When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. – 1 Corinthians 13:11
I had a really weird dream two nights ago. I am still a little troubled by the vividness of it.
In my dream, I was being forced to have an arranged marriage. I entered a room full of encouraging well-wishers, all excited to present their chosen bride. I recognized the faces of the people. I knew them all. They all wore plastered smiles on their faces, the faces of people overjoyed to present a wonderful gift. One by one they shook my hand, encouraging me, telling me that I would love “her”. As the crowd parted, I saw my would-be bride. Standing before me was a rather large, slow-moving, very old nun, with gnarled and sagging skin, stooped over and supported by a cane, dressed complete with a habit, and wearing a dangling large gold crucifix around her neck.
I was stunned.
This was the bride they had been so excited about. This was the beauty they were presenting. This was the love they had promised. I was appalled and confused. Was this who they were really offering?
My confusion turned into obvious dislike. Some in the crowd gently asked, “Are you not pleased with your bride? She has much to offer. Great wealth, history, influence, and stability.” I said, “Those are wonderful. But you promised great beauty, and I see none, feel none.” Then another part of the crowd spoke up, “Oh you carnal young man. How shallow are your requirements? You find no beauty because you don’t know what beauty is. She is beautiful.” “She has respectable qualities”, I replied, not wanting to insult the crowd. “How blind are you? How lost are you? How naïve can you get?” the crowd asked. “What do you want? Perfection? You are not perfect yourself. You have nothing to offer, but she, she can offer you so much.”
The crowd, now turning into an upset mob said as one as they surrounded me and the old woman. Tighter and tighter their circle around us got, pushing us closer together. The closer I was to her, the more despicable she became. She hissed at me, saying, “Who do you think you are to not love me? Look at all these people who have loved me. Look at what I have done for them. And you, in your arrogance, won’t embrace me? You foolish boy.” I was a few steps away from her. She was holding up her arms to embrace me, with her left hand holding her crucifix necklace out to me. I could feel the push of the crowd inch by inch moving me forward.
Then I heard a baby’s cry. I could not see any baby, but I could hear it. And it seemed I was the only one in the crowd who heard it, since the others were too busy trying to execute the forced marriage. I turned to where I thought I heard the baby, and ducked under the legs of the crowd, crawling determinedly to get away from that old woman and find the helpless child instead.
I saw a door in the far wall past the growing crowd, and I stood up and made a run for it. I could hear the disappointed crowd’s accusations. “Fool! Fool! Fool!” they chanted. “Fool!” I looked back the old woman, who was now inflating herself bigger and bigger, whether she absorbed the crowd or squashed them, I do not know. I knew that if I didn’t make it out the door soon I would be crushed by her.
With much urgency, I ran to the door, only to find it locked. I asked the white man by the door for a key but he did not reply. I sought around the door frame but could find none. I tried to pull and push the door but it would not move. I could sense the old woman growing towards me quickly. In my desperation I started knocking on the door, calling for someone on the other side. When that didn’t work, I started banging on it. Harder and harder I banged on the door, desperate to escape the ugliness about to envelope me.
Then it broke. The door broke. Just in time, I was able to kick the rest of the door to give me enough space to pass. I found myself standing in a beautiful garden with three rivers, and two massive trees in the middle. And lying on the grass was a beautiful child. The most beautiful child I had ever seen, lying vulnerably with only strip of white cloth, but full of joy and life. There was no fear in the child. The crying I had heard turned out to be laughter. And he looked at me. I knelt and picked-up the child, said to him, “Hello there, beautiful one.”
Then I woke up. #db
“I was supposed to be great.”
I looked at the weathered man who spoke those words. He looked beaten tough by a difficult life but now contrite with aging of regret. “I was supposed to be great.” He said again.
“You are great, Michael.” I encouraged him, well, more reminded him. He was great after all. A loved author, an amazing painter, a strong athlete, who had that rare combination of art and business savvy, he managed to build a more than comfortable portfolio, though he always says it was all luck.
“It wasn’t me, David.” He always said. “It wasn’t me. I was lucky in those areas.”
“No, David.” He said solemnly. “I am not great.” He gently and slowly patted his chest with a clenched fist. “I was supposed to be great. But I am not.”
I listened to him and wondered what he meant. How could such an accomplished man feel so broken as a failure?
“Look at that mountain” Michael said, pointing to the solitary peak in the distance, now a dark violet against the setting the sun behind it. “Do you see it?” He asked.
“It’s the only mountain there. Of course I see it.”
“Don’t get smart with me, boy.”
“I see it.”
“Is that mountain great?” He asked.
“I guess. I answered. It’s pretty big.”
“So bigger makes greater?” He followed up.
“I guess for mountains.”
“Franco!” Michael called out to his visibly overweight valet, who was waxing the car bellow the balcony.
“Yes, Sir Michael.” He responded dutifully.
“You, Franco, are the greatest of us.” then he looked at me and winked.
“Um… Thank you sir.” Franco said, not knowing what that was about.
“He’s not a mountain.” I told Michael.
“Franco!” Michael called to him once more. “Are you a mountain?”
“A mountain, sir?”
“Yes, a mountain. Are you a mountain?”
“I do not understand you sir. But no, I am not a mountain.”
“Then you are not great.” Michael said plainly.
Franco looked at him, then at me. I simply drew circles in the air beside my temple. Franco shrugged and went back to waxing the car.
“I saw that.” Michael said grumpily.
“Saw what?” I asked.
“The crazy sign. I saw you make he crazy sign. Doesn’t matter now I supposed. Who cares if I’m crazy? I am not great. But I was supposed to be you know. I was supposed to be great. Mountains are great. I could have been a mountain. But they gutted me. Like a gold mine they took everything I had inside. Now I’m a shell. I am nothing.”
“You’re not nothing” I reassured him, wondering who ‘they’ were. Who gutted him so bitterly? And how could he be thinking of this now. “You’re about to receive an award tonight, Michael. A lifetime achievement award. You’re obviously norm nothing.”
“It’s a nothing award given by nobodies to nobodies” he said gruffly. “I don’t even why I agreed to show up.”
“You agreed because you were invited. You’re being invited because you’re being awarded. You’re being awarded because you’re great! Can’t you see the logic?” I said getting exasperated by his self pity.
“I am not great. I am a shell. If you let them empty you. They will. Listen to me. If you let them empty you. They will. Franco! Let’s get ready to leave. You’re not coming with us are you, David?”
“No sir. The awarding is for you. I’m needed elsewhere.” I replied.
“I envy you young boys in young love with young girls. I envy you. Too stupid to ruin love.”
“What do you mean?” I asked him.
“You understand. When your heart is smarter, you’ll understand. I have no time to explain this to you. I have an award to receive remember? An award!”
“Congratulations Michael. See you tomorrow.” I shook his hand.
“Send my condolences to your unlucky date. Tell her she’s better off dead than with you.” He said looking at me straight.
“You’re an ass” I told him.
“No. I’m a shell.”