Friday, July 25, 2008

Dreams: Calvinist Mormons

Warren, Cabeza and I, for some unknown reason, are moving back into Y-Front, the two-story house we shared in college with five other roommates. We walk into the old place, and the sense of nostalgia is overwhelming. I excitedly turn to the white board that served to keep our messages to each other, divided 8 ways to give each of us our own little section. I'm really looking forward to staking my claim back on the lower right hand corner, and begin reaching for cleaning supplies to wipe off the old content and reestablish myself as an official denizen. I find a sheet of paper folded in half, taped to the board with my name written on it, and I set it aside as I begin scrubbing the board. However, I soon find that I've scrubbed so hard that the white layer of board has worn down to the brown backing!

Frustrated at having ruined a priceless artifact that has brought so much personality to Y-Front's front room, I decide to open the paper that had been addressed to me. Removing the tape, I find that it is a letter, addressed by Bishop Walker (the leader of the local church congregation), extending a calling to me. Apparently the news that we were moving back into the ward had spread, and he was ready with a responsibility for me right away. Impressed by his proactiveness in getting callings filled, I searched the rest of the letter to find in what capactiy I was being asked to serve: "The Deep Sorrows, Wailing & Moaning, Remorse, Confession of Sins and Lying Prostrate on the Earth Committee" (I actually don't remember the exact wording/order of the name for the committee, but it included at least some of these words and was very long).

The committee was essentially in charge of what the long name describes: ensuring that the ward members were reminded of their constant miserable state as mortals and were driven to repentance and salvation through fear and exploitation of the spiritual distance in their relationships with God. Jared and I had apparently heard that the ward had made a committee like this, and although we didn't want anything to do with it, we felt it wasn't a big enough deterrent to keep us from moving back in.

But now I was being asked to officially be a part of it, and I'm not sure at first how exactly I am going to respond. I've never turned down a calling before, and it feels awkward contemplating the act of looking my bishop in the eyes and telling him to find someone else. However, I can't support a movement to drive fear and guilt into the hearts of my friends and tear them down!

I glance again at the letter and notice that the bishop has included a schedule of regular extracurricular Sunday meetings the committee hosts. Each of them lasts about an hour, and each revolves around a different set of scriptures that serve to frighten sinners. Some sessions are labeled as being more intense than others, and there are also sessions in multiple languages, including Spanish, Italian, German and Japanese.

As I read through the descriptions of these meetings, flashing visions are shown to me of what they are like. I have an aerial view of people surrounding an outside platform/stage, an individual addressing them all with a microphone, pointing a finger at the crowd and vigorously calling everyone to sink into the depths of despair in order to better know God. Some individuals do as the committee's name suggests and begin to literally lie prostrate on the ground, many individuals are moaning and screaming. Some people are making their way up to the stage so they can borrow the microphone and proclaim their sins to everyone present. A lot of crying, and a really depressing bunch of kids.

When I snap out of it, still staring at the letter, I become determined to confront Bishop Walker and tell him that I won't do it, and I explain to Cabeza the dilemma while Warren sits on the front porch reading a book, his feet kicked up on the old, dusty couch we keep out there.

Shortly after this I wake up, though there are other vague details I can't clearly recall, one of which involved going to church with Cabeza, where we stood on a tower made of logs and looked down at the sacrament meeting taking place on the same stage that my visions had taken me to.


  • Right before going to bed last night I finished reading the first chapter of Rough Stone Rolling, a biography of Joseph Smith. This chapter detailed the background of his parents and grandparents, and discussed the dramatic religious reawakening that was sweeping the States at the time. A part that really stood out to me discussed the Calvinist influence, specifically when one preacher attempted to take advantage of Lucy Mack Smith during a serious illness she had, when she was very susceptible to recognizing the "great chasm" between herself and the Lord. The preacher wanted to exploit that in order to preach salvation to her (which is somewhat ironic as Lucy Mack was already very proactive in seeking the best way to come unto God). The Calvinist expressions detailed in this chapter surely affected my dream.
  • Y-Front was the house I lived in for the longest stretch of my college career. Warren and Cabeza are both old roommates who I see regularly because they live with or near me in the DC area now.
  • Bishop Walker was my ward's high counselor when I was still there, and we worked pretty closely together do to another calling I had at the time. Shortly after I left the ward he was asked to be the bishop.
  • I think I might have some subconscious feelings that the ward was going to pot around the time I left. I don't really think less of the people who are there now, but I probably would feel like it wasn't as cool as it used to be if I ever tried to move back.
  • While there certainly haven't been any committees like this one in any ward I've ever been in, I certainly have seen my fair share of committees that I didn't support whole-heartedly. For example, one ward I was in at BYU decided to have a committee devoted to setting people up on dates and get married. I wasn't a fan.
While it's important to recognize one's weaknesses and become humble before God, endorsing public displays of spiritual fear and misery are totally against the Gospel that I know. And Bishop Walker may be an apostate.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Dreams: Office Romance and Diablos

