Have you ever had a dream that seemed so real that when you woke up you couldn’t figure out which reality was real and which was the dream? This one shook me deeply, especially in light of the fear and animosity and division that seems to have taken over the United States recently.
I dreamt that our world had ended.
Well, not the world exactly, but western society. Most of the people were gone. There were still a few of us wandering around. I was wandering just like the others. In my dream I had been walking all day in a cold, prickling rain. I had no goal in mind, no destination. I had just been walking for something to do; because I couldn’t stay in one place, I had to keep warm. I had to move, move, move. I had to keep moving because if I didn’t one of “them” would find me; find me and know me for what I was and finish me off.
I glanced up, taking in the devastation all around me, and feeling sick at heart. Whole cities gone. Whole neighborhoods flattened. Forests gone. Oceans teaming with trash and the skeletons of ships. Millions of bodies piled in mass graves, dumped into the oceans or just left in heaps and why? WHY? Because a handful of people had been afraid of what they didn’t understand; afraid that allowing everyone the freedom to be who and what they were would somehow prevent them from being themselves?
Was it because they wanted to maintain control? Control over what? There was nothing left. Well, I supposed there might be some communities left deep in the heartland, maybe even a few scattered cities that had not been touched because they had not rebelled against a government that wanted to institute total control over every individual’s body and mind. But honestly, what was the point?
What was the point of destroying everything, every ONE that you didn’t like or understand? What kind of world did that leave you with? Did they really think that the people that sought to control would just quietly allow it to happen? That they wouldn’t resist a handful of people telling them what they could or could not do, go or believe? And now that they had destroyed everything that didn’t hold with their views of how the world should be, where did that leave them?
I contemplated these things as I walked, becoming more and more depressed. Finally, exhausted and soaked to the skin, I stopped at this one house that seemed in relatively good repair to get some food and find a dry place to sleep for the night. What I found once I had found an unlocked door and let myself in, were 3 nearly starved cats and an almost dead dog. Wherever the people had gone, they hadn’t taken their animals with them.
With tears in my eyes, I fed and watered them the animals, leaving the doors open so they could leave if they wanted to. When I had eaten myself and slept a little, I went on to the next house. Here I found a dead fish and a canary that looked as if it was about to keel over. I let the canary out of its cage and went on to the next house where I found two golden retrievers, one dead and the other very weak. I fed that dog, propped the door open and went on down the street. Here three Siamese cats grown gaunt there a rabbit laying limply in it’s cage.
House to house I went, and every house had animals left in it. Wherever the people had gone, they hadn’t even left the doors or cages open so that the animals could at least attempt to fend for themselves.
After what seemed like days of going from house to house, I collapsed onto the front porch of a farm house, crying at the barn full of dead cows and unable to go on. I was overcome with sadness, exhaustion, despair. There was a whole world out there. What kind of a difference could I possibly make?
Just then I noticed that I was being followed by all of the animals that I HAD saved. They gathered around me, looking at me; cats, dogs, birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, several goats, a horse, a small flock of chickens and even 2 llamas and an iguana. All of which had been kept as pets.
One of the cats, a pure black cat, thin but with thick, velvety fur, stepped forward and said out loud “it made a difference to us”.
A dog, a German shepherd limped to the cats side and said “it’s our turn now, you need to rest.”
A mama cat came and curled up on my lap with her newborn kittens and she purred me to sleep. As I dozed off, I saw all of the animals moving in different directions.
In my dream I slept for a long time until the mama cat woke me up and said “look, look there, you’re a mama now too!”
I got up and looked around. Each of the animals I had released had gone off and released more of their own and all of them came to see me before heading off to release even more animals. It was a continual stream of animals now.
“See?” said the German shepherd, sitting down by my side. “See what you started?”
The black cat climbed onto my shoulder and curled his tail gently around my neck. “All it took was one person. You, doing what you could.”
“But I can’t change what happened!” I cried. “I can not change the hatred in people’s hearts. All the people, all the animals!”
“No” whispered the cat. “No, you can’t change the past, but you can share the love that you have in yours with those around you. And while it may not change what has already happened, or even change that which has yet to happen, you can, by acting out of love, create a heaven for yourself and those around you, right here and now.”
And I woke up.