Ink & Penwipers

Scribbles, screeds, speculations, and the occasional reference to Schrodinger's cat.

28 March 2005

Catching up on a little back-blogging here, from my Holy Week retreat.

That Wonderful and Sacred Mystery

Growing up I had no access to Good Friday as a day in the Christian calendar, except only as a day on the calendar. Every year I’d flip the pages and look at the holidays: hmm, the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday this year; Easter is in March. Once, when young, I asked my mother what “Ash Wednesday” was. She said: “It’s the day they mark forty days before Easter.” Good Friday, I found out in a similar fashion, would be the day Jesus was crucified, if you counted back from Easter Sunday.

If you counted back from Easter Sunday. I can sympathize with those who don’t like the day; who say, “What’s good about it anyway? How should I derive any blessing from a maudlin twenty-four hours spent dwelling on the crucifixion of Jesus?” I can sympathize because I was always the sort of person who heaved an impatient sigh tinged with guilt over my own supposed callousness whenever passion plays were put on; whenever someone in church got up to do a monologue about the pains of the crucifixion in graphic detail that was inevitably punctuated with the dramatic declamation, “…and he did this for me?” I couldn’t possibly respond to something like that. I felt no obligation to see The Passion of the Christ, even to be able to respond as a Christian to questions from unbelievers. The exercise of visualizing and dramatizing within oneself the pains of Jesus’ passion has always been just that, an exercise, and it rarely resulted in any sort of realization or epiphany or fresh gratitude for my salvation. So I sympathize entirely with those who want to gloss over Good Friday and focus on Easter Day.

Except I also want something in my religion that acknowledges how bitter defeat can be. I know a small taste of what defeat feels like on a large scale: November 3rd, 2004 has been put on my list of Worst Days Ever, because I worked harder than I ever had before to elect someone I thought good, and not only was that person defeated, the hopes of everyone in this country who wanted to change its direction were defeated as well. I don’t make fun anymore of the disciples who trudged toward Emmaus and explained to a stranger, “We had hoped he was going to be the one to free Israel.” On a larger scale than an American election, Jesus was the last best hope of his followers for their homeland. If we can ride the swell of his power and goodness and holiness, they must have thought, we can stop the stain of evil spreading into our very hearts, the stain of totalitarian rule by the Roman Empire. If Jesus is who we hope, we might be able to stop the cruelty and the surveillance and the faceless, merciless crushing of the poor. We might stop being such broken people, if the world changes; if Jesus changes it.

But Jesus did not change it. The religious authorities, who ought to have welcomed this shattering, wonderful incursion of holiness, reviled him, discredited him, and finally betrayed him to Rome. With Rome’s iron-gloved hand they killed him, stopping the dazzling rebellion of humanity against suffering almost as soon as it had begun. Their last best hope was sentenced to a disgraceful death.

Not only that, but a person they loved intensely was being tortured in public. C.S. Lewis has pointed out that the cross did not replace the fish as the primary symbol of Christian art until the last person to see a real crucifixion died out. Why? Because the cross was an engine of torture and shame, and nobody liked seeing even people they didn’t know hanging on one along the road, much less someone they loved. I don’t like watching people I care about suffer even mildly: it makes me want to go away and not have to hear the sounds of pain or sickness. Would I like to see a Roman soldier step with grim casualness up to somebody I loved and stick a spear in him, to see if he was dead? Had I been there, would I have fled helplessly, like some of the disciples, or equally helplessly trailed along after, as if by watching it all happen I could hope it into stopping?

That must be what utter defeat tastes like. Ashes and adrenaline in the mouth, pain coruscating from the shoulders and driving everyone who shares it apart instead of together. That is what we call “Good” Friday.

I admit I haven’t attended a Stations of the Cross service; but it seems to me that Good Friday liturgies in general are not focused on defeat. They may dwell on the passion (from the root word for “passive,” encompassing both meanings of the word “suffer”) of Christ, but they also nudge in words like “glory,” “redemption,” “joy,” “reign”; like a grandfather who tells a child with twinkling eyes that no, he hadn’t brought back any candy from the store, fully expecting the child to raid his pockets the next minute for the promised booty. Or like a person rereading a beloved detective story, knowing how it is going to turn out but still holding her breath at the crisis.