This dream was pretty segmented, in at least three parts, so I'm going to share it in its segmented form. It happens that each segment gets better than the last:

PART I: The Roll Bar
I'm driving a Jeep Cherokee-esque vehicle down I-15 in Utah at night. My old roommate Darl is riding shotgun, and other old roommate Isaac is in the back seat. We're going about 65 mph when a rather unexpected sharp turn seemingly leaps in front of the car! I quickly try to follow the sudden curve, but the car careens off the road and rolls multiple times at high speed, stopping in an upright position.

I shake my head a couple times as I gather my bearings. I'm now in the back seat with Isaac, but other than being a little startled, I'm perfectly alright. Darl and Isaac are fine, too, and as I crawl back into the driver's seat I comment, "Wow, thank heavens we have a roll bar on this Jeep!" I return the keys to the ignition and am about to turn it when I realize that we've ended up at some sort of house party, and the ground surrounding us is covered in snow. I flag down some random drunk guy to lock the hubs on my front tires, then I pop the Jeep into four wheel drive and get back on the road as if nothing has happened.

PART II: Love in a Cube
I'm chilling at work when a female coworker of mine (who shall go unnamed) comes over and begins talking to me. Before I know it, we're kissing! It's just simple kissing and cuddling, but it becomes a major distraction because, while all this is going on, I'm trying to format and distribute a press release that needs to go out before I can go home. By the time her hormones are calming down a bit, she comments on how this is the second time she's become involved in an office romance, and the first time (which was at a former workplace) ended really awkwardly. She seems a bit apprehensive about pursuing a similar relationship based on this past experience.

The next thing I know, she's taking me to a bar for a date. Odd thing is, meeting us at the front door is her OLD office flame, some dark-complexioned schmo with a buzzed head and mustache. It's become apparent to me that she wanted to take us both out at the same time so she could compare and choose who she'd rather date. At first this sets me off a bit, but as we enter the bar my more conscious self pipes in and I realize that I don't even have real romantic feelings for this coworker, so why on earth should I be concerned? With this new mindset, I still feel a little awkward being on such an unconventional date, but I'm much more at ease.

We enter the spacious tavern and walk toward the back of it to find a table. Female Coworker selects one, and as I sit down I look up to find that Darl is already seated at the same table, goofy grin in place, beginning to laugh in his very Darl way (hearty chuckles and convulsions that cause his entire upper body to bounce up and down) in reaction to my surprised facial expressions. The odds of the date are now three to one.

Female Coworker and Third Wheel each order some food and some super-fancy alcoholic mixes that involve a lot of kiwis and little umbrellas. Darl and I ask for water. I'm still mulling over the weirdness of the whole situation when I look to one side of the room and see a busboy in a baseball cap sweeping the floor with his back to me. He works his way backwards, so that with each sweep he is a foot or so closer, until eventually he's right behind me. He then turns around and looks up just enough for me to see his face under the bill of his hat: it's my friend David, a fellow Seattle-ite who is now living in New York City. He winks at me, smiles, and reassuringly whispers, "Don't worry, Mark. I've got your back covered!" and at that he puts his head back down and begins sweeping again. (Sidenote: David is one of my only friends who can get away with calling me by my given name, as he's known me since I was 2 years old, before my nickname existed.)

At this point I give into hysterical laughter. I'm able to recognize the random humor that a friend from NYC came down to DC, undercover as a busboy, to protect me during my awkward circumstances. I erupt into further roaring as I notice another familiar figure on the OTHER side of the room, ALSO posing as a busboy in a baseball cap: my brother, Cabeza, who is likewise sweeping the floor systematically, glancing up every few seconds to keep an eye out for danger.

