Mark had a dream a few nights ago. There is no explanation as to the circumstances that gave rise to this event and I am reluctant to make an attempt to interpret its significance. I have always found Freudian arguments unconvincing and never quite believed that Joseph, he of the multi-colored coat, predicted seven years of famine and plenty after listening to the over active imagination of a pharaoh.
This skepticism is reinforced by the nature of dreams as transient images: details disappear with the dawn of a new day and the best we can hope for is a partial view of the main theme. Through a glass darkly does not provide the best perspective and yet for some reason they continue to be endowed with unquestionable wisdom. It is as if we are glimpsing a world beyond the everyday understandable one, which is undoubtedly more powerful and mysterious. I will therefore recollect Mark’s vision without making any pretense of accurate description. Artistic license has been employed to paper over the cracks and I can’t vouch for its accuracy in the first place.
It was a sunny evening in an English summer, the kind we hope will last forever but rarely make it beyond mid-August. After the heat of the day, the temperature was dropping but a golden glow persisted from the disappearing sun, which bathed the landscape in more mellow tones. Now the day’s work had been done, the countryside could relax and put on its best mantle in celebration of finally being left in peace. The fields, the birds, the trees and all of God’s creation seemed to bask in the joy of being alive. Everything was so beautiful one couldn’t help but experience an inner elation at being witness to such a scene.
Mark was standing at the top of a field of long grass on a hillside, which sloped gently away from him. He was surrounded by friends, boys the same age as himself, and there was an adult carrying a rugby ball. This man would kick the ball up in the air so high it would disappear from sight and the crowd would run headlong downhill, not giving a thought to the possible hazards underfoot, just looking upward to the sky as they strained to catch the object descending from there.
Mark was always the one to win this game: he could run so fast and jump so high none of the others stood a chance. Moreover he was at one with the ball, they understood each other as if existing in a symbiotic relationship. As soon as the ball was caught he ran back to the man waiting at the top of the hill, thankfully handing it over in the hope the exercise would be repeated. The boy never tired but soared effortlessly into the air, leaving the other’s heads down near his waist, whilst outstretched arms seemed automatically drawn to the ball. He was so happy he wanted that evening to continue forever.
But dreams will come to an end and in the cold light of day matters invariably seem different. Mark was no longer a boy but a middle aged businessman and, as he prepared for work, gradually came to terms with the cares and problems that were an everyday part of his life. This contrasted painfully with the carefree feeling experienced a few hours earlier when joy had occupied his being to the extent that there was room for no other emotion. His body was no longer light as a feather but rather portly making it difficult to move with ease. The friends and adult who had meant so much had disappeared and now he was alone.
The morning was spent in the usual manner at his office, though he felt rather restless, finding it difficult to concentrate on work for any length of time. He walked around the room, which now felt like a cage, examining pictures on the wall and various odds and ends on the shelves and desk some of which he picked up to play with. It wasn’t working however: the familiar objects only reminded him of the monotony of his life and no amount of pacing could dispel the present mood. He turned to look out of the large window, which commanded a view over the nearby countryside. He had glanced out of this window many times before and thought he was familiar with the scene but realized upon further reflection he had never taken the time to study it in detail. He now began to look intently not wanting to miss out anything.
It was a beautiful day, the kind of day when many of the vast multitude who work indoors must also have been gazing out of their window wishing to be enjoying the outdoors. Mark surveyed the far side of the valley, climbing gently away from him to the horizon. At its foot were the buildings of the town and a little further up farmhouses dotted amongst fields. Every now and then he caught a glimpse of something shiny as a car wound its way along the roads. Some fields bore the dazzling yellow of rape seed, while others assumed a more gentle hue of that color where the corn was growing. Most, especially the ones higher up, were green with sheep confined within their boundaries of wooden fences or hedgerows. Along these divisions, here and there trees grew, none especially big but twisted and gnarled enough to give evidence of a reasonable age.
Mark’s attention fixed on one spot, the top right hand corner of one of those fields where the trees were casting a shadow over the ground. It was some way from the nearest farmhouse and no more attractive than other areas of the landscape but he couldn’t take his eyes off it. Somehow its remoteness so far removed from his present surroundings appealed to him.
“Why?” he thought “Why do I have to struggle to reach the end of the day, while that part of the countryside remains unchanged and peaceful as it has done for years? Life is so busy and full of problems, while everything there goes on naturally without a thought for me and is even totally unaware of my existence.”
He felt depressed and longed to go to that exact area.
The car’s GPS had proved frustrating due to his inability to name the location, but after the coordinates had been punched in he was on his way. The voice directing him from the dashboard was irksome and he switched it off. Indeed the luxury car, of which he was usually so proud, seemed to distance himself from the environment in a way which he had never before realized. The noise of the engine drowned the quiet sounds of the countryside and the scenery was being viewed through tinted glass. Even the air he was breathing had its direction, temperature and force altered and now smelt of leather as it collected the odors of the upholstery. He could not shake off the feeling of being a spectator to what was around him and not part of it.
After parking the car he had to walk some distance. Not being used to such exercise this was not easy: the way was difficult and overgrown in parts and he certainly wasn’t dressed for such an expedition. The shiny black shoes soon became muddy and the expensive jacket caught on thorns. The warm weather, combined with the inappropriate clothing, caused him to perspire profusely. Not being sure if he was walking on private property, Mark was relieved at not being challenged as he would have found it rather embarrassing to explain his presence. He arrived at his destination after what seemed like a long time but was probably no more than ten minutes.
The area didn’t seem as special as it had done from a distance and now he was here he didn’t really know what to do with himself or what it was he wanted. Perhaps there existed some vague notion of trying to capture its mood, to be at one with it but as he surveyed the scene he was afraid of even sitting down on the ground for fear of dirtying his trousers. Sure he could buy this field but that wouldn’t overcome the feeling of being alienated from it. Like one of those ladies who stared out of the computer screen, when he visited sites he knew he shouldn’t, he could violate them but never get them to love him. It seemed that he would never be anything but a spectator and, although it was an unsatisfactory state of affairs, there was nothing he could do about it.
The flies were bothering him now and this added to his physical discomfiture. He was becoming angry with himself for being so stupid and left hastily without looking back, resolving to continue with life as before.