“Some of them were dreamers
And some of them were fools
Who were making plans and thinking of the future
With the energy of the innocent
They were gathering the tools
They would need to make their journey back to nature
While the sand slipped through the opening
And their hands reached for the golden ring
With their hearts they turned to each other’s hearts for refuge
In the troubled years that came before the deluge…”
I was walking my dog, Casey, a few days ago when Jackson Browne’s “Before the Deluge” opened in my playlist and the verse above began to work its way into my thoughts. Suddenly, I was struck by the realization that the lyrics were connected to a dream – with me in it – that a woman I hardly knew, not even by name, shared with me a few weeks ago. I was the central figure in the dream, but the dreamer hadn’t realized that until the moment she saw me sitting across from her in a circle gathering at The Dream Institute of Northern California.
Some of the backstory of my life is pertinent to tell before sharing the dream. To begin, I lived many years of my adult life in the Midwest, in Michigan. Before moving to Michigan, my first husband Gene and I lived on a “no frills,” light blue and white catamaran, turned houseboat, in Englewood, Florida in the 1970’s. Gene and his father built the vessel themselves, making the deck wider than normal to accommodate lobster trapping (something we never actually got into). Also, I’d spent time on the Napo River delta, a mild tributary to the Amazon River, flowing along the banks of Misahaulli, Ecuador, and had fallen in love with the people and the natural beauty of the place. These are all important facts related to the dream scenario, as the dreamer told it to me:
“Finding Safety from the Flood”
“There is a woman living on a houseboat on what appears to be a delta region where the waters are blue-green and calm. There are several tributaries flowing in different directions, all leading to the Amazon River. Further down, the river gets going quite fast, white water fast, but here in the delta it is calm and serene. The green grasses along the shore are waving in the light breeze. The houseboat is not fancy. It is sturdy—reminds me of houseboats I’ve seen in the Midwest. It has a wide deck and is painted light blue. The woman is gathering people to come live on her boat, because the annual monsoons and floods are going to begin. This is not some isolated cataclysmic event, but rather a sharp rising of the waters that happens on a cyclical basis. That makes it different from an Ark, apocalyptic story, but reminds me of it in the way that people begin filing onto to the boat; more people than will fit it seems, but all make it in nicely. Finally, the woman is content that all are safe. I see her looking peacefully out of one of the windows on the boat before the heavy rains begin.” (End of Dream)
When I was first introduced to the dream, I chose to let it reveal more of its meaning over time. After hearing the song lyrics, I am inclined to think of it in terms of seeking refuge from the rising waters of the collective unconscious, specifically the Shadow that has become visible not only in America’s polarized election process, but around the world. A similar phenomenon was occurring in 1974 when Browne’s “Before the Deluge” was released. Richard Nixon was president, the Vietnam War was raging, and the country was polarized either for the war or the massive demonstrations against it.
Interestingly, the “Before the Deluge” title is based on a 1954 French film of the same name in which several desperate teens are planning to buy a boat and sail to a remote island to escape what they consider to be inevitable atomic warfare. Although things go sadly awry with the teens’ plans in the film, their hearts are innocent albeit despairing of a generation of adults who are giving away their freedoms in the rush for nuclear arms to protect their own culture’s greed and acquisitiveness.
It was also in 1954 that Senator Joseph McCarthy began aiming his vitriol at the United States Army with his claim that the Army was soft on communism, and where he finally met his ‘Waterloo” in the form of a brilliant and soft-spoken lawyer by the name of Joseph N. Welch. During the now famous “Army – McCarthy” hearings, Welch shot down all McCarthy’s arguments and openly declared McCarthy’s evil and vindictive nature, bravely exposing him as the “reckless bully” he was. Thus, Welch’s impassioned words engaged a fed up populace’s support and catapulted McCarthy at long last into public disgrace. Does this sound familiar with what is currently happening with our own infamous bully, Donald Trump? As my husband Gene would say, DDSOS (different day, same old shit).
My point here is that these polarized world events are cyclical. They come, and we are required to play our individual parts, to be sure. But we can learn from history that it’s not prudent to dive headlong into waters when they are on the rise and raging. Losing our peaceful center is a detriment to the collective and to us as individuals. We can choose to survive this particular storm of extreme polarization that our political ideologies have engendered in us by turning our attention back to our true nature as communal beings and focusing on what brings us together instead of what divides us. We can make choices, based on knowledge about what supports the greater good and keeps us afloat, until such time when the troubled waters again recede and we are free to choose any one of the many tributaries that leads us to that larger place where diversity in its many forms survives and even thrives.