Monday, November 21, 2016

The Paw of Condolence

This dream springs from the same  space in the unconscious that creates religion. Do our loved ones go to “another place” when they die? This dream says yes. Whether or not that's right in any objective sense is unknown and unknowable; nevertheless, it is consoling.
The Dream: I am a young teenager, staying at the seaside with my family. I look out from the screened porch, on the second story of the old-fashioned beach house. I see my younger brother Greg out in the ocean, clinging to a railing. I call to him, “Stay there! I'm coming!” I quickly change into a swimsuit and run downstairs and into the sea.

By the time I reach the railing he's gone. I search frantically, unable to find him, then head back to the beach house for some help. I go upstairs and find my sister in law, who is about my age. As we start to head down the stairs, two pet lions are ascending, obscured by a cat flap. I hear the first one before I see him. He says, “He's gone to another place.” I'm frightened when I hear this, thinking it confirms my fear that my brother is dead. I'm also surprised that the lion has spoken. The lion emerges through the cat door and repeats, “He's gone to another place.” He looks at me empathetically, as if he is sorry for my loss. He holds out a paw, gently, claws retracted, to shake hands.

I look out at the sea, its waves forming a beautiful pattern, white caps going on and on in v-shape formations. It's beautiful but hazardous. I don't think Greg could have survived its power.

My sister in law and I go to the deep beach, filled with tourists sunbathing and swimming. We search and search, to no avail. How will I tell Mother? I wonder, feeling her grief as I think about it. How will I tell my other brother? The words I choose echo the ones he used to tell me about Greg's death when it happened several years ago: “The worst thing you can imagine has happened.”

Interpretation: I had this dream near the anniversary of the deaths of both my brother and my mother. Two feelings are intertwined, grief with the hope inherent in the lion's godlike message. In one of C.S. Lewis' famous books, the lion represented Christ as the symbolic sacrifice that defeats death.  For me, the lion symbolizes the inevitable sad way of things in the natural world. He tells me that Greg has gone to another place. By stepping outside his own natural role as a mute and savage beast, the empathetic lion implies that there's something we don't know. As I experience the fearsome beauty of the sea, I know that this mysterious life force is incomprehensible. Yet there is solace in realizing the possibility of a dimension beyond those I know: this other place the lion speaks of.

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