December 5, 2023

Last night, I had a dream about the collapse of society. Images of crashing helicopters, panicked citizens and roving bands of armed marauders flashed in front of me through what were supposed to be peaceful resting hours. I found myself hiding in the rubble of a demolished building, desperately trying to eke out any moment of survival that would be afforded to me. There was no clarity about the situation, it happened almost too quickly for me to be able to react.

Suddenly in the midst of the commotion, I was jolted awake to a strange rattling sound inside the water heater on the other side of my bedroom wall. After assuring there was no leaking water anywhere and waiting for the noise to dissipate, I stumbled back to the bedroom and fell asleep within minutes.

The images started up again, but this time there was a decidedly more positive outlook found within them. Families taking strangers into their homes. People of different status cohabitating, trading smiles over home-cooked meals. There were no judgments, just humans doing their part to better each other through shared knowledge and experience.

It’s usually a miracle if I remember the contents of my dreams after waking up in the morning. If there’s ever an interruption in my sleep while dreaming, you can also bet that the subsequent dream rarely has anything to do with the previous. It’s possible that these two fragmented dreams were entirely unrelated. It was just hard for me not to be struck by the sequencing of this experience; a brutal depiction of the worst moment in a person’s life followed by something more blissful, broken up by a frustrating and unexpected real-world event that was, even if just temporarily, resolved as quickly as it began.

My perception of the passing of time has been both unimaginably wide and disappointingly shallow. I struggle to remember fun anecdotes from my past that make for good conversation fodder, but I’m also occasionally haunted by personal failings that are nearly old enough to obtain a driver’s license. Painful and tedious events can feel like an eternity in the moment, but at the same time, the cumulative experience of life starts to feel like it has flashed before my eyes.

Despite my best efforts, I have made enemies in the past. I’ve been described as a laid-back person but I do not identify as a passive person. I’ve developed strong core tenets over the span of three decades that I endeavor to live by. These endeavors will eventually rub up against the rough surface of reality. I was harassed for standing by the actions of a friend for years. He’s dead now.

These days, I’m still harassed for my personal beliefs. I’m not going to waver, no matter how inconvenient or painful the future will be. I have the battle scars to prove it.

The fact is, what I just experienced in the dreamscape is already happening around the world. Even if the specifics aren’t always exact, life is already crumbling for countless numbers of people. Endless wars and outright genocide take place every day that I draw a breath. Society has already collapsed for human beings who deserved better.

Even if somebody survives part one, who’s to say that there’s space left in the world to provide that saccharine experience of communality found in part two? Is that even the view of a perfect world? Is that even MY view of a perfect world? If it actually ends up being the idealized good ending that we’re all seeking, is it even possible?