The virtue of Good Friday happened for me today, I think, sitting in the kitchen and wondering, with that same childlike thrill, if it really was going to happen again this year. This year, will things be raised up that were cast down? Will things that have died be resurrected? Is it really going to happen? Is everything sad going to come untrue?

Are my defeats going to be swallowed up in victory? God knows the pains have been bitter; everything is tooth-grindingly hard these days, it seems; dust and ashes are my efforts, self-hatred like a perpetual bruise under my tongue. My sins—and the sins of others which have also come under my ownership—have taken hold of me, and I cannot look up.

This is my “in” to Good Friday. I forge my way into the darkness, not knowing, but trusting, that there will be brilliant light and life at the other end of it. Not knowing, but trusting, that the finishedness of Jesus’ work on the cross will transform the world yet again, and more, and further, and with light and joy. If I make my bed in the grave, there he is also. And perhaps it will happen again this year: he will rise again, and take me with him.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

20 February 2005

Well, isn't that prevenient!

"But how can someone be born when he is old?" asked Nicodemus. "Can he enter his mother's womb a second time and be born?" Jesus answered, "In very truth I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born from water and spirit. Flesh can give birth only to flesh;it is spirit that gives birth to spirit. You ought not to be astonished when I say, 'You must all be born again.' The wind blows where it wills; you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." "How is this possible?" asked Nicodemus. "You a teacher of Israel and ignorant of such things!" said Jesus. --John 3:4-10

This was part of today's Gospel reading. Father Miller's sermon on it touched on the concept of prevenient grace -- a part of Christian theology that denies that all you have to do is strain and then you will create yourself some faith. No; faith is a gift, just as life itself is a gift. It cannot be calculated, engineered, or narrated into existence. God's grace goes before and makes the way, like those people in the game of curling with their brushes, arranging for faith to arrive.

I have noticed from this narrative that Nicodemus's "ignorance" is not that he doesn't know that Jesus is somehow special, but that he is unaware of the living metaphor that a life of faith embodies. Nicodemus, as one of the preeminent teachers of his generation, ought to know already about the second birth. After all, as the Romans reading points out, Abraham's specialness comes from exactly this: "Abraham trusted God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Abraham was born from above, because he met God with faith. Abraham received three gifts, the gift of faith, the gift of righteousness, and the gift of his promise that he would be the father of nations. Dorothy Sayers would find a "trinity" in this, I am sure: a conception of faith, a being born into something good, and a fruitfulness to pass on further -- like the God who gives birth to us, the Son who justifies us, and the Spirit who makes us fruitful in our turn. Notice that this prevenient grace really is prevenient -- it exists fully before the Christian era, or Jesus would not have been able to hold Nicodemus accountable for his ignorance of it. So it is not true to say that being "born again" is only the act of confessing Christ as Lord; people were confessing their gift of faith long before Jesus was born, and Jesus expects people of faith to understand what he means when he talks about it. Being "born again," or "born from above" is just the beginning, incomprehensible till it happens and then later marking a beginning lost in the mists of memory as the autobiographical memory of the spirit takes over.

When I was six, my parents took me and my sister on a ski trip to Keystone. My sister was very small and stayed in the nursery, but I was big enough to join the first-grade beginning ski group. They marked the number of our group on blue balloons and pinned them to our pompom hats, so everyone would know what class we were in. The teacher of my class was named Elvira -- nothing like the Mistress of the Night but rather plump and cheerful, with flyaway dark hair. We went up the slope making "big 11s and little 11s," then learned to shuss down. Elvira was teaching me: "Now, put your weight on one foot, and then on the other." I lifted one heavy ski and tried to put it on top of the other, though that didn't seem right. "No, no, it's more like you put your weight on your hip." I blinked at her. "You lean over, like." I leaned over and she had to stop me from toppling onto my side in the snow.

We went down the slope a couple of times, but I never did get the concept of shifting my weight to shuss down. About six months later I was playing on the kitchen floor, and the light dawned. "Ohhhh!" I knew what she meant, though of course it was too late to use my knowledge to ski with.

