Dream Department

from the book TIME AND TEMPERATURE by Zelda Leah Gatuskin

This morning I actually dreamt I met Hitler! It was not the mustache that gave him away (I hardly looked in his face) but the stinky woolen uniform adorned with ribbons and medals. He stank. Not a bath or a change of clothes in half a century. And such attitude still, for one so overtly despised. A few floors down, I'm disgusted to see the window display for semi-chic neo-nazi outfitters. Maybe he's not as despised as I think. I just want to know what he thinks he's doing showing up in my dreams?

Back up. When I dream of people I know, I rarely feel that they and I have really met on a dream plane. My thoughts have been on this person, or I am reminded of them and I dream. Or I cast acquaintances in roles in my dream where they represent me or some archetype apart from their individual selves. Or sometimes I sense our thoughts have been on each other, or theirs particularly on me, and so I dream.

Now, when I dream of people I don't know or recognize, in certain scenes in which characters like them appear over and over again in the same situation, I am apt to romanticize that this is a dream party in a dream landscape which I visit—not create—when I sleep. It is a pleasing concept. This party goes on and on in a mystical realm, and my unconscious carries me there in various virtual vehicles under often strict deadlines. I cultivate this view, aware it is a product of speculation and imagination, endearing for how improbable it is.

Moving on: I dream of the dead. I dream of the dead in ways I remember them and ways I don't, yet I recognize them. And it is my instinctive, perhaps also romantic notion that they are really they in my dreams. While all that other stuff has been concocted from the debris of my waking experience (I haven't even touched on the appearance of celebrities, TV characters and politicians) these dreams of the dead become elevated to visitations. The deceased have come into my subconscious to speak to me in the only way they are able (or to which I am receptive)—in dreams. This I believe even after putting it in so many words. I have not talked myself out of it yet—and I feel a thrill of excitement and extra potential at the idea.

Now to pose the question of questions: If the ancestors are "real" when they enter my dreams, that is, their impetus and message come from them and not from me—I feel almost breathless to allow for it—what am I to make of Hitler? He is dead. He is inescapably an ancestor to these times and overshadows my childhood. He's even a Jew. Did Hitler his ghostly self itself really find his way into my dreams? What did he have to say to me? Combined with the store downstairs, I'd say he was there to tell me he's on his way back, full stench ahead. Maybe he was even following me downstairs to pick up a new wool suit in which he'd not smell so foul; made-over he will gather all the young smirkers to him. But why drop the hint to me?

I feel myself stepping close to the edge of sanity with this idea of actual spiritual visitations within dreams. Will God speak to me next? I rather hope so. But perhaps I shouldn't pretend it would lay my doubts to rest.

There is always a voice inside. There is always a dream. How shall I tell the divine from the electrochemical? By considering the latter divine along with all interpretations of it? My thoughts are divine, my dreams, my actions?

Easy to say, but realistically, the divine is not so insecure. Surely it can't be. I await that sense of surety in the Higher Power that I am occasionally able to feel in myself, and always feel in nature. The marvel of how I feel about nature is that I sense no conflict in the natural laws and the theory of chaos. Miracles happen in the context of a predictable system.

Maybe God did put the devil in my dreams. Maybe he came of his own accord. Maybe I let him in. Maybe I made him up. But I hardly ever smell anything in my dreams—the ideas of smells are there but not the sensation of smelling—and that's a fact worth noting. Now that I have learned to smell a rat while I sleep, perhaps I'll know to pay extra attention should I ever get a whiff of something absolutely heavenly in my dreams.

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