Naked Dreams

I had one of those naked dreams last night.

I don’t often get those, but it seems like they are so common, they are almost a cliche.  All I have to do is describe it as a naked dream, and everybody instantly knows what I am talking about.  Mine was a naked-at-work dream.  It seems like the other variety is a naked-at-school dream, even for people who have long since graduated.

This got me to pondering one of the other cultural examples of nakedness: Naked-Adam and Naked-Eve, in the garden of Eden.  When something pops up in both our dreams and our religion(s), it seems like it is worth paying attention to.  Further, I think that our religious understanding can actually be shaped by our understanding of dream understanding.

It’s interesting to notice the places we don’t seem to have naked-dreams.  We don’t have naked dreams about being out in nature.  We don’t have naked dreams about being at home.  It could be objected that these dreams would be less awkward and remarkable, and perhaps even less remembered.  But the thing I am thinking about now is that we also don’t seem to have naked-dreams about places we have never been.  If such a place were full of people, it would be at least as wierd/awkward/humiliating as a naked dream in somewhere we are familiar.


To me, this suggests that naked dreams are really about our fears of being caught vulnerable.  Perhaps clothes are a sort-of metaphor.  They stand for the things we accumulate in life.  Knowledge.  Attitudes.  Learned behaviors.

If I am right, then these naked dreams are about our fears of being found out.  This is nearly universal, this idea that we are faking it in whatever role we take.  I remember when I became a driver, a legal drinker, a husband, a dad, a teacher.  Each time I was sure someone was going to swoop in and say “You don’t really have a license!  Stop driving!”  or “You only think your 21, get out of this bar!”  Or “We changed our mind and revoke your marriage license.”

(There is probably hours of things that could be said about the ways in which I — and maybe you– allow others to define us.  But I think maybe that’s a different thing.)

Naked dreams are about sneaking around, fearing that we will be exposed, knowing that we have been faking it, being terrified that everyone else– all the people with clothes– they actually are doing “it” right, they actually know what is going on.

Adam and Eve were thrust, awake, into a naked-dream.  It happened after they ate from the tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil.  I think we spend a lot of time thinking, arguing and debating about the second part, Good and Evil, and wondering what it might have meant.  We gut stuck on this idea that Adam and Eve suddenly understood morality, and try to piece together why this could be a bad thing.

There is a different implication of the Hebrew words, however.  Apparently it is a Hebrew literary device to pare a couple of opposites as a way to imply everything.  Elsewhere in the bible, God is described as the Alpha and the Omega, implying, I suppose that he is also everything in between.  My elderly grandfather sometimes says “from soup to nuts.”  Which I think means everything.  Apparently, the same can be said here.  Everything falls somewhere between good and evil, and therefore, the tree of knowledge of good and evil can also be understood as the tree of knowledge of everything.

“Everything” is such a wide topic that even my endlessly babbling self doesn’t have much to say on the topic.  I do have some things to say about the idea of knowledge.

In the last 300 years, knowledge has become a bit of an idol for our civilization.  Knowledge isn’t the only form of understanding, but somewhere along the way, we have decided it is the only one that matters.  It seems that we took the first step toward this idol-ization of knowledge back in the garden itself.

This is why it suddenly mattered that Adam and Eve were naked.  This is why the world turned suddenly cruel.  Because our meaning and purpose was no longer defined by our acceptance of God’s love and authority, now it was about what we know.  Our instinct and emotion suddenly counted for nothing.  The things we can learn were suddenly the only things that mattered.  Adam and Eve?  They had no knowledge.  They were naked.

I suspect that this is all tied into the highly un-biblical idea of earning God’s love.  We started down this road to knowledge, of things we have to aquire, and so we feel like this is the way to get to God’s support, God’s peace, God’s desire for us to spend our eternity.  But that, my friends, is another topic for another time.

I have been hoping to generate some topics and discussion.  Asking you about your naked dreams is probably pretty wierd, though…  So if you have read this far, perhaps a safer topic is this: what is your understanding of the meaning of the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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