In matters of faith, I imagine myself to be a lot like Nicodemus and like my six-year-old self, struggling with bodily metaphor in order to learn to do something graceful and thrilling. It is here that I am grateful for prevenient grace, grace that goes before me and makes those "Aha!" moments possible.

Just pin a blue balloon to my hat, and show me the bunny slope.

09 February 2005

Thoughts about Lent, etc.

Gosh, it's been awhile. I think I am going to try to post things I think as I think them -- just get my meditations out there before I forget I ever had them.

Sunday was the Transfiguration, and it occurred to me in church while hearing the reading that the Transfiguration has always been one of those things for me. When I was nine or ten and trying to take up the practice of our religion as best I understood how (this was the period of time during which I once tried to get my family to use Oreos and water for home Communion, as we had no matzah or grape juice), I decided to read my way all the way through the New Testament (I ended up getting bogged down in Acts). There were a few things in the Gospel story that I just didn't understand, and the Transfiguration was one of them. Oh, I understood the words, and their import: but I couldn't explain to myself why I felt shut out of the meaning. How complicated could it be, I wondered? Jesus and his favorite three disciples go up a mountain, and Jesus is "transfigured" -- suddenly wearing white, and conversing with Moses and Elijah, and God speaks; and then the glory drops away and the three Galileans are babbling and silent by turns. What was so hard to understand about that?

But I continued to tell myself that I didn't understand it, because I knew that that story spoke to something that was other than what I knew about life with God.

It was interesting, in passing, to encounter the word (with a capital letter, too!) in the Harry Potter books, meaning the magical science of changing one thing into another, or making it disappear or appear. Was that analogous to what happened on the mountain with Jesus? Obviously miracle was involved somehow. Was it just too simple for subtle people to get? Was it one of those things Paul talked about that shames the eggheads while speaking to the simple? Was the significance of Jesus's clothes turning "a whiter hue than white" in Jean Rhys's phrase and the appearance of Moses and Elijah and the voice of God, was the significance of all that just too obvious for me?

Occasionally I wondered if not grasping it meant I didn't believe it, and therefore wasn't really a part of Jesus' family. But belief and apprehension seem to be different things to me and I never did feel a complete terror of possibly not being acceptable because of the way my mind worked -- or didn't work. In any case, I put away the Transfiguration on a small shelf of the things I couldn't mur up in comprehending words -- my first experience with the death of a friend being one of its fellows, for example -- and went on with life.

I still don't "understand" the Transfiguration, but I'm glad we celebrate it and talk about it once a year. Perhaps some time Jesus will reveal me my own mystery, like that white stone with our secret name on it in Revelation.

Meanwhile Lent has come: today I had ashes put on my head and heard the words, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." It has always been a great comfort to hear that line from Psalm 51: "He remembers that we are dust." He remembers, even if we forget and get perfectionistically above ourselves. There seems to me to be a lot of knowledges that God carries for us this way, and Lent seems like a season in which God lets them down for us, simple, unadorned, unveiled, immutable, without the fug of our rushing about and anticipating this, that, and the other. On the Sunday of the Transfiguration, reading the Ash Wednesday service in my pew, anticipating, I almost had tears at the words. "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." All the things I have in my life to grieve over, the "if onlys" and the losses -- that is dust, and the things I try to make out of my life, those are dust too. They are the same. It's comforting because for a moment I can think, not that my positive attributes and actions are as mutable and fleeting as my body, but that my negative actions and attributes are just as dusty as everything else I will ever lose. For a moment, I can let go.

There are things I don't understand, but I don't have to understand to be grateful, which is a blessing.

24 December 2004

Not Even Fools

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God's people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Isaiah 35: 6-10

I suppose a good number of my readership have enjoyed The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever, so I won't dwell on its contents except to highlight its main message -- that miracles come from unlikely, dirty-faced refugees -- that the first Christmas itself probably looked like that.

I've always liked the idea myself -- never felt like it was a betrayal of my faith to picture its origins as far more shabby and far less liturgically appealing than what we do Christmas Eve 2,000 years later. I like the stories in the Hebrew Bible about younger sons making good, getting the blessing whether by merit or trickery. I like the idea of the underdog, the prole, the untouchable getting their turn.

