Tuesday, June 27, 2006



This I wrote 3 or 4 years ago. It's more an essay than a poem, but I don't care what you call it.

On being awakened by his mother who asked if he had good dreams, my grandson,George, [aged 3] replied, “Yes, but my life chased them away.” The phrase has haunted me ever since I heard it.

My Life Chased Them Away

“I had a dream...,” then I awoke
my life chased it away.

I saw a place where peace held sway
my life chased it away.

I knew a world where love ruled all
my life chased it away.

I felt respect for all humankind
my life chased it away.

I lived in a home where neighbor helped neighbor
my life chased it away.

I saw Christians love atheists
I saw Muslims love Hindus
I saw pagans love Jews
I saw me love you
my life chased them all away.

Sadly, it's all true: We let the concerns of our lives interfere with genuine living. That is, we tend to lose sight of ourselves, and others.

"If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark."
-- St. John of the Cross

A monk asked Master Haryo, " What is the way?" Haryo said, "An open-eyed man falling into the well."
-- Zen koan

"Go--not knowing where.
Bring--not knowing what.
The path is long, the way unknown."
-- Russian fairy tale

How 'bout a story? This one's short.


The experts—those out of town PhD’s with laptop computers—tell us that our sleeping and dreaming lives are essential preparation for our waking lives. What they don’t tell us is the obverse: our working lives are essential preparation for our sleeping and dreaming lives.

I admit there might have been a time when I believed the “experts;” if so, that time is long past. Why have I lost faith? The short answer is simple and is found in a line of an old song from Mexico: La vida no vale nada, “life is not worth a damn.”

What? You don’t understand what I mean? Alright, here’s the long answer.

I enjoyed life—I mean really enjoyed life—back when I was a kid, when everything was new, when my friends cared about me, my parents loved me, back when I had dreams, new dreams, exciting dreams, and life was filled with promise. It was a good time back then.

By the time I was grown, physically that is, a few changes had occurred, but life remained essentially good: some of my friends no longer were around, replaced by others who were not so close or accepting; my father was dead and my mother off somewhere with her blue-haired cronies; dreams I still had, but fewer new ones and those more “realistic,” less exciting. After a few years of military service, the trend was even more apparent—I had become a mature, responsible adult.

What a joy!

What a joy?

No. What a letdown. But at least, I told myself, as I became better “established” in my profession, in my community, things would begin to fall into place. All those preceding years were merely preparation for the actualization of my “real” life. I told myself that. Of course, I now realize what a liar I was.

But the lie may not be immediately apparent. I’m established now, and things have fallen into place. Monday mornings I take the Ervay Street bus to work, nine hours later I return home, also by bus, this time the Lakewood bus, after shuffling papers all day, taking two fifteen minute breaks and one forty five minute lunch. That’s it; Monday’s routine is cloned daily through Friday, except on Thursday when we have a staff meeting at one o’clock to discuss how we can shuffle more paper, faster. I get two weeks off for a vacation that I cannot afford to take, so I watch television soap operas, talk shows, reality shows (reality?) and quiz shows. Ten days sick leave, the use of which would cost me my job if my primary physician would not document it.

Saturdays, I wash clothes, shop for groceries, on rare occasions buy socks or underwear. Right after payday, I take in a Saturday matinee at the Rita Theater down the street. Month before last, I got a 20¢ an hour raise so I splurged and bought a package of Milk Duds to go with my usual popcorn and Dr. Pepper. I don’t usually get the Milk Duds because I’m kind of saving my money in hopes of meeting a young lady who might consider going out with me, dancing or dinner perhaps. Who knows what could come of something like that? So I hope to be prepared if it happens.

Sundays, I sleep in late, rarely go out at all. Some years ago I attended a Methodist church just down the street, but I stopped going. There was nothing wrong with the church, but one of my friends at work is Jewish and I didn’t want to offend him by mentioning Christianity. A man, a customer actually, who comes to the office frequently is a Muslim, and he often stops to pass the time with me while he waits to see the boss. I don’t want to risk offending him either. My apartment manager is a Catholic, and the lady who runs the green grocer stand is Pentecostal. I decided my life would be simpler if I just stayed away from religion. Politics too, since my boss is a Republican and my Jewish friend is a Democrat. And I just found out that the druggist belongs to the Green Party, whatever that is. So I’ve learned to keep a low profile—seems like the safest way.

Or at least that was how I was thinking until a couple of months ago. One Saturday, it was the week before a payday, I went for a stroll in the park a couple of blocks over from my place. I had stopped to rest on a bench alongside the path. The sun was warm, the breeze was doing what the poets call ‘wafting spring’s freshness;’ I dozed. I was awakened when I heard a lady on the bench backed up to mine ask her little boy, who also must just then have awaken from a nap, if he had had good dreams. He replied, “Yes. But my life chased them away.”

Now I have no idea what that kid dreamed about and he couldn’t have been more than three years old, but damn, his words gave me a start, a wake up call that grows louder day by day. I see it now: my life chased away my dreams. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not blaming anyone but myself; I’m not a whiner, you know. I let it happen. But since that day, I have been assiduously rediscovering my dreams. I’m careful; I knew from the start if I dropped my guard, my life, like the kid’s, would chase my dreams away. I’ve done a good job of discovery, and now I’ve reached a crossroads.

You see, over the days and weeks since the kid’s remark, my dreams have returned, have grown even. They’ve grown while my waking life has waned. So much so that I quit my job last week to devote full time to pursuing my dreams. It’s no big deal; my boss would have fired me soon for not getting to work regularly, “sleeping” at my desk at work, leaving work in the middle of the day. They just can’t seem to understand that I’m only trying to bring balance to my life; bring balance by balancing my dozens of years of work when I knew diminishing dreams, with knowing a few years of dreams while work diminishes. They keep telling me to “come back to reality;” that’s because they don’t know about quantum physics, I guess.

I can’t fault them for not knowing about quantum physics; I didn’t either until a few weeks ago when I met this professor on the Ervay Street bus one morning. He told me about quantum physics; how things are not always what they seem to be, that time might not always be the same for everyone everywhere. Well, now, I thought, if time is not always the same and things are not what they seem to be, then why can’t I find some dreams again?

But I didn’t know how to get them back. I took a day off work (they docked my pay) to think about it. My thoughts wandered back many years until, late that evening, I finally remembered bits of a few of my old dreams. That night I dreamed for the first time I could remember since I was in my early twenties. Next morning, I knew exactly what the kid felt when he said his life chased his dreams away; my life, dull dingy drab dreary dribble of days, chased my dreams away. The solution, clearly, was to make radical changes in my daily life. That’s why I quit my job. Since then, I sleep and dream more. So much that, yesterday, I worried a little that I might be sleeping too much, that I might slip into some kind of na-na land from which my mind would never escape because na-na land is not real. But today, I awoke after sleeping more than twenty three hours; and I had dreamed, of course. Oh, yes. I dreamed about flying over the city, seeing a yellow-eyed demon horse in a covered junk yard, following some geese who knew which trees were best for roosting, hearing a multi-hued and banded snake talking to my son from a tiny hole in the ground, and watching myself as I dove into the ocean to see lion fish chasing sea otters perched atop kewpie dolls. Hours and hours I dreamed. But when I woke this morning, I knew it was all real, far more real than the “real life” I had been living before the kid pronounced my song of independence that day in the park.

How did I know the dreams were real? Fair question. I’ll try to answer, but I’m not at all sure I can, because these damned yellow sea slugs tangled in my hair keep distracting me.

The End

That's all for now. Peace.

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