A few nights ago I had a dream that would fall under the category of post apocalyptic. It took place in the present day, at my house, on what appeared to be a bright sunny summer day. My son and I were out back by the garage getting trailers hooked up to our bikes, collecting baseball bats and machetes, cans of food, and other supplies that have now left my memory. What the cause of our hasty retreat was I also can’t recall, but I knew we had to get going fast.
Throughout the dream I was also worried as to where my wife and daughter were. Maybe we were off to meet them, or worse yet to rescue them from some unseen and unknown antagonist. Either way, I missed the rest of my family very much, and I knew it was my job to keep my son safe.
Before awakening, the last thing I remember doing in the dream was getting the two dogs into the trailers, tying down the rest of our supplies, and then having to say goodbye to our two cats Charlie and Brown. It broke my heart to have to leave these two little guys behind. But even in the dreamtime, I realized that they would be fine without us and could fend for themselves living the rest of their days happily eating songbirds and mice.
I love dreams, but I usually cannot recall them as well as I can this one. And most of the time they are not nearly as involved or as intense. I have plenty of anxiety work dreams, and random fantastical ones with a rotating cast of familiar characters, but rarely do I have a dream that is so realistic and that is set in a familiar, yet somehow mystical and alternative apocalyptic world.
I couldn’t help but tell my son about this dream, and from that a great conversation was sparked. He was curious as to what a post apocalyptic world meant. Having just recently watched Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome for the first time with him, I told him to think back to that movie, but try to imagine it not quite so barren or destroyed. I think he understood what I was getting at and then proceeded to say something along the lines of “like what happens to you after war comes to your country”. I was amazed by the depth of his understanding and realized he had a good grasp of the idea. I responded with a “yeah, something like that…”
It was then that he asked me what else we would take with us. He automatically assumed I would take my Chromebook with us. And in hindsight I probably would take it if I knew it could be recharged and could access the internet! But I said “no, we wouldn’t take the Chromebook because what good would it do us if there were no power.” We could agree on this.
The conversation stayed on books. I took a quick look at our bookshelf, and pulled down an old, tattered copy of the Tao Te Ching that I have had for well over 20 years. I showed it to him, and he wondered why I would take a book like that, and not one of our foraging field guides or a wilderness survival book. The question was a good one, and now I had something else to explain to an inquisitive 8 year old.
While I am not an overly mystical person, the Tao has been one of those books that I found fairly early on in my journey. It has always been there for me, ready to be picked up, dusted off, and reread over and over again throughout the years. The 81 passages contained within the Tao Te Ching are a manual of sorts that has helped me to walk lightly upon this Good Earth. It is not a book filled with answers, or a God, or a map to a final destination. But more of a signpost. A compass. A star chart to the infinite. The book of the way.
So that is why I would grab that book if I found myself living in my recent dream. To help keep me centered and focused, but also fluid like water. But my son had a good point. If we were fleeing, not knowing when we would find safety, I would also pack my favorite field guides and survival manuals. I can identify many plants and fungi, but I don’t know a whole lot when it comes to cleaning an animal or making a splint for a broken leg.
In reality though, I try very hard to keep the post apocalyptic narrative from playing too big of a role in my day to day life. If I let it dominate my thoughts, it is hard to be productive or a positive role model. While it is a possible outcome for our world, especially if we stay our present course, I find it more helpful to focus on the present and how we can create a more fulfilling future for ourselves.
So even though post apocalyptic stories are my favorite ones to read and watch, it is the story of the Tao and a life lived in accordance with nature that I want to play a role in. When we take the time to observe our surroundings, draw our conclusions based on evidence, and implement solutions that are balanced and inspired by nature, that is when we can move forward and create a truly wonderful, and self sustaining world.
If a country is governed wisely,
its inhabitants will be content.
They enjoy the labor of their hands
and don’t waste time inventing labor saving machines.
Since they dearly love their homes,
they aren’t interested in travel.
There may be a few wagons and boats,
but these don’t go anywhere.
There may be an arsenal of weapons,
but nobody ever uses them.
People enjoy their food,
take pleasure in being with their families,
spend weekends working in their gardens,
delight in the doings of the neighborhood.
And even though the next country is so close
that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking,
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it.