Friday, August 10, 2007

I dream of heaven

Though I'm rarely aware of dreaming anymore, I probably still dream most nights. I did last night. It might have been more than one dream, for there were scenes involving my parents, scenes set in a sort of Harry Potter version of Yale, and a scene involving a lost Wally (our poodle, who was bitten on a hind foot a week ago today by a copperhead snake—he's healing nicely, thank you, and even recovering his confidence, I think, for going out into the yard, where the copperhead may have a nest...).

Anyway. My parents are both dead, my father for over twenty-seven years (at ten years older than my present age), my mother for—what?, two now? In the dream about them, we all seemed to be on some sort of vacation together. I was in this place, which I guess was wherever we were staying or visiting, and they were returning from a short outing somewhere. There was something about my packing up some belongings to put in the trunk of their car to be moved, as though I were once again their adolescent boy. And I kept delaying the getting ready to pack. Perhaps I was trying to forestall the separation. I don't know. At any rate, it seemed a straightforward dream of nostalgia, or loss, an attempt to reclaim what is no longer.

Maybe the dream of Yale was the same. I've had numerous similar dreams over the years. Back on the Yale campus, if not always recognizable as the Yale campus—certainly the campus last night seemed more like a cinematic set—I was trying to locate my dorm room. I went into the wrong one by mistake, only to be greeted by three surly undergraduates who berated me for my lack of sense. Sort of doesn't seem to be an attempt to reclaim the past somehow. But maybe it is. Let's assume so. That suits my theme better. Keep reading.

The Wally dream seemed to be the anticipation of loss, for Wally is still with us. And we are still with Wally. I occasionally ruminate on the possibility that one or both of us will predecease him. I try to imagine what his loss of us would feel like to him. But given the exigencies of dog life relative to human life, I suppose that we are the ones who are going to have to deal with the loss of him. The dream last night involving Wally had us too on some sort of vacation. We weren't at home anyway. Wally went missing. I happened into this sort of kennel—on the hotel premises, I think—and as I was looking around at the grooming tables and seeing nothing but miniature or toy poodles—but all white, or cream, like Wally—I felt the actual Wally rubbing against a leg and jumping with the joy of finding me again. I knelt down as always to hug and love him, and as always the people around us oohed and ahhed at the display of affection. Wally home again.

My theme is: Did such dreams as these lead men to conceive of heaven and to construct theologies designed to explain how it could be obtained? Such posits are facile, for, as Hermione Granger says in one or another of the Harry Potter books:
I mean, you could claim that anything's real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody's proved it doesn't exist.
Thanks to Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, for quoting Hermione in his review of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this coming Sunday's New York Times Book Review.


  1. Belief in Heaven wasn't that poplar before Jesus. Thomas didn't believe in life after death. Remember "I must touch his wounds to believe."
    The Indians had a much closer relationship between dreams and the dead. They believed in your deams the dead came to warm and guide you.

  2. I thought that the Egyptians built those pyramids some hundreds of years before Jesus....