LETTING THE IMAGES COMPLETE THEIR TASK
BEHALF OF THE DEAD
I will share with you a dream whose images perplexed and disturbed me until they had completed their work of bringing meaning and resolution to an unfinished part of my childhood. Here is the dream:
It is nighttime at my grandparents' old house. Everyone is inside, but I am
very busy moving all around the house and its immediate perimeter. I am
looking for the advantageous positions from where I might defend us and
ward off an attack with my old M-1 military rifle.
I must do this by myself for some reason unclear to me. The others either
are not able to help or possibly may not even know of the pending battle.
It is given to me that the enemy forces are Japanese and many in number.
Their intent will be to kill us.
However, I conclude that their approach can only come from one direction
through the woods. It is a narrow passageway that will allow only one or
two at most to pass at the same time. This is to my advantage and my only
hope. I must position myself where I am least likely to be spotted so that
I can slowly, calmly, and deliberately pin them down with sniper fire until
daybreak or their retreat.
I find what I think is my most concealed location, check my rifle and
ammunition, and wait. It is not long before I see two soldiers emerge from
the woods in the faint moonlight. I take careful aim and kill the first one,
but the second soldier quickly recovers, crouches, and runs toward the
house. He reaches a back wall before I can take aim and fire again.
My guess is that he is circling around behind the house to approach me
from the rear. I know I must quickly take care of him so that I can
concentrate on other soldiers who will emerge from the narrow wooded
passageway. Taking a chance that I can slip through the house and
surprise the soldier who may be circling around me, I arrive at a doorway
just as he is passing by and quickly shoot to kill him. As he is falling, he
gets off one shot and hits me in my right shoulder. Maybe I can stop the
bleeding and still hold my rifle, I am thinking, as I run back to my first
position, hoping others have not come through yet.
As I said, these images both perplexed me and bothered me. My first concern was to wonder if I might be caught in some inflated, warrior, power complex. Reviewing in as much detail as I could my life circumstances at the moment, this possibility of inflation did not seem to fit. So, what about my grandparents' old house? And the Japanese soldiers?
Well, to begin, I have a basic admiration of the Japanese. I see them as smart, industrious, wise, and significant for what they have given the world. In addition to their well-crafted automobiles, one of which I drive with confidence and enjoyment, they have offered me an aesthetic sense of beauty, a Zen-like approach to religious awe, and one of the world's most beautiful and spiritual martial arts -- Aikido.
That is the positive side, but in my memory and unconscious, I am sure, there is also a negative side. My father fought in the Pacific campaign under General Douglas McArthur. As a kid, I followed the battles of the Pacific as much as any child could before he is seven years old. Somehow over those years and after, I gathered information about the Battles of Bataan, Iwo Jima, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the death march and many others. While I have harbored no conscious animosity, that shadow side of Japanese history no doubt is lodged within my psyche and will forever be associated with my grandparents' old house.
For this reason. While my father was fighting in the Pacific, my mother had become incapacitated with Leukemia. Her situation deteriorated to the point where she had to give up housekeeping altogether, and she and I went to live with my grandparents i their old, big, four-bedroom house. It was to this house that my father returned from his battle with Japan to face another battle, my mother's courageous fight against death that enabled her to hold on until he came back home.
However, by the time my father arrived back home, he also was fighting another battle within himself. Or maybe at that time he was not so much fighting the disease of alcoholism as he was surrendering to its victory over him. I remember him as vicious with rageful outbursts, sulking despondency, a complete lack of empathy for my mother and grandparents, as well as physical abuse toward me.
It may have come to a head one evening when he raged against my grandfather and challenged him to go outside and fight. The fight did not occur for whatever reason. My uncle and aunt were there in the house also, and someone must have intervened to re-direct my father's alcoholic tantrum. Only later did I overhear family members talking about the terrifying incident that, it seemed to me, was not resolved and would lurk to pop out again at any moment as these outbursts occur in the insane world of alcoholics and their family members.
But here is the point: I did not feel safe either physically or psychologically, and I was not able to do anything about it.
So, we come back to the dream images. Here I am reminded of something shared by Carl Jung.
We allow the images to rise up, and maybe we wonder about them,
but that is all. We do not take the trouble to understand them, let
alone draw ethical conclusions from them. This stopping-short conjures
up the negative effects of the unconscious. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The images of the unconscious place a great responsibility upon a man.
Failure to understand them, or a shirking of ethical responsibility, deprives
him of his wholeness and imposes a painful fragmentariness on his life.
(Memories, Dreams, Reflections, pp. 192-193)
Reflecting on the images of my dream, I re-member the powerlessness I felt within my family complex, imaged as the grandparents' house. I also re-member the demons of my father, imaged as the Japanese soldiers who may have visited him in the alcoholic-aided experience of post-traumatic stress disorder, soldiers who represent the cruelty and barbarism of unconscious life.
But most importantly, even the dead must be defended, for in our deep psyches they seek redress of wrongs. To take up arms against their foes is to seek freedom from the meaningless violence that attacked their spirits and enslaved them in the dungeons of unconsciousness. Against such foes, I raise my symbolic rifle of discerning power, even though I have myself been wounded but not killed nor captured. It is my ethical responsibility that both frightens and frees me.