“Dreams are but momentary stays against the relentless throbbing of my pulse in waking hours, a pause amidst the endless tide of my heart’s longings….the very essence of desire.” – JJHIII
I had a dream last night about the time I spent in Paris back in the mid-1970’s. It felt like I had traveled through time to stand in those same places once again, wandering the streets, inhaling the scents, embracing the sights, absorbing the sounds, and floating amidst the powerful memories of those moments. It seemed like an impossible dream had come true once again, and even though it has been many years since I last walked those streets, in the first few moments after I sat up in my bed upon waking in the middle of the night, it felt like it could have been yesterday.
The dream felt viscerally real and my response seemed almost prescient in those first few moments, sending me this afternoon to the archives in search of a passage I remembered recording in my personal journal:
October 25, 1976
“I am beginning to wonder now, as always, how this experience will affect the stream of events to come, and what new realizations will arrive within me when at some future time, I reflect upon them in silence. Paris is alive. It vibrates with life. It engulfs you with its intoxicating air. To walk the streets of Paris has felt alternately like a stroll through my fondest dreams, and in certain moments, like some kind of horrid nightmare. Swift though the moments seem, and as alone as I have felt in the nights by my window, this city breathes and pulsates with passionate feeling to the discerning eye. Time passes in Paris unseen, unheard, and unnoticed, almost as though it were never there from the beginning–lingering somewhere outside of perception, or as some distant memory.”
At age twenty-three, assigned as a soldier in what was then described as “Western Europe,” engaged in gathering military intelligence on our counterparts in Eastern Europe, my travels took me to a variety of technically non-military locations, and concerned matters far beyond anything I might have anticipated in my life prior to that assignment. The process of intelligence gathering seemed to be moving at a much swifter pace than anything else in my life, which hardly seemed to move at a snail’s pace when I look back on it. Without actually realizing it during that time frame, I raised my level of knowledge and experience to such an extent, that as I reflected on the dream in the early hours of a cool spring morning, I wondered what might have become of my life in another place or through another time.
Direction and purpose were strange entities for me then; vague and fluctuating between the minutes in a day. Not once did I ever truly concern myself with what might become of me. My influence on the world-at-large, in my mind at least, was at best a matter of chance, and certainly not within my power to determine. Having entered the military at the age of 19, I went from being a mostly unremarkable young man of limited means and experience to suddenly being engaged in matters of national security, with my every move a matter of close scrutiny by myself and by those around me.
While my military activities required much of my attention in those days, occasionally my assignment would allow or open up opportunities for downtime, and I often would explore on my own, sometimes secretly, and occasionally, I would lapse back into my personal reveries, and flirt with the tides of my heart’s longings. It was during such moments that my awareness seemed to be expanding into a wider world than the one in which I found myself embroiled so often as a soldier. Looking back at my life as a young boy, I regard with much fondness my life before this expansion of awareness. I never really thought that my life would be anything more than that which occurred from day-to-day; moment-to-moment, year after year. It was, I thought, a secure environment; beyond the reach of any sort of violent change. It was a rude awakening indeed that found me thousands of miles away from all that I had known. All that was once my reality suddenly seemed a lark–a crystal-clear pond in paradise.
….more to come….