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Dreams of the Dead

Do you dream, Father?

You are not dead but sleeping, waiting to awake when the final trumpet sounds for judgement day. ‘And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne… The sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead, and each one was judged according to his deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.’

Physics says I exert the same force on the planet as it does on me. Can that be true of other forces? Other bodies? Do the great mass of dead souls in the underworld relate to the living, the one group effecting the other with the same power to move, influence, inspire? I have no answers, but my suspicions form an idea.

Where are we in all this, Father? Between the grandeur of scripture and science, we are only two people, one relationship, one link. We don’t seem to amount to much, but I am (I assume) all I have, and you are unique too: my only Father. I am your continuation in body, habits, attitudes and thoughts, as are my brothers and sisters. Surely that means something?

The dead outnumber us. We are many, but people have been people for aeons, for so long we have shaped a new age, left our indelible mark on the Earth. Did we wakers do this work alone? Perhaps not! You sleepers helped us. Your thoughts continued as the world turned, wobbling on its axis, rocking you, stirring your thoughts.

Those thoughts ran around your head for so long, you could not stop them. Once, when I was very tired, I remember thoughts, voices, racing around my head unasked for. As our bodies tire, does the gyroscope of thoughts continue in the momentum of thought, amassed over decades of waking and sleeping? It cycles on, turned into a habit, into character. Stubbornly continues, as I try to sleep…

As the sun travels through the galaxy, the planets circle her like great moths around the light. They glide on the surface of space-time, curved by the huge mass of our star, but pulling her too. Does this helix, spiralling in space, trace out our destiny, encode our stellar ancestry and predict our future path? Do humans on the surface of the spinning earth do the same?

The rippled surface of our brains, the folded terrain of our consciousness, overlay the deeper mantle of animal thought – the emotional core. The unpredictable weather of thoughts plays over our minds, overlay the eruptions of emotion from below, the savage drive to survive. Oh, I need to get back to sleep: where is all this coming from?

We humans think of our lives as days interspersed with sleep. Useful days interrupted by nothingness, helpless, unthinking inactivity: but what if it was not so? What if it’s a continuous whole, beginning as un-borns, as newborn babies tipping the balance from sleeping to waking as we mature. Then it runs back down in old age, as the waking world recedes and sleep returns to claim more and more of us…

The young look forward and the old look back, but the dead are eternal: in the now, disinterested in time and its fads, distanced from space. They are free to contemplate more fundamental things, like the blessed stasis of the firmament. They see the celestial spheres, but they do not roll. Their dreams do not move these souls; no rapid-eye-movement or flailing paws for them. Do they review their past lives and loves, celebrating their enthusiasms and healing themselves of the hurts of life and dying – the shock of departure? Perhaps they renew their minds in preparation for judgement – to give their best account of themselves.

I imagine the elder ones have grown tired of this long rehearsal, of justifications – excuses, if you prefer. They turn their thoughts elsewhere. Instead of excuses for past wrongs, they make amends by fixing things from their eternal and everywhere vantage point. It must be tempting. Now the aeons-dead dreamers can use their peace to reach into the turmoil of the living. Fatalistic, they see, too late, they’ve passed the point where they can alter their own fate, so they decide to intervene for the quick, who still have options.

Maybe our miracles are their epiphanies of doom, which lead them to lend their dreams to others, a vicarious favour to the living congregation. Even now they influence my thoughts, my pen in my hand, my fingers on the keyboard. ‘All models are wrong, but some are useful’; so a dear, departed colleague used to say (he did not die but retired to Spain). Are all such musings as this wrong? Yet I hope some of mine might be useful. But it’s too easy to dwell on these things in the middle of the night…

I wake. The surface froth on my stirred coffee swirls like stars in the galaxy, albeit a tiny two-dimensional version. My flat white is of no consequence in the great, two-hundred-billion-star scheme of things, but it stimulates me. I think about these representations, and my coffee-fuelled thoughts reach you and rouse you.  Thoughts rise like curls of steam from the twirling liquid and disperse. They seem insignificant, but I am confident – your confidant – that in a universe of causes and effects they make a difference.

Is silence kept in heaven to hear to prayers of the saints? Because I dreamed this, did we have a connection? Do the dead dream? I don’t know, perhaps I don’t even care. I fill my days with waking thoughts, and the sleeping ones fade. I have no room or time for them in my busy Monday morning. What will I do with them? They slip away to the darkness at the back of my head, their job done, my brain repaired, prepared for waking thoughts, useful thoughts. What use are sleeping thoughts anyway, slippery threads that spin away out of my grasp?

At least this one did not get away. You did, Father, and now I wonder about you and your dreams.


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