“Which size shackles do you want?” asked the policeman in my dream.
It’s unclear exactly what I had done, in my sleep, that I was being presented with two different sizes of ankle shackles. There was an infiltration of some corrupt system, with those of us on the same team knowing, but being unable to communicate in the confines of wherever we were. By nods and winks and the glint of a hidden smile, though, it was clear who was who, who would be rising up when the time came.
I suppose, from the question that remained when I awoke, that the time did come, that we all rose up in some way, from all the corners of our sleeper cells, and wreaked a little havoc. Oops.
When I was caught—I don’t recall how—and asked to size myself for restraint, I said something to the effect of “I didn't do this to break the rules. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I want the water to be clean. I want the air clean. I did this for the mountains and sunlight on the water. I did this because of beauty, because…”
In the half-knowing of some dreams, I remember thinking that these were good words, that the awake-me wishes I fully remembered, or that dream-me could have written down and left on my pillow. What I’ve got here is the closest sense my dream left behind.
But the rationale for whatever I’d done, came from a deep love and longing for something, not against anything. To be for, rather than against, this already feels like slipping the bars of a cage for the wide sky beyond.
Awake now, after a day of trying to remember more of the particulars of the uprising, that is moment of the dream that remains.
There are a thousand corrupt systems out there. I’ve spend countless hours dissecting current systems of power and organization in various guises—politics and religion and cultural patterns and economic theory and all the messy heritage we are children of—trying to get to the root of it all. I wonder, if we knew the root cause, could we then dig it out and erase all its traces? Because I don’t know that we can or can’t, I know that I’ll spend more hours of my life pounding my fist on tables and howling about the traps and hypocrisies of this world, looking for the roots of evil and sorrow and hoping that the looking makes them a little less.
But, more and more, I find such exploration of the reasons why we act a certain way, what the cultural influences are, to be frustrating and often a distraction from the rising up that is increasingly needed. We’ve talked enough. We know a lot of what is wrong. The challenge becomes, then, to act as we know is right. The systems won’t change unless we do.
I know frustrated academics, non-profit workers who have their passion sapped in various ways, educators who are hemmed in from teaching, broken-hearted politicians, friends who are searching for ways to give their gifts to the world and still afford to eat and a whole world of people who are, in various ways, trapped within the belly of the beast. And, I more than trust there are thousands upon thousands of people I don’t know who’s best intentions, who’s hearts, are trampled on daily by the machinations of the systems of the man-made world. I love these strangers, and suspect they—in the abstract—love me too. I find this beautiful and comforting, somehow. When people say they’re saving the world for the children and grandchildren in the future, for “us” in the present—this includes you.
We all know that better ways of being in the world are possible.
But something is preventing us from pulling together and bringing down the system. Fear of the unknown, of the world we will be making after the revolution, of being responsible and accountable for this grand experiment, of failure at this after so many years of complaining. These are real concerns, of course. It’s fine to be afraid—it means something good is at stake, I think. But we cannot be so paralyzed by fear that we stay with what does not work, what we know is not right.
I think we also underestimate how many there are of us who know that the emperor has no clothes. We all know this, even the emperor, I suspect. No one wants to be the lone crazy person. Not only is it ineffective, we desperately need to know and support each other as we revolt, in our own and braided ways. And, we’re none of us insane for wanting different than what we’re told to want.
In my dream, there were winks and nods by which my rebel cell knew ourselves, knew we were not alone for the crucial moment. We have such signals in the awoken world, or something like them. I keep meeting more and more people who seem to have these same deepest wishes for a better world. I find such words coming from people I did not suspect of such passions. There are conversations that serve as a secret handshake. And the thought that we’re winning becomes a deeper knowledge—one I’m unafraid to say aloud some days.
Because I do not—awake or asleep—want a violent uprising, the best thing I know to do is to send off flashes and flares to let the rest of the rebels know they are not alone, and for us all to find each other in the dark.
Our wishes, our actions, our living out of dreams, these are the sparks by which we know each other, the light by which we’ll make ever better of this infinitely lovely world. By which we already are.