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A Christmas Dream


I had my first lucid dream about Gus last night, more than three weeks after his death on Dec. 1. He was in the street in front of my house, leashless, sniffing everything in sight. We didn’t have eye contact. I remember thinking, How amazing! Gus was dead, and now he’s back!

I know people who would explain this by claiming that the real Gus visited me in my dream state, that he was reassuring me everything was okay. They believe in the existence of the soul after death, and that the soul can travel between various dimensions. Gus, these people would say, still loves me so much that he’s now ready to visit me from time to time. The three weeks between his death and last night, they would say, were spent acclimating to his new environment. As Gus himself wrote me on Dec. 3, “I’m still learning my way around here.”

And hadn’t Gus also made a solemn promise? I’ll show up. You’ll know.”

Then there’s the school of thought that says, No, that wasn’t the real Gus. It was your sleeping brain, fabricating the illusion of Gus, dreaming. Dreams aren’t real. Face it, Gus is gone, never to return. You might have beautiful memories of him, you might have beautiful dreams, but they’re not real.

Personally, I don’t know which of these beliefs is true. Maybe neither is; maybe there’s another possibility. The fact is, nobody really knows anything about what happens to the “personality” or “soul” of the person (or the dog) after death. Sure, lots of people claim to know. But they don’t. They want to believe so much that they make themselves believe, and then they surround themselves with like-minded individuals who reinforce their beliefs. But just because a group of people believes something doesn’t make it true. There are plenty of Republicans who think Trump won the election in a landslide. We call that kind of thinking “delusional,” and we shake our heads in sorrow, because there’s no way to prove to those people that they’re living in LaLaLand.

It occurred to me how interesting it is that my vision of a “resurrected” Gus happened on Christmas Day. The holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus is, of course, not Christmas but Easter. Still, was my dream a Christmas “gift”? It made me very happy, even in my sleep. If it was a gift, who gave it to me? If I gave it to myself—if I conjured it—why did I wait for three weeks?

I used to believe in things like the survival of the soul and reincarnation when I was younger. I’d taken a lot of drugs, naturally, and these beliefs, based on vague notions of Eastern philosophies, like Hinduism and Buddhism, sprinkled with American Transcendentalism and Theosophy, were very popular in the 1960s and 1970s. I experienced things that were inexplicable, other than by soul-survival and spiritual communication with the dead. With the coming of the 1980s and the Reagan years, however, that side of myself shrank, replaced by an intensely objective, scientific-materialistic outlook that remains to this day.

But the older I get, the more I know how much I don’t know. Life is so weird that anything is possible. I’m re-reading Susskind’s book on the megaverse, or what he calls The Landscape: a perhaps infinite series of universes so vast that anything you can think of exists somewhere. That’s what quantum theory has brought us to, with all its uncertainty and chaos. Little wonder “people of faith,” as they’re called, cling to their simple credos. Religion explains everything while science merely raises more questions than it can answer. It can be discomfiting for a person who desires firm explanations and cannot tolerate uncertainty.

And yet, I choose to stick with science. There’s no reason why the universe should be explicable, especially through a simplistic Biblical account. A person may wish for life to be explained by simple processes, like the existence of a God who created everything and rules over the universe and hears our prayers. But that person, in principle, has no right to expect his explanation is correct. He certainly has no right to expect others to believe in the same thing, and he is seriously out of order if he expects the laws of his country to be based on his religious beliefs. That’s always been my gripe with extremist Christians in America. I see no difference between them and the Shia regime in Iran, except that the Iranian mullahs have complete power while the Christian preachers here do not. At least, not yet.

Well, so much for Christmas morning musing. My dream about Gus was like a billiard ball that caused my thoughts to ricochet all over the place. It’s going to be a quiet day here in the Heimoff household. Rain is expected by this afternoon, and I don’t expect to see anyone or talk with anyone all day. Is that sad on Christmas day? If it is, then there are a lot of sad people in America. I wish anyone who reads this Merry Christmas!

  1. Love you Steve.

  2. My Aunt Edith had a near-death experience; i.e., she was dead for a time, until brought back by medics. She told me about her beautiful visions, and was not afraid to die anymore. She said she no longer feared death. When her time did come, she was in a hospital and told my cousin, “I’m going now, hahahahahahahaha…. trailed off into the sunset, as she left our world.

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