Dreams in a Garden
I had a strange dream last night. I see your eyes glazing over already. Listening to other people’s dreams bores you. I get that. I want to share anyway.
I dreamt that I was in the middle of a garden where I enjoyed every earthly delight.
Then a man dressed in white approached me. He looked like a Mormon bishop from my childhood. He told me that I should follow him. I hesitated because I didn’t want to leave. He told me that my eyes deceived me about the beauty of the garden. Trusting this fatherly man, I turned around to look at the garden and saw that it had turned into a gray wasteland full of hidden dangers and death. I turned back to the man and gratefully followed him through the trackless waste.
In time, I saw that he was leading me to a large tree where I saw my parents beckoning to me. They were eating fruit from the tree and seemed to be very happy. The man pointed out an iron railing that led along a trail to the tree. He told me to hold fast to this iron rod so that it would guide me to the tree. I put my hand on the railing and started to walk along the narrow path.
To the side of the path, I saw a polluted river with terrifying rapids that threatened to crush anyone unwise enough to fall in. I held even tighter to the rod and pressed on.
Suddenly, a fog arose along the path and blinded me. As darkness robbed me of sight, I felt confused and unsure if I was heading in the right direction. I remembered what my guide had said, felt my hand grasp the comforting rail of iron and pressed forward.
The fog dissipated and I could see that I was getting closer to my parents. I looked around me and saw other dark paths with people following them. I pitied the people who had gotten lost or who had never found the right path. I called to them, but they seemed determined to follow the wrong paths. Sadly, I turned my head back to the tree and my awaiting parents.
As I was about to set my foot on the grassy field where the tree stood, I heard laughter. I turned and saw a huge building that seemed to reach into the sky. From its balconies, people were pointing at me and mocking. They were drinking and carousing and laughing. I felt briefly ashamed and hurt by their mocking. I saw crowds of people entering the building’s doors. Only a few remained on the path. Gathering my pride, I turned back to my loving parents who anxiously called to me, telling me how sweet the tree’s fruit tasted. I turned my back on the mockers and stepped up to the tree.
I pulled down the nearest fruit. It shone brightly white in the sun and I took my first bite. I tasted sweet on my tongue but left an almost overwhelming bitterness in my mouth as I swallowed. I retched as quietly as I could so that no one would notice. I looked at my family and friends who were eating the fruit. They seemed enraptured. I must have picked a rotten fruit. I chose another fruit close by.
I tasted the same sweetness followed by bitterness. I didn’t react as violently this time. Perhaps it took a refined palate to appreciate the flavor of this fruit. Everyone seemed to be watching me to see how I liked the fruit. I smiled and kept trying to find a ripe fruit on the tree, not wanting to admit that I didn’t enjoy the fruit as much as everyone else. Satisfied, they returned to eating the fruit. Between mouthfuls, they chatted about how wonderful the fruit tasted. They never seemed to tire of talking about the fruit.
Eventually, I got tired of the bitterness of the fruit and the repetitiveness of the chatter and sat down on the grass to think. As I was lost in thought, another mist of darkness blinded me. I sat still waiting for it to pass. As the sunlight returned, I noticed something new: the people going to the large building were wading through the river to get there. I couldn’t believe my eyes as they walked easily through the pounding torrent. I had to see for myself.
I walked to the water’s edge and dipped my foot in. I felt no current. Growing more courageous, I stepped out into the water. The water dissipated and I realized that it was only a mirage. I boldly crossed to the other side and walked up to the entrance of the building.
A young woman greeted me with open arms and a cheery smile and ushered me inside. A grand garden dominated the center of the building. It reminded me of the garden that I had left. I felt apprehensive to face the mocking crowds. Instead of mocking me they called me out onto a balcony where they talked and laughed and played. They had so many interesting things to say and they seemed to really enjoy their time together. It felt so good to just listen.
A few were calling out from the balcony. I walked over and looked out over the field that I had left. The river was missing, as I had expected. The mists of darkness that had blinded me were also transformed. They were almost blindingly white. It reminded me of that time I had flown out of an airport as a snowstorm was coming in. I think it was the first time I had ever flown. The gray clouds hung ominously over the airport. As the airplane lifted off, we headed through the clouds. When we crossed through to the other side, the clouds that had so frightened this first time flier were a brilliant white. I never expected this but it made perfect sense.
