I spend most of my nightly repose in REMland.
Most nights I wander through misty Jungian landscapes of archetypes and wierd events. Often I remember these dreams when I awake.
I take these nocturnal experiences seriously because I believe all dreams are meaningful messages from our unconscious.
One night I dreamed Mitch McConnell and I were friends because we shared a common interest in crewel embroidery. We would sit together stitching pillowcases and wall hangings and I thought he was very good at it.
I awoke in a state of befuddlement. What the hell was that about? I described the dream to Martha who reminded me that her seminary roommate is a specialist in dream interpretation.
I contacted my wife’s friend.
“That’s no mystery,” she said. “In your unconscious mind you think Mitch McConnell is cruel.”
That made sense. I happen to hold the same opinion in my conscious mind.
I rarely have nightmares although I sometimes dream I am in a predicament that is happily resolved by waking up. Predicaments like losing my car keys when I have an urgent need to drive somewhere, or being in a voting booth where the only option on the ballot is Donald Trump.
In many of my dreams I am in a large stone mansion. I wander aimlessly through its many rooms and hallways, often running into friends and loved ones I have not seen for years.
As I reflect on this type of dream it occurs to me that my unconscious may be crafting an image of heaven, or the afterlife.
Last night I dreamed Martha and I were exploring this same mansion, strolling contentedly through a maze of corridors until we came to a small dining room.
There was a long table in the room that had been set for us with china plates and silverware and we sat down. I was not aware there was anyone else seated at the table until she spoke.
“That was certainly a harsh thing you wrote about me,” the woman said, holding her fork over her plate.
I looked up. It was Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister.
I immediately felt remorseful about my harshness.
I might interject here that I almost never have thoughts about Margaret Thatcher. I did actually write about her in The American Baptist magazine when she assumed office in 1979, but it was a fairly admiring essay, far from harsh. I entitled it, “Mighty Maggie,” which elicited some complaints from Baptist women that it was disrespectful.
But as Margaret Thatcher sat at the table in front of me I regretted whatever I had written that might have hurt her.
“I am so sorry,” I said.
“No harm, dear.”
I got up from my seat and went to her side.
“I am sorry if you were distressed.”
She looked up smiled.
“Not in the least, dear.”
Then – in a move that would have been incomprehensible both for me and especially for Margaret in the waking world – I leaned forward and put my arm around her shoulder. She pressed her head into my arm.
“I am just so glad you are here,” I said.
Margaret smiled and reached up to take my hand.
Suddenly Ella Fitzgerald was singing “Isn’t it a Lovely Day” – the spritely melody I use for my morning alarm. And Margaret was gone.
But I couldn’t get her out of my mind.
So much of what my unconscious mind had dealt out was inexplicable.
Margaret Thatcher was not known for taking criticism kindly. She dealt harshly (to borrow a word) with her enemies and she did not forgive. She would certainly not have hugged a critic to make up. And I absolutely would not be inclined to hug a woman I had never met.
What, I wondered as I brushed my teeth, was my unconscious mind telling me?
What I had dreamed was an image of Mighty Maggie transformed from her earthly self into a mellow, forgiving, even affectionate Margaret. And I was responding to her with an expression of regret for past infractions, and love.
Neither of us would have been capable of these reactions in the real world.
But in our dreams?
If my unconscious mind is hinting what heaven will be like, that’s okay with me.