Deja Vu and a Fading Sense
For the last five or six years I have dreamed of being at camps and conference grounds. I have dreamed of going on trips with various groups of people from various chapters of my life.
We sometimes stay in hotels, sometimes old churches, sometimes small colleges or universities and occasionally a library or a summer camp. It never feels awkward or odd. All of these trips are enjoyable and full of the kind of rich humane interaction that has made my life (often) feel full and lucky.
Recently I went to a conference across the state and at the most inopportune moment I happened to notice the tower depicted in this photograph. I was running from the hotel to my car. It was raining and cold and I was dressed in a dress shirt and suitcoat since I was giving a presentation first thing that morning.
The moment when I saw the tower was kind of a horrible shock of recognition. Deja vu and a fading sense that I should remember something that I couldn't. I quickly unlocked the car and put my suitcase in. Inside the car I thought about just going ahead and leaving without even giving the strange tower a second glance.
I sat without turning the car on. The rain on the windshield. Still shivering. I couldn't do it.
Jung has this idea that dreams are not just our mind regurgitating all the under-used and under-understood content that occurred to us the day (kind of the reigning pop-neuro-cognitive approach), but instead were windows to another reality -- a reality constituted both by our own unconscious and The Collective Unconscious. His response to the dream reality was to take it seriously. He developed a technique called Active Imagination where the dreamer chooses to live out some aspect of the dream. To truly enter into the dream reality in order to let it's power and purchase speak to us.
Looking at the tower I was reminded immediately of all of these camp and conference dreams. The tower with the ritual path leading into and out of the doorway. The wide camp-like structure behind it? They all seemed terrifyingly familiar. Strangely though. I have no childhood experiences in Dayton, Ohio. This unforgettable and unrememberable tower could not have *happened to* me in this lifetime.
So now it sounds like I believe in a previous life -- which is not what I am saying. What I am saying is: That tower meant something to me.
I went to the edge of the wide field, still two or three hundred yards away from the tower, and I carefully balanced my camera on the dashboard, I turned on the windshield wipers, I pinched the zoom all the way in and waited until precisely the right moment.
MAYBE? Just maybe pausing to give this tower a moment of my Active Imagination would lead to more insight.
Was I a cult leader in the fifties and sixties? That would make everything else make complete sense in my life. Was my cult as rooted here in the midwest as this life that I'm living now seems to be? Despite all my intentions? Were there elaborate rituals that included passing through the gate of that tower?
Some of you know that I've always teased about wanting to start my own religion. Others of you know that it's only a series of unhappy accidents that situates my adult career in Ohio (not hating, Ohioans, I'm just a Big Water guy -- and I miss the beaches and the boats and the lakes and the Oceans). If I had been the leader of a cult, well, I could see how Karma could bring me back through the particular life I've led. What could be a better karmic redress than being brought up in such a strong Fundamentalist Evangelical home, that even when you tried to leave through the Ivory Tower, you would still get tugged back into the lap of this strange religion to teach in one of their colleges and spend the first half of your adulthood just remembering all the ugly triggers of before.
Still: my feelings and memories of the tower are still celebratory. I love ritual and drama as much as I ever did. And even if our cult ended badly (they all do, right?), I still loved those folk dances in the shadow of the tower as the Summer Solstice Sun chased it across the field.
(note: there is a part two to this story, but as all my faithful readers know, my ability to finish serial posts is never speedy. If you do like serial storytelling or mystery stories that get solved? Let me strongly recommend the podcasts Serial (I know, you've heard about it already) and Mystery (that one may be fresher to you -- and it's great).)