The reading for the third week of Advent this year came from Isaiah 35 -- a passage I have always loved. But I noticed something new in the translation that was used; it differs from the translation I find in the Revised English Bible, and I don't have any way of knowing which is more correct. But I suppose there is midrashic precedent for lighting upon a piquant bit of translation and riffing on it, as I am about to do. The lectionary translation reads: " traveler, not even fools, shall go astray" -- while the REB has it: " will become a pilgrim's way, and no fool will trespass on it." The parallelism is complete with the second translation, but I like the first one for a very simple reason: God's holy road of pilgrimage, according to it, is idiot-proof; something I consider rather essential in a holy road of pilgrimage.

It ought to be fairly clear that when it comes to getting closer to God, and to all the desirable by-products of a close relationship with God -- peace among one's people and inward cleanness -- we are our own worst enemies. Yes, other people do often muck it up for us, but we do the best bang-up job of all, and it gets disheartening at times.

But God's plans can't be mucked up. God's way of pilgrimage is idiot-proof.

I got so mad a few years ago when I heard a very slanted radio commercial urging us to call our congressman and urge him to pass the free trade agreement with China so that the Lord's missionary work be done there. As if the Lord's work were so dependent on our piddling legislation that God couldn't get done unless we stepped up to the plate. (The fact that said free trade agreement was good mostly to offer dubious benefits to corporations wishing to hire cheap Chinese labor shall be left aside.) And yet many people, many good Christians and diligent missioners, probably bought this line of complete hooey.

I'm not trying to make a Candide-like argument that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds -- it's all too clear, both in Isaiah and in our experience, that it is not the best of all possible worlds going on here. Nor am I stepping up to pitch an argument for universalism; that is more than I know. But I do know that God takes special care of us fools and children, and it is very very hard to get lost on the pilgrim way, even if we feel completely lost most of the time.

On the night God came God's own self to share our vagabond state (I wonder as I wander out under the sky), we read these promises and take comfort, and joy. There will be streams in the desert, and a road not even fools can get lost on.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

21 December 2004

Paean to St. Thomas

Today is the Feast of St. Thomas, known as the Doubter. I'd almost call him my patron saint, except that I think that calling him "Doubting Thomas" shortchanges him. Thomas had as much courage as any of his brother disciples -- which is to say, the normal amount -- and as far as we know, no more or less intellect than the others. His nickname was Didymus, or "the Twin"; who was he supposed to be a twin of? Did he have an actual twin brother, or was it a comment on his character? And if so, what comment?

It seems odd, too, that Thomas's day is also the shortest day of the year -- though as a friend pointed out, calendar changes are more responsible for that than the canonization of saints way back when. The shortest day, followed by the longest night, after which the days come out of their bottleneck of light and begin to grow again. Odd, I say, because as his nickname indicates, Thomas is somehow not even -- he represents one member of a disrupted pair, at once solid and shadow, light and dark.

In my experience Thomas is spoken of mostly to malign, or a nail to hang an apologia on. But I like him for more than that, just as I like faith for being more than the opposite of doubt. In fact, I do not believe faith has an opposite: doubt is the mother of faith; doubt is what faith is made out of; doubt and faith have more to do with each other than either has with certainty. Doubt and faith have a love relationship, and if you cut one apart, the other dies.

It isn't so much that Thomas knew that, as that Thomas was that. I like this in a person, which is why I like most of the disciples as presented in the Gospels: unscripted provincials who just happened to be there that year -- empire and culture war and poverty and hate and religious exclusivism going on all around, and here these guys were, fishing and collecting taxes and meeting with secret zealot groups and basically just trying to make a go of it. And becoming disciples of Jesus Christ didn't change any of that; in fact, that is why we say Christ came -- to be mundane with us, since obviously just urging us to be heavenly was never going to cut it. And I rather think God more than capable of grasping the obvious, however slippery a grip we seem to keep on it.

In the old poet's phrase, "I know whom I have believed" -- not what I have believed, but whom. And Thomas knew whom he believed; he just thought that that person was dead, and was unwilling to credit his brothers' hysteria -- who in their turn had been unwilling to credit the women's hysteria. Thomas's doubt puts what passes for faith these days to shame: a determination always to go to the source, to keep to the point, not to allow anyone or anything else to get in his light.

