zombies, moths, and mindfulness
A few nights ago, I had another dream of not-particularly-threatening zombies. This time, I dreamed that the biological mechanism by which one became a zombie if bitten involved, in the early stages, an accumulation of secretions in one's nose, and if the person got rid of the drying secretions within about the first two days of being bitten, s/he would not turn into a zombie. In short, a zombie bite wouldn't harm you if you picked your nose.
This was common knowledge, so if people around you saw you get bit by a zombie, they would remind you that you should pick your nose immediately. Zombies were enough of an eyesore and a nuisance that people felt quite invested in others, even strangers, not turning into one (although curiously enough, nobody in the dream suggested actually killing any zombies maybe there was an organization of People for the Ethical Treatment of Zombies that had convinced everyone this was a bad idea -- the subject never came up in the dream), and so if you refused to pick your nose, they often got quite insistent (and rightly so, given that nosepicking would save your life).
People also had found that the zombification process involved a slow deterioration of one's mental abilities. For this reason, it was simple enough to tell whether someone who'd been bitten could still be saved by nosepicking. All you had to do was ask the person to explain what zombies were and how zombification spreads or is cured; the person who could tell you something about it was still OK, a person who was becoming disoriented but was still at least somewhat lucid, needed immediate nosepicking, and a person who groaned, "UUUUUUUUURGH ... BRAINS ..." or something was probably too far gone to help. Conveniently enough, this doubled as a kind of prevention drill and public awareness campaign, so EVERYBODY had heard many times about the zombies and what to do if bitten. In fact, a shorthand way of administering the "are you still lucid, or are you inevitably turning into a zombie" test -- people would simply say, "tell us the legend," and everybody knew that the response was to say something about the zombies and nosepicking.
There were also zombie patrols -- people who went around in big dark blue school buses, picking up people who'd been bitten (though again, not the zombies, who were freely roaming around) to administer the "tell us the legend" test and to try to persuade those who were slow on the uptake that they really ought to pick their nose (and at no point did anyone pin a bite victim down and pick their nose for them -- maybe we were all just too polite to consider that). Most people were very grateful for this service. The only resister in the dream was this actress (she played Lilah on the totally excellent series Angel), whose problem was that she just couldn't believe that something as simple as nosepicking could cure zombie infection, and she was convinced that all of this was just a prank or a way to get a picture in the tabloids of her picking her nose.
I think I've realized why I'm dreaming so often these days of fairly harmless zombies.
We've got a bit of a problem in the house with Indian meal moths. Normally, if there's a bug that's not particularly germy or poisonous or (let's face it -- I can only take the nonviolence toward insects so far) gross, my inclination is just to let it be. So when I saw a couple of moths around the house, I didn't do anything. They multiply like crazy, though. I discovered that (in these parts, anyway -- I can't remember ever having a moth problem in L.A.) you can't really do anything to keep your house moth-free, since they come in with dried goods (cat food, rice, and such) you bring in from the store, so it's important when you see them around the house to kill them right away. They're harmless enough, but it's just gross if there are too many of them -- pretty much like the undead in my "harmless zombie" dreams.
And then there's another level, I think. In a lot of ways, I see my ministry as furthering mindfulness. A lot of us go through life doing most of what we do not because we particularly enjoy it or because we've made a choice to do it -- we do what we usually do, and spend so much time multitasking that we're almost always in at least a couple of places at once, and rarely fully aware of where we are now, and what's going on in and around our own skins. I've never seen Romero's Dawn of the Dead, but I understand that makes the comparison that I think my dream might be making -- consumerism and a thousand other influences in our culture can turn us by degrees into zombies, people who are moving around but not really living, or at least not living abundantly or fully. Mindful living -- questioning assumptions, breathing deeply, trying to be present in the moment and in one's skin for as much of the time as possible -- can happen by cultivating some very simple and not particularly difficult practices day to day. Just a few breaths drawn mindfully during the day can make a world of difference as we seek to live giving thanks for and responding to God's presence with us moment by moment, and, that's a spiritual discipline that helps me experience abundant life.
As for the nosepicking ... clearly I've spent far, far too much time with toddlers and middle schoolers lately.
dreaming of zombies (and U2)
I often dream of zombies, though these dreams rarely are what I'd call nightmares, as the zombies always turn out to be not much of a problem.
For example, once I dreamed that I turned on the television and found that zombies were on the loose, but I suddenly remembered that ordinary household salt would instantly dissolve them, and it turned out that our entire pantry was full of salt. I made a circle of salt around the house and filled some squirt guns with salt water, and then I sat down to watch some Law & Order (funny how detailed these dreams sometimes are), knowing that I was perfectly safe inside, and that I could always take a squirt gun out if I needed to buy a few ingredients for dinner.
This time, I dreamed that the world was pretty much taken over by zombies, except that Karen and I had taken up residence in a huge house on a massive estate, and all of our friends and lots of other interesting people were there. We had a garden and some cows for milk, solar-powered generators that could supply electricity indefinitely, and generally were having a good time of it, as the very extensive grounds (there were woods and fields and lakes) of the estate were surrounded by a simple chain-link fence, which was more than enough to deter the zombies. Occasionally, we'd picnic on a hill from which we could see the zombies congregating beyond the fence, and then something else would catch their interest and they'd move on. I remember thinking how peaceful and pastoral even congregating zombies could look from a distance as I poured myself another glass of Chardonnay (which I don't drink very often -- was that supposed to be the nightmare part?).
The other dream from last night that I remember was that U2 were playing on the grounds of a university. I didn't have tickets, but I wandered up to the arena just to see if I could get in, and they just let me in, so I wandered up to the best seats to see if I could get there, and nobody objected, so it looked like I'd be able to stand right next to the stage in any spot I chose. I remembered that I was carrying my guitar, and that I probably wouldn't be allowed to have it with me during the concert, so I was trying to decide whether I should go back to my car to put it in the trunk, taking the risk that I wouldn't be able to get back in. I had just about decided to stay where I was and risk that I'd be told I had to go back to put away my guitar, but I didn't feel all that concerned about it, since: a) I was going to see U2 twice on this tour already, and while this extra time was a nice surprise, I couldn't really complain if it didn't work out; and b) I was quite confident that nobody was going to be upset about the guitar, though it was going to be a bit of a pain having to carry it around the whole night.
But then the alarm went off. Karen said that she knew how the dream ended, and it was with Bono walking past and seeing me, and inviting me to stow the guitar backstage in a safe place. Works for me, though my fantasy ending would probably involve being asked to jam with the band as well (ah, those Joshua Tree tour days, when an audience member would be pulled up on stage to play guitar on "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" ...).
U2 have been showing up a lot in my dreams of late as well. I wonder whether one of these days there will be a crossover dream, in which I'm trying to get floor seats for a Madison Square Garden U2 show, but I'm not at all worried about it because my competition consists entirely of zombies who aren't so good with clicking their way through Ticketmaster sites, and because they dissolve when rock music plays.