I returned from my reminiscences and looked again over the field. I noticed that many trees stood in the field, not just the one I had eaten from. A vast horde of people wandered around in the field going from tree to tree, many more than those who found their way into the building. Once in a while as they trudged through the mud with heads hung low and ate their bittersweet fruit, a fog would make some of them stop and look around. Most returned to their wandering. A few noticed the building and headed toward it.
Some of my new friends were calling out to others, anyone who would listen. They beckoned to them, inviting them to join the discussion and enjoy the party. I joined my friends in calling out to the people I had left behind in the field. My calls fell on deaf ears. They seemed convinced that I was trying to attack them. I pleaded with them that I had found joy in the building and just wanted them to share in my happiness. My pleas fell on deaf ears.
Sorrowfully, I returned to the party in the garden.
[This was inspired by a post at Dancing With Crazy… oh! and 1 Nephi 8… and crossposted at my blog.]
That’s an interesting new take on an old story. Did you really dream it, or did you just make it up? 😉
I almost never dream about Mormonism, but, by coincidence, just last night I had a dream about Mormonism (for real). I dreamt that my husband got called to be the bishop of the local ward. And, on a lark, he accepted the calling! And I was all worride about what would become of the ward, since my husband had absolutely no intention of carrying out the duties of bishop…
p.s. It’s fun to post about dreams, but you really ought to include some funky illustrations. 😉
Thatâ€™s an interesting new take on an old story. Did you really dream it, or did you just make it up?
I shall never tell. 😉
You’re right though, the trippy illustrations do help. I wonder if Lehi’s dream—the one we studied, interpreted and revered as Mormons— really was just a drunken hallucination of Jo Smith Sr., kind of like Cajun Man.
That’s a good take on it. It is interesting how, when your perspective changes, the big and spacious building with jeering people becomes a building filled with people who are happy and diverse.
If I may, I take your dream and raise another.
I was in a group of people being led by a young woman wearing black and white, on her sweater was a name tag. She was busy explaining the truth. Our group came to a painting hung on an all white wall. In the painting there was man wearing a long white beard engaged in caring for an apple orchard. The orchard was next to a fast moving mountain stream up stream a bit was a house wear there was a woman canning food.
The leader of the group pointed at the painting and said ” this is not heaven”
“How can you say that” I piped up, “they are living in harmony with the earth” (I kid you not that is what I said in the dream) Then I was the old man in the painting.
The human thing to do: take a canonized, institutionalized dream and intrepret it for yourself based on life as you actually experience it. The only true thing.
That’s a pretty self-serving dream there Jonathan.
I recall I had a dream once about how much atheists suck.
But I kind of forgot about it a couple days after I had it, so it couldn’t have been all that great of a dream I guess.
I also had a dream about Final Fantasy VII when I was in high school and had just completed a week-long summer vacation binge of playing the game. Don’t remember much about that one either.
(By the way, I can comment initially on a blog post here when I jump over from my blog aggregator. But that’s usually the last time I can access the post before everything locks up in stalled-out loading times. So I doubt I’ll be able to read any of your responses here, alas)
We get so caught up in our own perspective that we mistake it for reality. We construct a model of How Things Are and assume that we’ve got it right. Then we change and suddenly the world looks entirely different. Net result: I don’t fully trust my own model of reality.
I enjoy having my own dreams and hopes for a change. The institution gave me dreams and told me this is what I should look forward to. Now I feel free to dream on my own. It’s frightening at times, but true freedom usually is in my experience.
Much of the LDS canon characterizes non-believers in self-serving ways (e.g. Korihor). Two can play at that game. 🙂
For the record, I don’t believe most Mormons truly fit the shallow stereotype in the dream. The dream-Mormons represent aspects of Mormon culture. My real beef is with those aspects that I find tedious, disingenuous, etc., not with the person as a whole.
Jonathan, totally. I’m now free to have my own dreams and to interpret them as I will, knowing that they are my own and not some gift and/or message from god.
Seth, the more things change the more they remain the same. Try this: empty your cache … literally and figuratively.
Your reality is the only reality you have now or ever will have.
True. Now if it would only stay put long enough for me to figure it out. 🙂
I agree with Seth. Of course, the dream is self-serving. So is the Book of Mormon.
That’s why I believe that Joseph Smith, Jr. wrote it himself.