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new featureAn Out of Country Experience-Part 28
(Please check the archives if you've missed previous installments)

Tales From The Barstool By: Clint Lien

Dear Diary

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In My Opinion
By L.N.P.

The Truths of a Dream

When I awakened this morning, it was slowly, as if emerging from someplace deep and murky. With consciousness I realized that I carried with me the heavy fragments of a dream, one that had enveloped me in some dark other world and from which it had been difficult to withdraw.

At first I remembered the face of the boy. A boy in my dream had been shot; his face was scarred, but not badly. I knew that it had been as the result of something I had done; I had been in a wooded area, running from something else, a more heinous crime, when the gun had also managed to graze the boy. But someone, a powerful man who was obviously my "leader," was instructing me on how to get away with the crimes. He wanted me to lie. In the dream, I wasn't really guilty; I had been caught up in something else, in something bigger, and the plan was for me to lie for the greater good.

Then I recalled the beginning of the dream. It involved some journals, journals that I needed desperately, but which I didn't have. I pictured them. They were exactly like the real journals I had always kept from my mid-twenties until my mid-forties that, when read in retrospect, always surprise me with their unvarying pattern of yearnings and sadness. Journals that spoke of being stuck in hopeless situations, of fearing change, dreading decisions, and constant battles with pain, anxiety and meaninglessness. Thankfully, it has been years since I kept such a journal; I lost my need for them. But they appeared in my dream.

And in the dream, many were missing, and those were the ones I seemed to need most. In those journals I would find the justification I was searching for; somehow they would prove that I had done no wrong. But they were gone, or had never really existed. I remember speculating about whether or not someone else would let me copy their journals covering the missing information. I realized how difficult a process it would be, copying years of entries, and changing the details to fit my story, but at the last minute, the journals were deemed "inadmissible." It was going to be my word against the boy's, and I had an extremely strong case.

There was a lot of hiding in my dream, of running away from the authorities, manipulating the truth so that they would believe me, joining up with some other dark characters, on a boat or something, while we planned for my freedom. My freedom would set the leader free. It would exonerate us, so with guilt weighing down heavily on me and keeping me in that deep dark place, I continued to act in ways that would save my skin. I knew it was for the greater good; it had to be done.

Once awake, I couldn't get the dream out of my mind. And, as is my wont, I began the process of analyzing it, but no analysis seemed necessary. Almost instantly I saw its meaning, and I couldn't stay in bed. I had to write it down, get it out, put it in a place where it could no longer haunt me. I had to expose it, because I knew that the dream had exposed me. It was a deeply convicting dream, and I believe that it was, as author Philip Yancey has so eloquently expressed it, a "rumor from another world."

Although in my dream the journals had somehow been connected to the rest of the dream, the more disturbing part, once awake I grasped their unique significance. The other day, we had a terrible experience with a client, actually the culmination of something that had been festering for years. I first met this man several years before when he was recommended to me as an insurance broker. On the phone he was a total charmer, incredibly kind and helpful, promising, among other things, that he would not only get me and my husband health insurance (we had exhausted COBRA at the time) but that he would save us hundreds of dollars in the process. Then he came to the house, and revealed to me his true self. I saw how easily he lied; he manipulated the truth with such facile ease and changed his tune so often that at times I felt I was listening to something bordering on maniacal. But, although he never saved us a dime, he did finally get us the insurance (which at the time was hard to come by, or so I believed) and I overlooked his deeply flawed character.

Fast forward to six months ago, when I received an email from the same guy, advising us of his new contact information. Amazingly, the timing appeared to be perfect, because I had another health insurance "situation." At the same time, he wanted a web site for his brokerage business. During our brief conversation, he again sounded kind and compassionate; in fact, he even told me that he was a Christian. Believing, therefore, that he must have changed, I invited him to our office. Once here, he instantly "solved" our health insurance problem by putting us together with another individual who needed insurance, thus forming the requisite "group." We presented him with a modest proposal to design his site, he signed a 30-day contract for completion and even paid his deposit on the spot.

