Written years ago -by Dave Rogers
I was asleep when the Shuttle Columbia returned to Earth as a falling star.
I was asleep when the World Trade Center took thousands to the next world.
Although I was dreaming during those times, the real nightmares were making themselves known in the world. It's funny how dreams can change things; change our perspective - change how we live and where we live.
It was because of warped dreams that the terrorists became who they were - and probably due to those dreams, they boarded those planes and set out to kill.
It was certainly because of dreams that there was a space shuttle. Someone fueled by Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers - and maybe even Star Trek, birthed the plans for that vehicle, and a nation followed that dream into space.
The crew of the Columbia felt the pull of that dream, and answered the lonely call of the cosmos. Perhaps we all answer that same call on a multitude of different levels. We all, after all, dream.
Some days though, I can't reach that understanding.
It slips through my fingers like sand. I stare up at it uncomprehending, like an ant would view algebra equations in some musty Ivy-League classroom - on some chalk-smudged blackboard.
On those days, I wish I could be that ant - simply and quietly carrying out tiny ant chores. Following some invisible trails to mundane locations.
Mostly, though, I only share the questions the ant likely has - who am I? where are we going? What is this place? How far do we have yet to travel? What is the goal - the purpose - of it all?
Sometimes, when I paint, I know these answers.
Sometimes I can feel the beauty that's out there - the very call of that impossible cosmos.
Dreams twist their fingers through the fine hair of the night and leave behind images of other places and other times. The images push at the back of my mind; a grainy pressure like the press of a massive stone. They require light. They call for ink and paper.
So I paint.
There was once someone who was a soldier, a protector, a writer - a teacher.
These identities melted and blended into some kind of modern day lost soul.
But I wish I could be Lord Byron - my prose absorbing everything, leaving behind either truth or madness. I long to be those Shuttle astronauts - seeing at least for a moment, the great full disk of the Earth - the endless sea of stars.
I wish I could be a soldier again - a man with purpose; with the truth of duty; with the orders to hunt - to take terrible vengeance on those who worked to destroy the trade center - who helped craft the dreams which guided the acts of killers that September day.
But I am just an artist. Everything else has boiled away - burned and blown - lost like Autumn leaves of some long ago year.
I have also been a father - but more in name than in purpose. I would like to have understood the way of the parent better - more completely. But like many of us, I just spent my time guessing. Too often making the wrong calls.
Now I will stop using the word "I."
Today there was a man who came to talk to us.
He has become a replacement for an exceptional administrator to a loose organization of state offices. The old administrator was released by the new governor.
Today's visitor was very impressed with himself. He wore his new office like a rookie police officer displays his badge - cleanly and perfectly; as if he'd spent the morning polishing it and was trying to work out how he was going to arrange it on his shirt.
His talk was laced with so many lies, it was obvious he'd long ago parted with truth and lost it in the mists blanketing the sea of politics.
He strutted and posed and preened like some kind of fancy parrot and used examples and analogies as if he was speaking to a roomful of drugged-up psych-ward patients - or a group of very clever circus dogs.
It was obvious he didn't care about anyone but himself. He was a person of questionable character.
This man came to fire the current director - but also to soften the blow with the people he saw as simple circus dogs. Inconsequential animals that run back and forth, and bark pointlessly at the moon hanging in the sky just outside the walls of their facility.
Questions were asked of him and he pulled out the ignorance card, not realizing, like some unwitting magician, the whole deck he carried was chock-full of the same card.
There are people like this everywhere. Starched shirts smelling of cologne or expensive perfume; cufflinks glinting, they stalk the earth, flashing teeth in seamless, simulated smiles. The same words droning on in the same tones; their assurances are as empty as their hearts. They are automatons who've forgotten to cloak themselves in human skin before stepping out from beneath their rock into the sunlight of the world.
You're certain upon meeting one of these that their glossy, lintless appearance is camouflage for what's beneath - some kind of twisted, greasy, clutching thing, holding to the shadows, grinning malevolently as it sucks the eyes out of hapless humans it has caught in hidden, sticky, medieval traps.
There's a black hole in the universe of morality. It's intense, heated gravity tugs at our sleeves, pulls at our pant-legs and tries constantly to turn us to the heart of darkness. But it is no Darth Vader - nothing so focused or concrete. It makes its home in the lack of commitment. It thrives in the empty world of meetings and studies and planning. It reaches out to us from the darkened corners of boardrooms and paper-choked offices. It feeds on honesty and integrity. It bleeds despair and frustration. It builds nothing and seeks to devour everything.
It cannot be fought or held at bay - except through compassion.
Only empathy can resist the pull of this terrible singularity. If we breathe, if we live, if we strive for kindness and understanding, the great and terrible power of this thing is undone.
If we lose compassion, we are turned down different paths - some not so well lighted; some lit brightly with the flaming ruins of civilizations, of communities, of sad, lost individuals turned to empty husks, good for nothing more than the flames.
These creatures are a step away from crashing airplanes into buildings. They only need direction and commitment to leap from the ranks of humans to the legions of devils we are certain, as children, live in the closets of our bedrooms at night.
I believe every living thing dreams, because I meet them all when the Sandman comes to sit by my bedside. And if all these wonderful living, breathing, moving masses can dream, then how much compassion can there be in the world?
How much understanding?
How much acceptance?
How much love?