It’s been several weeks since the last post, I know. At this point, I’ll leave the explanation simply as “much has happened, and much will be happening.” Life will become much more open in mid-November, and I will look forward to beginning the next phase of Listening to War at that point.
Consider this post, then, a cameo appearance—or rather, perhaps, a harbinger of what is to come.
For I wish to share with you a dream I had last night.
As background: in the summer of 1974, my high school band went on a four-week excursion through Europe. Richard Nixon was still President. The Middle East Oil Crisis had just taken center stage. At one point, the trip was cancelled because of the travel restrictions that had been implemented in Europe because of the oil shortages. Yet soon another travel company was found, and so off we went, through the Netherlands, (then-West) Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and France (with a brief pit stop in Liechtenstein).
Nixon resigned as we were touring through Florence.
After forty years, I still have so many powerful, wonderful memories of that trip. It was a defining moment in my self-concept and self-awareness. For six months afterwards, I kept my wristwatch on Paris time. I was just seventeen, after all. Cut me some slack.
Thus, the dream.
I am sitting in the front of a tour bus. I realize that we are getting ready to travel to New York, where we will board a flight to Europe. “We” are the current-day members of my high school band, along with their families, as well as myself and many of my high school classmates (now adults) who also went on the 1974 trip with me. I’m sitting at the front of the bus, on the side opposite the driver’s seat. No one is sitting next to me.
I look out the front window of the bus to see traffic passing by us, on a highway. We are in a large city. The bus driver is not yet in his seat (I know that he is a man), and I admire that he is going to be awake enough to drive us the twelve or so hours that it will take us to get to NYC.
I look to my right, out my side window. It is slightly ajar. A cool, even chilly breeze is coming through it. I am excited to go on this trip back to Europe.
Then, I realize that I did not bring my clarinet. (Yes, yes, what else did you expect me to have played back then? The tuba? Seriously?) I think, though, that I might be able to borrow one from someone else, someone who does not play as well as I do. (That’s an embarrassing detail, but dreams don’t allow you to fudge. I was indeed at the time the first-chair player in my band. Looking back, I was often obnoxious about it. Probably part of the dream’s message. Dreams do that, you know.)
Then, however, I realize that I forgot to get my new passport.
I can’t believe that I forgot to do that, yet at the same time I understand that, in a way, I purposefully avoided all opportunities to get it. I recall that when we went back in 1974, the band staff had worked with us to make sure that we would all get our passports in time. I realize that the modern-day band had done the same. I easily could have taken advantage of the opportunity. But I hadn’t.
Thus, I realize that with the bus about ready to leave within the hour, I won’t be going to Europe.
I decide that I must find the band director to let him know. I find myself in the hallway of a building, like a convention center. Many of my fellow travelers, both young and old, are milling around, waiting to depart with the bus(es). I find the band director (yes, the head band director of my high school years), and I ask him if we can step over to the side, as I am ashamed to have others hear what I had failed to do.
I speak to the director very apologetically, almost tearfully, confessing that I had failed to get the passport, that I would have to let down my fellow, adult classmates, as we were going to be serving as sponsors for the younger band members. I ask him to understand that I had not fully understood myself why I had been so negligent.
The band director, though, is not in an understanding mood.
He screams at me (curses, actually), ordering me to get out of the building immediately, disdainfully telling me that he does not have time for me and that I don’t deserve to go on the trip anyway.
At that point, I, though, no longer am finding myself in such an apologetic mood.
I scream and curse back at him, disdainfully telling him how worthless I think he is, as well as how ridiculous his whole “band-trip” project is.
We walk away from each other, still screaming, still cursing, still trying to outdo each other in how much we despise one another.
I then walk down some steps, and suddenly I sit down on them, overcome with a realization:
I really hadn’t wanted to go on the trip in the first place.
I remember how excited I had been when I had originally learned about the trip, about how I had planned to take my wife and my young-adult children (son-in-law included) with me. Yet, I remember, we had simply not been able to arrange that, partially because of costs, partially because of schedules, and thus I was going to have to travel by myself. I remember that I had not really wanted to do that.
Then I think of several specific high school classmates who were going to be going on the trip, especially the man who later became my college roommate and who had been one of the groomsmen at my wedding. I realize that I would be letting all of them down, leaving them with more responsibility for the younger students. I also realize that I had been looking forward to sitting with them in cafes in Paris, Rome, Berlin, drinking coffee, sipping wine, reflecting on our lives.
Yet even then, I again realize that I had not wanted to go. I had wanted to stay home with my family.
I had told myself that I had wanted to go, and I had set myself up for the whole failure scenario. Even while I had been telling myself that I had wanted to go, I had purposefully made it not possible to go.
I then even think about my band director. I easily can understand why he became so upset, and even though I have no desire whatsoever to speak with him again, I can empathize with his anger. I realize that I would have been just as angry, had I been him. (In real life, he had been a good man whom I did not fully appreciate at the time, let alone whom I did not sufficiently honor for his work in trying to hold together a music program that had gone through dramatic, public, unpleasant changes over the previous year.)
I think about Paris, Rome (both cities I visited), Berlin (one, in 1974, I obviously did not). I feel a longing to go there, yet immediately I feel even more strongly a truth, one almost breathtaking: I had really—really—never wanted to go on this trip in the first place.
And as I begin to wake up, I say to myself, “Good Lord, I have always known that I wasn’t going to go, haven’t I?”
Thus hath my inner Jung spoken.
The shrink in me knows exactly how important the dream was. And will be.
See you in November.