Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nightmares and Eternity

It’s right behind you. You’re running as fast as you can. But not fast enough. It sinks its foul teeth into your neck. You scream, but you cannot. You wake up. It was only a nightmare.

“What do you mean only a nightmare,” you should ask. Wasn’t the horror real? Surely the cold sweat proves that at least some part of you was in terrible torment moments before waking. But as soon as you see that it isn’t real, it’s better. The memory may linger, but the suffering is gone.

I’m not quite sure why it’s better when you wake up. For other things where the ‘suffering is gone,’ like a past trauma, it’s certainly possible for it not to be better. But nightmares, where you have experienced horrific losses, embarrassments, and died many times over, don’t often have the same sort of power.

I don’t know the mechanism, but I know the effect. In the presence of reality, that which is ethereal passes away as unimportant. Perhaps this is what happens in Eternity. Suffering really happened, as nightmares did, but it doesn’t matter anymore.

In the Lord of the Rings, Sam has this feeling at the end of the book; when he sees Gandalf he asks, “Is everything sad going to come untrue?” I think the answer is, “Yes.”

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