Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nightmares and Death

I was vacationing with my family at the beach in Brunswick, Georgia. My dad and I were standing at the base of a dune, looking out at the ocean and the windy conditions. For some reason it was my dad who was jonesing to go windsurfing, and not me. I didn't think windsurfing was a good idea at that particular time and place, because the beach was strewn with barrels of toxic waste and there were dead fish (mostly pufferfish) rolling around in the pollution-stained waves.



To make matters worse, dozens of large sharks had moved inshore to feed on the dead fish, and were splashing around in a savage frenzy. Some stupid tourists waded right into the water to take pictures of the sharks. At least one of the tourists had an underwater camera and was getting right up in the sharks' faces with it. I was wondering what to do about the tourists when I noticed a group of kiters approaching from upwind, doing a "downwinder" through the surf. As I watched them cut through smooth areas between the crumbling swells I noticed that the tide was going out fast, like a wave sucking back. Dead pufferfish and thrashing sharks were exposed on the bare, wet sand and the stunned kiters were stranded. On the distant horizon I saw a line of whitewater. It grew bigger, and I saw another line of white above it, then another and another, stacking up like a towering wedding cake of water. Tsunami! I didn't know where my dad was. I turned to run back along the path between the dunes, frantic to get to the trees and stilt houses where I might climb up to safety. I willed my legs to move faster, but DAMN, the harder I tried to run, the more it seemed I was mired in invisible molasses, stuck in slow motion!


And then I woke up.

Some dreams are hard to interpret, but this one was straightforward. Brunswick, Georgia was because my pal Marc had been talking the previous evening about how he'd been considering a job there. My family is always on my mind, and I guess I'm thinking of them in different places now because my folks are selling the house I grew up in and my sister and brother in law just moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. Windsurfing, well, that's obvious. The toxic waste is probably because I was recently in a discussion with some other windsurfers about the garbage and oil-strewn beaches in South Texas. Also, I almost stepped on a syringe at South Causeway park when kiting with Marc a few weeks ago, and I DID step on a dead pufferfish. (Lots of puffers died during the cold snap a while back, and even when there hasn't been a cold snap there's always a few dead ones rolling around the beach because fishermen catch them and accidentally / on-purpose kill or maim them when removing the hook.) The shark thing is also pretty obvious. The tourist photographer part was probably inspired by this scary (but later proven fake) photo series taken by a surf photographer. Kiters on a downwinder is because Marc did a downwinder on his kite Sunday. The tsunami probably came from older fear of tsunamis from living in the Pacific Northwest, plus lingering shock and horror at the Banda Aceh tsunami of 2004 and the more recent terrible earthquake in Haiti. I don't know about the paralyzed / stuck in molasses feeling, but it seems to a be a common thing that happens to me when I'm trying to run in a dream. I've been struggling to get certain things done at work so I can get on to certain other things, so maybe the paralysis feeling has something to do with that.

Anyway, I had a hard time getting back to sleep after the nightmare, because I started thinking about death and stuff. Why are we here?, what is this absurd thing we call life?, if there's nothingness before we're born and after we die what should we do with our brief window of somethingness?, how am I going to find a girlfriend and a permanent job?, what direction will the wind blow today?, etc. etc. The typical existential crisis kind of things that you think about after a bad dream at 5 am. I didn't come to any conclusions but I did sort of organize my best guesses about what happens when we die in a way that I was satisfied with. At least satisfied enough to go back to sleep for a couple more hours.

#1 Guess- Nothingness, like before we were born, which wasn't so bad.
#2 Guess- Seamlessly appearing in the "now" of some random other consciousness, in some random other universe, unaware of ever having been anything else, just like you started out here. Reincarnation, if you want to call it that.
#3 Guess- Some kind of afterlife or dream state more like we typically hope for and imagine. Heaven, if you want to call it that.

2 comments:

Johnny Douglass said...

You poor lad. You should have never Googled yourself and found your obituary. I wish you sweet dreams from now on.

clyde said...

Death is the appointment we don't have to worry about missing...Life is a gift, pure and simple. The afterlife? Who knows for sure. On this earth, we are all in search of happines,contenment,peace.