In my waking nightmare, a larger-than-life President Trump grabs a huge map of the United States of America and starts shaking it. Hard. So hard, people start to fall off the map— brown people, black people— he’s trying to shake them off. He shakes again, more people fall— poor people, LBGTQ people, people in every kind of wild and colorful clothing. They bump hard against the thick wall at the bottom of the map before they bounce and fall.
But Trump isn’t finished. More overgrown white men join him now— Bannon, Sessions, Pruitt, Tillerson, Ryan— they all start jolting and shaking the map, the country. Now the trees start falling off, and the water is blackened by shaken oil that spilled and it all runs off, dripping across the map face, over the wall, onto the piles of dislodged, fallen people, trees, and now animals below.
The giant men pause, and agree to shake hard all together— 1, 2, 3, JOLT! Religions fall off, and decency. Hope comes loose and floats down like feathers in the dust of joy and goodness, crumbling.
Trump stops. The men stop, and step back smugly to survey. The map is ashen white. All the color lies beneath, in ruin. Dust smoke clears to reveal the American landscape, barren now except for the oil wells and crosses that mark their territory. They look like tombs.
I study dreams a little bit, sharing them with a dream group every two weeks. We follow a form taught by expert Jeremy Taylor, who asserts that all dreams— even nightmares— are given to us for our healing and wholeness. Although they’re disturbing, in my experience, nightmares are actually good, juicy dreams to have. They get our attention, point out pretty accurately in dream symbols just what’s amiss, and they practically guarantee that our minds and hearts are ready and able to do something about it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the dream! Taylor says, “The very fact that a dream is remembered in the first place means that the dreamer actually has at his or her disposal all the courage, creativity, strength, and wisdom necessary to respond creatively and transformatively to even the worst ‘problem’ that the dream presents.” (Read his great article.)
So I’m paying attention to this nightmare. The image of Trump and company shaking all the color and life off of the American map is a frighteningly accurate picture of how I’m feeling about the political barrage jolting our communities and shaking our way of life. I’ve walked away from my desk several times just trying to stomach writing this list of recent actions taken and promised: Muslim bans, border walls, white supremacist-influenced speeches and policy, climate change gag orders, green-lighted oil pipelines, hobbled environmental and consumer protection, threats to women’s and minority rights, sexual abuse approved and glorified, free press skewed and hampered, healthcare repealed with no plan for replacement, incompetent cabinet appointments, budget cuts on the poor, prioritized corporate interests, Russian election interference, disregard for nuclear threat, nepotism, bullying, lying without regard for truth, petty tweets, and on, and on. Seriously, I can hardly breathe in this Trump version of the American dream. If it all shakes down in this nightmare direction, our landscape will indeed be ashen— white-only, with a narrow band of approved thought or belief, spoiled soil and water, and very few tight fists holding all the wealth in top-down power.
But this is a nightmare— remember?— meant for our healing and wholeness. This is a juicy, important warning message asking all of us to wake up, stay woke, and get busy offering our part of a life-giving dream for the USA and the world.
Some of us have been trying to wake up the rest of us for generations now— people of color, indigenous peoples, immigrants, the LBGTQ community, the peace movement, environmental activists, the mystics and spiritual seekers, artists, poets, writers, and so many others. These wise, enduring, and creative voices offer powerful and vibrant dreams and plans for justice, safety, flourishing, interconnection, belonging. Listening to them in a variety of ways helps me hold my ground and stay steady when it’s shaky. For my whole life, I’ve found inspiration and motivation through spiritual practice, poetry, and art. Contemplative listening, Mary Oliver’s poems, and art-making definitely give me roots and wings. For years, the LBGTQ, peace, and environmental movements have shaped my vision for a mutually-nourishing way of living on our planet home. I even have a favorite scientist, Brian Swimme! Recently, I’ve felt convicted to pray more deeply and to commit more of my life to my best work as I’ve heard stories from the Standing Rock gathering of Native Americans. African-American elders, teachers, writers, and film-makers are urging me to examine my privilege, speak for justice, and never turn to despair. And I’m only just starting to investigate more political avenues for systemic change, like the Indivisible Guide, the Black Lives Movement Platform, and Waging Nonviolence.
What practices, beliefs, ideas, and resources ground your spirit and inspire your actions?
In my dream of a vibrant, alive, colorful America, we must grow deep, strong, unshakable roots in truth, kindness, creativity, playfulness, wisdom, care for all other people and ourselves, healthy relationships with all of earth’s beings, etc. We don’t have to fall off of that nightmare map.
In what do you grow your good roots?
In my vision for who we are as a country and a global community, we do call out nightmares and evil when and where we see them. Yet always and more: we pray or set our sacred intentions, we listen beyond our quick judgments, we speak out and say what we’re for, and we show up and do what we love. Each of us lives these out in a different way. And all of us can live these together in a united way.
What life-giving visions for our future do you see or imagine?
How do your visions and dreams invite you to respond?
In my waking dream of who we as Americans can become, our love and creativity keep us rooted and alive when politics shakes us to the core. We protect and support our vulnerable neighbors when injustice rocks them and us. And we choose to listen to the planet and its wisdom when the climate speaks.
May it be so.