I don't know much about army ants, and suspect that their appearance owes itself to my vague memory of a short story I read in high school, "Leiningen Versus the Ants." The donkey being the symbol of the Democratic party would seem to be relevant, but I don't know what the "monkey on its back" would be. Or how it got blown off course by the hurricanes.

So, hey, if you see any ants swarming ominously in Arizona tomorrow, warn John Kerry, wouldja?

Sunday, October 03, 2004

"But I Want an Oompah-Loompah Now, Daddy!"

My husband and I recently took a long weekend to go visit my family for the first time since out wedding. We took our pictures to show everyone and spent every day visiting with a different configuration of relatives.

We had dinner at my parents' house one evening with my parents, my aunt and uncle, and my grandparents. After dinner my aunt and uncle and I were sitting in the living room, looking at pictures and reading magazines between snippets of conversation. Very relaxed and comfy. I flipped through a National Geographic magazine lying on the table next to me. It was the September 2004 issue, with many articles focusing on the effects of global climate change.

I made a comment about the article I was reading. My aunt, a very conservative evangelical Christian, breezily replied, "Oh, well, I know the Lord's going to be coming back for us before too long anyway, so I'm not worried about it."

I really wish some Christian who holds that attitude could explain to me how they think it is consonant with the teaching of the man who warned, "If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?"* Don't you believe that humanity is to be a steward the earth, to care for it and nurture it not as a toy to use up and toss aside, but as a gift to be cared for and entrusted to God's other children when you are gone?

My aunt doesn't worry about that responsibility, because she feels certain that she's got a "get out of jail free" card--the Rapture! Hey, Jesus is going to come back any day now, and that means she doesn't have to worry about having a good earth to pass on to the next generation! It never occurs to her that for two thousand years Christians have been expecting "the End," and every other generation has been mistaken in their guesses about its timing. She refuses to consider that she also might be wrong, that there might be another generation, or ten, or a hundred, before her Jesus returns with a shiny new earth to play with.

Oh, Christian, explain this to me. Don't you talk a lot about family values and discipline, about responsibility and commitment? I hear a lot of Christians talk about the inadvisability of "handouts;" I hear them warn that people who get things for free tend to take those things for granted and misuse them. But then those Christians turn around and say, without a trace of irony, that it doesn't matter if species are going extinct, the ocean and the air becoming increasingly polluted and the earth struggling, "'cause we're gonna get a new earth any day now, just as soon as Jesus comes back! Hallelujah!"

Explain to me how you can say this without feeling like a greedy, spoiled child?

*Matthew 16:11-12