BARN FIRE DREAMS

For the past while I have been recording my dreams, either in a mental log or on actual paper, and you may have notice I’ve been talking about dreams a lot over the past few weeks. That’s because I wanted to change up my Tuesday slot, because I’m struggling more and more not to be redundant with my concepts. I mean, you can skin a cat multiple ways…but at the end of it, all you’ve done is a bunch of skin cats. And it really isn’t in my interest to have people saying something like “Yeah I get it” when I talk about my ideas. So, instead, let me describe a short dream to you that I had the other day:

 

The world began with the light from a rotting wooden roof. Sunbeams looked down on me from the rectangular holes of missing roof tiles, and the interior of the barn had grown over with moss and various other plants. But the hay was still comfortable—at least, as I realized my arm was trapped beneath a woman, it had been for the half the night we had slept. I didn’t know her name, but she look familiar, like the friend of a friend. As I rubbed my eyes and rose, stumbling, I saw that the place really was run down. The walls looked like they might give out any time, and the color of the wood was so grey with rot that it scarcely looked a color at all.

And then I was outside, almost more suddenly than my mind could keep pace with. The air was fresh like the morning after a heavy rain, though the ground gave no hint that there had been so much as a drop recently. There were a great many trees around us, though there were other small cabins mixed in as well. It looked like a world stuck out of time to my mind’s eye, yet my body felt perfectly at home.

Until, of course, a young woman rounded the corner and ran up to me. Her hair was a vibrant red, and when she approached me it was clear she had been running for a great long while.

“Fire,” She gasped, pointing back the way she came, “help.” Without a moment’s hesitation, we were off running again. I can’t say how long we ran for, nor how I got my hands on a massive hose, but there we were, spraying down the side of another barn. Everything was going according to plan, until the faint cries of “help” rose up through the barn window, and we realized someone was inside. I handed the youth the hose, and ran toward the half open door. The heat inside singed my face, but I continued inward. It was as though the world itself had been immersed in flame. The Earth, the walls, and the roof all burned heavily. Even the faint view of the light seen from the shattered window in the loft looked redder than it had outside.

I looked around, and saw a pair of children standing at the center of the room, paralyzed with fear. It looked like they had found the only place without fire, though the circle around them was growing ever smaller. There was no way to get to them, save through the flames. Somehow, I found an area where the fire was less fierce, and took a few quick steps across the flames to them. I scooped them up in my arms, then looked for the door. In all the movement I had lost my bearings. It seemed so much farther than before.

Wood crashed around us as the roof began to shatter, shooting sparks through the air. The flames fed on the fallen wood like wolves on their prey, and grew all the fiercer. There would be no making it back to the door the way I had came. I looked around for another way to cross, but there was none. The flames crept closer, so close the children had to huddle against me tight. My mind raced, until it came to me that I’d have to toss them. They might break an arm in the landing, but it was better than being burned alive.

I did it one at a time. The boy went through first. His body soared over the tips of the flames, which in that moment looked more like the finger of Hell. He crashed through the door, rolling a few times before struggling to his feet. The girl was next. She was heavier than he was, and the tips of her skirt caught fire as she passed over the wall before us, but in landing she rolled and they were put out. The wall of fire screamed before me, enraged I had taken it’s prey from it. There was a huge crack, and I saw the ceiling finally give way. Then everything went dark.

 

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DISCUSSING THE INFERNO

I’ve never really been one for writing book reviews. That’s what the Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB) is for, among many other outlets. But I did just finish Dante’s Inferno, and talking about it is effectively a book review, so settle in. If you haven’t read it, Inferno is basically what you would expect. Dante, guided by his senpai Virgil, enters and traverses the bowels of Hell. He listens to many, many different sinners, along with their stories. The plot is leading up to him reaching Heaven, but that doesn’t actually happen until after Inferno.

Ok. Cool. Plot summarized. Now to the fun stuff. The Inferno is a really interesting read, because while it is very “of its time” (literally, you would not believe how many then-contemporary Italian political references there are), it also contains many aspects that can be extended to present day political life. I mean, human nature doesn’t change THAT much, does it? If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen a few quotes that pretty directly relate to the modern political climate. What I found most peculiar about Inferno though, is how Dante treats sin.

Today it seems like there is no middle ground. You are evil, or you are good, and if you are sinful, then you can never be virtuous. By contrast, in the book, there is a split. There are those people who never look back, and are bad through and through, but there are also those who were great, but punished for their sins. The proof that they were great is that Dante speaks well of some of them. Speaking well of somebody who inhabits Hell, not Heaven, seems a bit…wrong, right? But I think that’s the crux of the story—that despite our flaws and short comings, we can still be good people, if we act in a manner that uplifts humankind. By contrast, if we instead turn our backs on humanity and virtue, and live a life solely for ourselves, that greed will consume us and damage everything around us.

A bit of pride is good. Too much pride is dangerous. The Greeks used Icarus to portray this, among others. Dante used various Popes and historical figures like Brutus and Cassius. Yet those men, if Shakespeare’s tragedy is to believed, were trying to defend democracy in betraying Cesar. They were punished, but their actions were, in many ways, for a greater good. What do you think? Where would you draw the line? Let me know in the comments!

 

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