I have dreams every night, but usually I don’t remember them. In fact I usually cannot even recall whether the dreams were pleasant or unpleasant.
However, I had a dream last night that fascinates me. Even though I don’t recall the dream completely, I recall it sufficiently to reflect on how pleasing it was and how it influenced me after I woke up. It influenced me so strongly that I decided to write this column about it. I would love to have some psychologist or psychiatrist or student of dreams interpret the dream for me, but I think that even I can understand part of the dream.
I was at a meeting in the living room of my parents’ home. It was not the main living room but a room in which we did not spend much time when I was growing up.
In the dream I was an adult and a priest. Attending the meeting were people involved in church activities. Every person was going to be asked about what they were doing with their lives, what was really important to them at this point in their lives. I did not know why I was invited and I did not know that I was going to be asked to speak.
At this point in the dream I experienced anxiety because I was not forewarned that I would have to speak. This anxiety might have been connected with recent experiences in class that did not go the way I had planned and hoped.
I tried to decide what I would say when my turn came to speak. I felt panic because no ideas immediately came to me, but the panic passed quickly because I decided to speak about the philosophy of love that I was teaching at St. John’s University and comment on how the philosophy was influencing my life. At this point in the dream I woke up and was at ease and free of anxiety. In the dream I never had the opportunity to speak.
The dream was so enjoyable that I tried to go back to sleep and reenter into the dream but I was not surprised that this did not happen.
Why did the dream change from an experience of anxiety to an enjoyable experience? I don’t know, but I suspect that the cause had something to do with what happened in class yesterday.
At the end of the class a student, who was taking two of my courses, confided in me how much he had changed because of the two courses and how his understanding of the mystery of the human person had deepened dramatically because of my teaching.
Anyone who has ever taught can imagine how the student’s comments were such a great gift to me. Every teacher hopes to have a positive influence on students. That this student, who is an exceptionally good student and asks excellent questions in class and is doing Grade A work, took the time to thank me for what he described as a conversion experience, made my day. He was thanking me but I felt enormous gratitude toward him, and I expressed that gratitude to him. My guess is that somehow the student’s comments influenced my dream.
Shortly after I woke from the dream all sorts of positive thoughts about the courses and about my life even during the pandemic, entered my mind. I picked up the book I and Thou by the personalist philosopher Martin Buber and came upon this statement:
“One should beware altogether of understanding the conversation with God — the conversation of which I had to speak in this book and in almost all of my later books — as something that occurs merely apart from the everyday.
God’s address to man penetrates the events in all our lives and all the events in the world around us, everything biographical and everything historical, and turns it into instruction, into demands for you and for me.
Event upon event, situation upon situation is enabled and empowered by this personal language to call upon the human person to endure and decide. Often we think that there is nothing to be heard as if we had not long ago plugged wax in into our own ears.
“The existence of mutuality between God and man cannot be proved any more than the existence of God. Anyone who dares nevertheless to speak of it bears witness and invokes the witness of those whom he addresses — present or future witness.”
It would be interesting to consult either a psychologist or a psychiatrist or a student of dreams for an interpretation of my dream, but I probably will never do that.
However, I am already thinking about how God might have been addressing me through this particular dream.