Somewhere in there I also notice JKC, another old roommate, present in the bar, laughing about something. It seems that I'm at the center of an elaborate scheme. But there's no time to see how it plays out, because the next thing I remember, the dream changes to...

PART III: Abstraction of a Theory
For the second time in recent dream memory, I find myself a character in a medieval video game. I'm in a team with four or five other protagonists, and we're storming a cursed castle. As we walk down the stone hallways, blanketed in blues and blacks broken only by the orange of dying torches every ten yards or so, I take note of the various monsters standing guard at various doorways and on patrol. Some are large, fat and white, others are dark, hairy, horned and on all fours.

Without warning, my team is attacked! I unsheathe a dagger and begin hacking away. Other teammates respond a little more slowly, but soon everyone is in a fight for their lives as more and more monsters come rushing at us. One by one, the monsters tear down an opponent. We are managing to take out quite a few beasts in the chaos, but they outnumber us greatly. I'm soon the only survivor, and after a few cleverly-placed traps that freeze all my attackers for a few seconds, I take off running down to the dungeon level of the castle in a last-ditch effort to survive.

Upon reaching the dungeon, I throw myself into a room without bothering to see what it is, hoping to evade my pursuers. I'm startled by deep, echoing cackles. I turn to find a giant minotaur-like creature staring at me from the other end of a large ballroom. I turn again to find the doors I just passed through closing on me! I've unwittingly stumbled upon the final boss of the castle, without any teammates for backup!

Fearing for my life, and in perhaps the most abstract moment my imagination has ever taken me to, my conscious psyche literally picks up my avatar and throws him out the doors just before it's too late. The representation of my consciousness is now safe outside the danger zone, but my psyche is still in the presence of a mythical demon, and I sense great risk.

The great beast begins to charge my awareness, and the only way I can think to avoid certain destruction is to suddenly find myself taking physical form as myself once more (NOT simply an avatar from the game), ripping open my shirt and punching in a sequence of numbers on a touch pad located on my chest. As soon as I enter the final digit, a white door with an exit sign above appears on the wall. I rush to the door, taking note of the bright daylight coming in through its window, and quickly escape the castle.

Now back in a non-video game state, I find that the other side of the door is a bus station. But something's not right -- it's somehow inhuman. I climb the wall of a nearby brick building in an effort to hide, and soon a bus pulls up -- full of red-skinned demons!

Sensing that I need to act before they have a chance to gain the upper hand, I pounce from my perch onto the top of the bus. I swing from the front so that I am dangling in front of the windshield, staring the bus driver in the face. He's a slightly chunkier demon, with a bald spot and glasses. He doesn't look very threatening at all, in fact. Realizing that I'm not about to get into another battle, I hop down to the ground again and find a golf cart approaching me. As it pulls up, I see its occupants are three demons who, in an oddly-natural morph, change into smiling Mexicans. They're super-friendly guys and we talk for a bit in Spanish.

Then I wake up, and the first thing I do is smile and laugh at the thought of David and my brother posing as busboys in an undercover operation to rescue me from an awkward date.


  • I honestly don't get the whole pseudo-romance with my coworker (and, if you happen to be a coworker who is reading this, no -- it's not you), as I am not attracted to her like that at all. We've been g-chatting lately at work just to keep each other from getting too bored, so I'm guessing that our friendship has caused her to take a role in this dream of mine.
  • The video game aspects must stem from some of my final thoughts I had last night before going to bed. As I was doing some book reading, I thought a bit to myself about how I haven't really played online for the past couple weeks, and that I'm a little bored with the game.
  • I really find it interesting that my psyche separated from my avatar and protected it. If you have ever studied video game theory, you'll understand where I'm coming from. The avatar is essentially the embodiment of your persona when playing a video game, and, especially when the point of view is directly behind or in-the-eyes-of the avatar, some video game theories state that the player's consciousness extends to the avatar. Super meta stuff going on in this dream here.
  • I think the demonic bus station is influenced by all the "Hellboy II" advertising I've been seeing lately. The demons looked a lot like they could have jumped right out of the movie. It's funny because I've never seen the first "Hellboy," nor am I really all that interested in doing so. Effective advertising?

Medieval fantasy dreams aren't nearly as fun as superhero dreams.

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