Six months later his web site remained undone. Five different times he sent us detailed instructions, even comps, of what he wanted, and each time we worked feverishly to deliver his exact specifications. After producing what we believed to be the fulfillment of his desires, he always turned on us, accusing us of not listening, or failing to understand him, and each time, although we knew that he was behaving irrationally and taking advantage of us, we continued to try to give him what he wanted. We absorbed his lies, his distortions, his contrivances, believing that we were being good Christians. Then, a few days ago, while working on the sixth iteration of his site, we needed to ask him a question. The moment we called he became instantly irate, so nasty, rude and irrational that even my smooth-tempered husband could not reach him; when he attempted to speak, the guy hung up on him.

This slimy guy, who was conveniently a "Christian" with us (and undoubtedly a Buddhist, Jew, or Muslim when it suited some other purpose) had gotten to me. My anger was intense; I felt the blood rushing to my head and my heart beating wildly. How DARE he! My first instinct was vengeance; how could I destroy him. But THAT, I knew, was the business of God and not us, so I (reluctantly) put it aside. Then reality set in, and my second reaction was fear. After all, this guy controlled our health insurance! And really, wasn't that the reason we had allowed him to get away with such intolerable behavior in the first place, because we didn't want to take any chances with our insurance? And then, a more troubling realization followed. What was this "group" we had agreed to be in, one that never existed except on paper. Hadn't we tacitly agreed to deceit in order to attain what we needed? Had we not recognized evil and pretended not to see? Were we not equally guilty?

So the journals in my dream were simply a nudge from another world to remind me that nothing-not even health insurance-is worth compromising the truth. Those journals, so like my real life journals, were memories of a time when decisions were hard to make because I was steeped in doubt and confusion. I had no moral compass with which to make choices, no absolute truths to abide by. And the missing journals, the ones that would provide the much-needed information? They represented the missing personnel records, information that also never existed, that provided us with the "group" we needed to obtain insurance. Yes, it had all been done at this guy's recommendation, but for ones who strive to live honest and ethical lives, the fact that we had gone along with the scheme convicted us.

So what about the rest of my dream, the leader for whom I'd been willing to hide, shoot people, lie, in order to save both myself and him? The other day I did what I considered an admirable thing. I "forgave" someone from my past with whom I'd had a long relationship that had filled me with resentment and ended in bitter dispute. Actually, in my heart I had forgiven him months before, but the other day we had lunch together, and I enjoyed the fact that he seemed humbled, contrite. Perhaps, I told myself, he has seen the light-not THE light, but at least he seemed changed. From my relatively "sin-free" perspective, I could look upon him with affection and bestow upon him grace. How smug I was.

The truth, however, was played out in my dream. I HAD lied for him. I HAD caused people harm-to protect him, I had always rationalized-but still, I had left some scars. I had hidden from the truth even as I condemned him for his dishonesty. Because, hadn't I always assumed a reward? I hung on tenaciously to the belief that I lied for the greater good. But what had really happened? Didn't most of my resentment stem from the fact that I never received my promised reward, and from the knowledge that there WAS no greater good. Apparently, I needed grace as much as he did; that was the message of my dream.

I think many of us believe that some sins come with huge placards on them: ADULTERY, THEFT, MURDER, INCEST, RAPE, and that most of us have little trouble avoiding them. The lesser ones, like lying, cheating, gossiping, being arrogant, greedy or intolerant are harder to avoid, but the majority of us still manage, at least part of the time. But the subtle sins, like self-delusion, pride, rationalization, ulterior motives….those are the ones we barely notice, much less avoid. And yet to God, capable of peering deep into each individual soul while also viewing billions of us in a single glance from a place so vast that it is beyond all comprehension, to God they are all the same. And sometimes, to help us see that from his perspective, he shows us in our dreams.


Send me your opinions at LParis@netlistings.com

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