Le Reve (The Dream)

I am remembering a younger me.  I was nine as I imagined this time, then fourteen, then twenty-one, then twenty-seven and suddenly I am where I had dreamed.  It was an expanse, a mysterious one, like the thought as a young boy of who I would marry eventually.  This dream was what would be the flavor of that expanse of time of my family life, as a father and husband.  I pictured it in dramatic terms, most likely.  I wondered about what kind of events would fill up this time, who would I become once I got to this point, and what would I do once there, once living in the expanse known as adulthood, father and husband-hood. 

I think now that one of the most important things to do is to keep reading and discovering and being active because it helps lift myself from a sort of unconscious living, something that I fear, is avoided.  And yet that isn’t much of a story, is it?  What about the image of adulthood before getting to it?  What was the context of these times that I was dreaming about the future?  As a kid, the context was suburbia, bright Southern California sky, a Mar Vista California street. It was also the rolling hills and sagebrush and coyote howls of Temecula California in the late 1970s and early eighties. 

But I think also it was other places, much more far off, like Geneva Switzerland, or walking along a road in the South of France in my early twenties.  I see now how important it was for me to have left the trail and headed out into the unknown.  So important because once you’ve done that you long for the unknown trail and are unafraid of it. 



I’ve written elsewhere that I grew up in what I consider lucky circumstances in that my family was loving, stable and we enjoyed a degree of material prosperity that meant there was never any significant want or deprivation.  But this was the same for a great many people, I imagine, whose childhood took place in west Los Angeles in the 1970s.  I think the thing that I value now looking back at my growing-up years was the way in which my parents interacted with each other and towards us.  There was something like a big vibrating tone of acceptance and love noiselessly buzzing throughout my childhood and adolescence.  Home, it was continually made known to me, was a place of safety that I could count on.  And what a marvelous gift to be given. 

My mother could be found at her desk writing a newsletter for a missionary organization, or helping my father with a lesson plan of his, or crafting something to help me or my brothers with a school project.  She would do these things with a spirit of love but also with great attention, as if anything that had come our way that was a project must be something important and worthy of care and serious attention.  It was in fact this constant lifting up of our existence, when I think of it now, that created layer after layer of feelings of worth in me and my brothers, that created a sort of thick, hard to tear down self acceptance. 

Mornings came and there would be my parents readying themselves and us for the day.  My father’s electric razor signaled I had no more time in which to be in bed if I was to make it into the car going to school.  In earlier years I remember the radio being part of our mornings in our small home at 3446 Barry Avenue, crackling with Paul Harvey’s optimistic take on the world.  In the kitchen, where the radio was, there was an olive green, pine breakfast table, probably little more than a painted piece of 3/4” plywood. 

It was at that table that my brother Peter, when I was four years old, asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus as my personal savior.  And I, not finding any reason not to, said, “yes!”.  I recall that we had recently returned from visiting Melodyland, which was near Disneyland, and many children, including my brother Peter, were given a plastic glove with each finger a different color, representing the need for salvation and the steps to attaining it.  So Pete showed me what he had learned, he was six years old at the time, his hand in the glove, and me probably wondering if I would get one of these gloves as part of the deal.  It was a beautiful, simple time. 






I just watched an incredible tale, a documentary on the siege and destruction of China’s former capital, Nanking, that took place in August, 1937.  It was a heartbreaking story and very troubling.  In the first month of the siege the Japanese Army killed 200,000 people, mostly civilians and raped 20,000 women.  Horrific crimes against people took place and I was wondering what I hoped to gain from putting myself through watching the film, which promised to be a journey through hell. And I conclude that it is because I know that it would deepen my conviction of war’s evil and absurdity. The film included current interviews with victims who were children at the time of the Japanese invasion of the city.  One man began to recount his younger brother’s and mother’s murder that took place in front of him.  I won’t retell the details because they are too terrible but what is fitting to tell is his face as he told the story, and his sadness that never went away.

There is an aspect of human suffering and loss worth talking about.  It is the tendency to ignore the terribleness of it by not really seeing the person as we would someone we know, someone with a past that led up to the moment of their suffering and loss and the injustice they endured. 

 We do this of course, to avoid pain, but in doing it, we avoid the truth.  The truth is that there is probably no greater evil than violence against another person. And part of the truth we avoid also is our own indifference to this suffering, and our on-going choice to avoid taking action to alleviate it.  We avoid— I avoid— the truth of our own indifference and choice to not care.

The story was told from the perspective of a handful of foreigners— American and German missionaries— who created a safety zone in various parts of the city which they then proceeded to safeguard with their lives.  The safety zones saved 250,000 people from being killed. So the story reminds me of what is important, or at least that is its potential gift. 





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