The Dream of Descent

Last night I dreamed about descent – again. This time I was in a cylindrical elevator, with six other people (three adults and three children, none recognizable from real life), on a high floor of a steel-glass tower. I knew we had enemies within the building, whom we’d had to elude to reach the elevator, who might yet prevent us from reaching ground and getting out. Yes, the doors were closed – we were safe for the moment – but it was a long way down.

In other dreams, I’ve descended – or considered doing so – by way of a staircase, a rope ladder, a flat-bottomed wooden boat dropping from a rock face into a lake. Just yesterday, I realized that the metaphor of descent, which has us tumbling from the cultural peak we’ve supposedly reached to the depths of dearth and violence, is both inapt and coercive. Inapt because a sky-high whiz-bang quotient (yes, we’ve got that!) does not imply (and usually militates against) profound wisdom, witness, humility, and respect. Coercive because who wants to take a great fall, and wind up shattered? Better cling to that height for dear life!

Yet I still dream in this metaphor. I still fear descent.

I need a new story.

Here’s an idea: Replace descent with recovery.

We’re sick. We’re addicted (to whiz-bang). We feed our war machine with one hand while slapping it (squawking, “Stop that!”) with the other. We hack at the web of life (or, more often, have others do the hacking for us, out of sight) in perverse pursuit of what we need, or think we need, to stay alive.

It’s true, recovery can be painful. Jolting. Even scary. But, for the most part, it beats staying sick.

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