One of the readings for St. Thomas's day is from Job -- Job's answer to God's answer: "All right, you've answered my question -- shutting up now." The story of Job doesn't end there, however; it ends with Job, at God's request, making sacrifices on behalf of his friends, who "didn't speak rightly of [God], as Job did." Huh? Job spent most of his eponymous book berating God, accusing God, complaining about God, questioning God's justice: his friends reiterating that anything that's wrong is wrong with him, not God, and to complain is not to "honor" God.

The longer I live, the more I am convinced that complaint is holy. As C.S. Lewis puts it in his novel, "How can we see face to face till we have faces?" To complain is to unmask oneself before God, and therefore to do God a compliment we rarely do even for one another. (In fact, very often we insult both God and each other by complaining to everyone except the one to whom it matters.) It is the complement to the Eucharist, in which we dress up and play an age-old, meaning-drenched part. The temptation of this modern age (and by modern I mean at least since 1790) is to switch the two: we strip our liturgies naked and clothe ourselves in our closet. We mure up our complaints and take wrecking balls to our cathedrals.

Thomas, who knew no Christian liturgy -- it hadn't been invented yet -- and had forfeited the Temple, still could do the one thing that has always been holy, throughout all ages: he lifted up his voice and insisted on talking to the manager.

So was Doubting Thomas's twin Faithful Joe? No, Thomas was (at least in this case) his own twin: the spokesperson for both doubt and faith, shadow and light.

On the shortest day of the year, so close to the Feast of the Incarnation, we become our own twins too -- waiting for what we already have, groaning in pain and crying in joy, repenting what has been forgiven us, dying and being revived, living in shadows, celebrating light.

And so indeed I lift my cup of tea in salute to St. Thomas the Doubter, whom I love.

18 November 2004

More Self-Explanatory Dreams, And A Bit of Birthday Musing

This is probably the first dream in which I had blue hair. I'm not sure what that means, but it probably means something. Maybe that I wish I lived in a blue state? But most states are actually purple, so that's rather a pipe dream regardless.

Speaking of pipes, my dream. I found myself invited to a feminist extravaganza of sorts, in which there were all kinds of games and flashy-fun opps to make a political statement. At one point I found myself in a movie-theater-type building, climbing hand over hand up a rope in a tiny elevator shaft (this was the unrealistic part of the dream, mind you; I completely failed this task in gym.) made of quilt squares depicting scenes and slogans and situations from feminist culture (some were from Indigo Girls songs.). Hand over hand I went, along with other women, other ropes, all laughing and chanting. As I reached the top I was generously given a cool long jean skirt with some of the squares sewn (artfully ripped) on the pockets, and a peasant shirt to wear over my T-shirt. I dressed in my new clothes and hung out in this small, cramped eyrie of women shouting joyfully. There was a mirror and I paused to look in it and adjust my hair, which was in lovely curls and all blue. I found I was wearing the skirt backward, so I unbelted it and turned it around. Then I searched the messy dressertop for a lipstick sample and applied a little lipstick. There, I thought, I'm ready for the revolution.

After a few dream-convolutions, I found that the eyrie had become open-air, looking down on a plaza headed by a building with columns. Between the columns, out-of-sight but still audible, Bill Clinton was about to give a speech. Then somebody yelled something about Sam Seaborn for President, and everyone laughed indulgently.

Then either the dream changed or I woke up, I can't quite remember. Throughout there had been this vague sense of danger, but it was only peripheral, never in my direct line of sight, never completely crowding my immediate sense of being alone in a happy crowd and more or less content.

I'm turning 29 next week, and at times I'm not altogether sure I'm ready for the revolution. Not the feminist revolution, that's a bit too amorphous for me to think about, but my own revolution. This is the time when a cog rolls over and people begin to get serious about the business of living life. They search for a mission, they finish taking stock of who they are and begin to put their talents and energies to work. I've felt that impulse growing in me, interrupted now and again by the exigencies of merely surviving; it's still there in the background, quietly gathering force. I believe this is going to be a very interesting year.

