Tuesday, July 9, 2002

Tuesday Too # 20

1.) Yes, conflicting theories abound; what do you think dreams (nightly adventures) mean, or do you subscribe to a particular theorist and why?

I unfortunately tend not to remember my dreams, though I do know that I usually enjoy them (and when I was using 'the patch' to quit smoking, I really enjoyed them...that's a bonus of the treatment). And I am leery of ascribing too much "meaning" to dreams...just as I am leery of attaching too much meaning to anything, especially something vague and sub rosa like dreams, or astrology, or numerology or what-have-you. And of course, since I don't ascribe too much meaning to dreams, I have never bothered to study it enough to subscribe to any one theory over another.

But I do think that the mind will use dreams to bring things to your attention. I have always related to the concept of the conscious and unconscious minds...the conscious with its rationale and order, and the unconscious with its psychic and intuitive abilities...and that the best mental health results from those two portions being in good communication with each other...and that in our dream state we occupy our unconscious mind. Often one supresses something that begins to fester in the psyche, or intuitive information becomes important to one's well-being, so the unconscious relates the pain of the supression or the intuitive information to the conscious through dreams. So when something occurs in a dream that seems to nag at my waking mind, I pay attention to it.

For example, once I had this dream that got stuck in my head for days, I found it so disturbing: I dropped something on my foot, and my big toenail broke apart; underneath the nail was another toe, like a baby's toe. In the manner of dreams, all of my nails then crumbled away, revealing baby fingers and toes under each nail bed. Now, such a dream can have numerous interpretations, but I find it interesting, and somewhat suggestive, that I had that dream the same night after my sister found out she was pregnant, and a week before she told me about it. I have also had text-book dreams about repression of anger, in which there is a ravening beast of some sort that is chewing on me because I won't let it off its leash, or dreams relating to and working through situational fears, or things like that (the classic being-at-school-in-your-underwear is an old favorite).

But again, I don't really think there is anything the dreams can tell you that you can't come to understand through your own meditations, and that dreams are very specific to one's own psyche...so the interpretation of other people's dreams would by necessity be a terrifically inexact science. Still, I did find this interesting website about dream interpretation today. Kind of entertaining, gives you a wide overview of dream analysis.

2.) When you are confronted by a homeless person asking for change, how do you respond? How does it make you feel? If you've never been in this situation, imagine it, and calculate your response.

I live in a major metropolitan area, so panhandling is a daily nuisance. I usually don't notice it too much, though I do try to make eye contact with them and say, "Sorry, no," rather than just ignoring them...they are human beings after all, and deserve at least that much recognition. But I never give them money. I don't believe in giving away money (or anything else, really) to strangers.

Sometimes I get angry at being harrassed for money by all these "unfortunates." Some days, some neighborhoods, you can't go two blocks without getting panhandled seven times. It becomes irritating. And then some of these people have irksome attitudes, as if I owed them money simply because I have a job and a home and food in the kitchen and clean clothes when they do not.

One day I was going to the post office and this woman who pretty much lives under a tree there accosted me on my way into the building and asked for fifteen cents (the ones who ask for specific amounts always amaze me...how do they arrive at those specific amounts? do you wake up in the morning and say "this is a fifteen-cent kind of day?"); then she asked me again on my way out, and I laughed a little...I mean, nothing could have happened in between my entering the post office and exiting it two minutes later that would have changed my pecuniary status...she merely asked any and every object that passed her on the steps. She saw my laugh and became irate, and yelled at me: "Don't laugh, it could happen to you!"

I thought about that for a while as I walked around the lake during my lunch hour, and finally came to the conclusion that, no, "it" couldn't happen to me. I simply don't believe that one can't save oneself from a situation like that...to become homeless may be a matter of circumstance, but to live on the streets and beg money from passing strangers is a choice. I could not make that choice. I would quite literally and seriously prefer to die. Even when I was drinking, sunk in my own addictions, my life was not so precious to me that I couldn't end it if it became unbearable. It still isn't.

Now many of the homeless, particularly in large cities, are made up of people who are simply not sane, not responsible for themselves. When the state mental hospitals were closed down in the 70s, all of the patients were pretty much just set loose, and the only mechanism for their care was disability checks...which you can't recieve if you have nowhere to live. Many more of the people on the streets are drug addicts who have lost everything to their addictions, including their humanity and dignity. And many people are on the streets because they cannot bring themselves to live in human society by society's rules...they can't hold jobs, can't maintain relationships, can't support themselves because they feel for some reason that they shouldn't have to. There are even a few people who live on the streets because circumstances have arranged against them and they find themselves suddenly without resource.

But all of these people, with the exception of the mentally ill, arrived where they are by a series of choices. The woman who takes up the crack-pipe had a choice. The man with a wife and four children who lost his job had a choice before he married and reproduced and sunk his family into debt by living beyond his means. And for some people there comes a time where there's no turning back from the choices you made...and a sentient individual has to be responsible for the choices he or she makes.

Now, there comes a time when you need someone's help to get you out of the mess you made with your own choices. In my case, I had my Grandmother to help me. Not everyone has a grandmother, or friends or family who have the means and willingness to help them. But I made a choice to change my life when the opportunity to do so was presented: if I had not taken advantage of that opportunity, I might have ended up there on the streets. But it was, by necessity, me who took responsibility for my actions and made those corrective choices. There are opportunities for all of these other people as well...the Salvation Army for one, Goodwill for another. These are organizations I will support (but usually by shopping at and donating to their stores, where I get something I want in return...I don't give to those irritating quasi-panhandling folk with the Christmas bells). And since those opportunities exist, difficult to live with or access as they may be (living with my Grandmother isn't always a walk in the park, I assure you), the individual homeless person can take advantage...and is responsible to do so.

And so it makes me angry sometimes that these people take the attitude that individual members of society should be made to support them, little by little, so that they can continue to live the way that they do. Their choices are their responsibilities, and I don't feel that it is society's responsibility to take care of those who will not take care of themselves.

I try to be patient, anyway, because it's best to always show some patience and compassion to people, no matter what. The poor are always with us, so you might as well treat them with some dignity and respect. But I won't give them money.

3.) Do you feel you have been short changed in any way by destiny/fate/god? If so, how?

While my higher self says No, that I have what I need to have and what I am meant to have...I do sometimes feel that, yes, Fate could have been somewhat kinder to me. It often just pisses me off that I was not born beautiful and rich. On the other hand, I kind of believe (very casually) in reincarnation...and if that is so, I imagine that I have something to learn from the hand I've been dealt as regards my looks and my socioeconomic status.

And then, I think about the things I was given other than wealth and looks (which are not unalloyed blessings, by any means)...I have intelligence, an analytic mind, fairly good health, etc. I can further consider that, this trip around, I am not in a worse situation...a peasant in a war-torn South American nation, a sweat-shop worker in Asia, a lunatic on the streets of a big city incapable of rational thought, et cetera. Though I think it's a little too much in the way of schadenfreude to feel gratitude that I am not more unfortunate, it does seem a bit tacky to be ungrateful for that which I do have, when compared to the idea that I might not have drawn this good of a hand.

But still there are days where I just wish I had been born to wealthy and indulgent parents, and looked like this:

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