Which sounds like the old curse -- may you live in interesting times -- but unfortunately I asked for it. Years ago I wished to live in the sort of times where choices were stark and awe-full: do I hide this Jew from the SS? Do I speak out against maltreatment of the elderly? I thought I would never see such times; I was wrong. My personal timeline seems to have intersected with the "interesting times" I should never have wished for. I have begun to feel fear, and I suspect that feeling will only recur. But my course, I believe, is set: to serve my creative gifts, and to hunger and thirst for justice.

If that is revolution, it is only an index of the times.

16 November 2004

In Which My Dreams Are Self-Explanatory

As often happens when I push a big wad of stress through my costive nervous system, my brain takes out the change in dreams that become increasingly and transparently symbolic, as when I dreamed I was trying to give my old English Department chair a ride in my car which suddenly turned into a bicycle that careered across the parking lot, hit the retaining wall (which I couldn't see because the jerk insisted on sitting in front of me), and as we went into space, his last words before I woke were, "This is all your fault." Heh. That one was a classic.

Here, for your, er, delectation, is the dream produced by the waking nightmare of the election and my current financial troubles:

Somehow a couple of West Wing characters were involved. I was part of a team deputized to research international quasi-terrorist groups of religious extremists. As we hunted our way through a building full of narrow corridors and mahogany doors, Josh was suddenly spirited away from us. I attempted to give chase but there were too many doors. So I changed tactics and began to focus back on the groups I was studying, looking for an opportunity to rescue Josh from almost certain torture.

One way and another my team and I wound up in what was supposed to be Africa but was increasingly becoming somewhere in the wilds of America itself, among a colony of people who were a sort of Christian Taliban. The men were jackbooted and dressed in worn flannels and T-shirts; the women wore varying types of headgear. In the dream I was both fascinated and repelled by the women, who continually jumped to be accommodating and were cheerfully willing to accept the shame of the whole tribe for whatever went wrong. My cachet as a Christian enabled us to be safe among them while we worked out how to find Josh. Oddly enough, we found not Josh but Charlie among them, who got up on the platform in the meetinghouse and gently denounced the tribe for not practicing true faith. "We thought you were one of us," the disappointed men told Charlie. "Well, you thought wrong," Charlie said; and he left.

Cut to nighttime, and there was some sort of raid in which I was asked to be involved. Something went wrong, which turned out to be manifestly my fault. I turned and saw a group of the cheerful women starting work on something at a table; I drew near and saw that there was a small selection of red, ugly, hairless puppies awaiting...something. The women explained to me that because some fault had occurred, a woman had to eat a dog, and since I was a guest they were perfectly willing to bear the punishment for me. "What," I said, "do I have to eat it alive?" "Oh, no," they explained, "it can be cooked if you want." "Well, I'll eat it then," I said, indignant at their complicity and useless solicitude.

In a trice the dog was prepared and served to me at the outdoor table, in a row of yellow cups, each marked at the base with a rough-cut glass letter. The row of cups spelled UNRIGHTEOUS. I sat, contemplating the meal I was about to take, when the leader of the clan, a large bilious-looking man, clamped a hand down on my shoulder. "I thought you said you were one of us," he accused. "I'm a Christian," I said calmly. My two team members, hovering on the edge of the crowd, looked at me apprehensively; clearly our cover was about to be blown. The women of the tribe also hovered at my shoulder, looking confused even through their headgear.

"Oh yeah?" the man said. "What church do you go to?"

With a wild laugh I let my cover blow completely: "Christ Church Episcopal!" I cried in triumph.

"I knew it!" cried the leader. "Seize them!"

With another wild laugh I jumped up, abandoning the meal of shame, and picked up one of those indoor flagpoles with an eagle on the end. It held no flag, and I somehow knew that it was one of their torture implements. Brandishing it like a vaulting pole, I charged through the crowd, my team after me, and darted into another low building full of corridors. I made a sharp left, away from what I instinctively knew to be the torture area (aha! when we had escaped we could rescue Josh) and into a women's restroom. I plunged directly at the transom window and rammed it out of its frame so that we could climb out into the quiet night. And then I woke.

I wonder what Claude Levi-Strauss would make of that dream.

In any case, it is a prime example of my waking suspicions as they currently stand regarding politics and my own religion. I leave it for posterity to interpret.