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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dreaming Up Sins

School supplies are made of non recyclable materials. Are you aware of that? Pens, three ring binders, page sleeves and separators, plastic, plastic, plastic. Good luck finding a wooden ruler. If you do find one, you've felled a tree.

I do try to watch out for my carbon nun shoe foot print. I'm no Ed Begley, Jr., but we do manage to only throw out one bag of trash per week, while we fill the giant blue recycling can before the week ends. It's still full after the scavengers slide through digging for glass and cans. We don't have much in the way of glass and cans. It's all paper, paper, paper.

I hear newspapers are struggling. You couldn't prove it by me.

I don't think there's anything to be done about the school supplies. I remember my sixth grade teacher always opining about going to school during the Great Depression and how they did one assignment on one side of the paper and the next assignment on the other side. I wish I could have her come and opine again now to our split personality of a society. Urged to recycle our disposable habits.

Oh well, onto one of my favorite topics, the dreamworld.

Hi, sister! Please excuse my English - I'm from Brazil and we speak Portuguese down here. I have a question about sin: We can sin through action, omission, words and thoughts. What about dreams? If, for example, I dream about killing my boss, do I have to go to confession the next day?

Thanks in advance,

Portuguese! What an interesting language! At first you think you are hearing someone speak in Spanish and then you think, "no, that's French..wait...it's some sort of Slavic language..no...Spanish..." Your English is perfectly clear. Very exciting on our end to know we have readers in Brazil!

You have control over your actions, what you choose not to do, what you say and to a large extent what you think (more on that in a moment). The first rule of sin is that it is intentional. You know you are doing something wrong and you go right ahead and do it. Or, you know that you should be doing something but you aren't doing it. For example, loving your neighbor. (That does not include loving his dog, standing on the roof of his doghouse barking himself hoarse.)

But you have no control over your dreams and they are therefore, not sinful.

Let's pause for a moment and address the people who attempt to practice what is called "lucid" dreaming". This is where a person works at being able to control what happens in a dream. For example, if you have a recurring dream that a dragon knocks on your front door and when you don't answer because you know it's a dragon out there, he shoots a massive breath of fire, burning off the entire front of your house. You are racked with guilt as you see the singed cat skittle under what's left of the home, but you run the other way, your steps getting slower and slower as the hot breath of the dragon bears down on you. For one second, the air is suddenly cool as the dragon draws his next breath and then the roar of the fire fills your ears and you wake up! heart still pounding. A lucid dreamer will tell himself over and over again to confront the dragon and at some point will likely be able, when the dream recurs, to shout through the door when the dragon first knocks, "We don't want any!" and watch the dragon walk slowly away.

I've actually done this myself. I haven't done it in a practiced way. But I have had lucid moments during dreams where I suddenly realize, "wait, there are no dragons, therefore this must be a dream." And I turn and I laugh, or I stop running and the whole thing goes away.

Once I was having one of those scary dreams where you are flying but in no way in control and terrified of crashing on your head. Ever have one of those? I suddenly realized I was dreaming, since I can't fly (stupid old TV show notwithstanding), and started flying around like Superman, swooping and zooming. I was having the time of my life!

None of this so called lucidity counts as sin, since you are really not in control of what you are dreaming in the first place or in any way the outcome of the dream.

I suppose it might be possible to try to do something sinful in the dream by practicing lucid dreaming, but again, that would not be the dream's fault, that would be you consciously choosing to try to sin in your sleep. It would be a sin ahead of time.

Then there is the fact that dreams don't necessarily have to do with the actual people involved in them. You may dream about killing your boss, but your boss might represent something else. Maybe you actually feel that you are too controlling, and you want to "let go and let God" and your boss is actually you.

Or your mother.

Or maybe you actually do want to kill your boss. That is a problem for your waking life, not what occurs while you are in dreamland.

Most of the time when most of us say we want to 'kill' somebody, we in no way mean that. We mean we are really, really angry with them. We may even want to give them a good boot to the head. But even in our angriest moment, we are not really homicidal. It's still a sin to harbor anger, or to give someone a boot to the head.

Which brings me to that earlier point on how much we can control our thoughts. It's not a sin to feel angry, or even to feel like giving someone a boot to the head. These are fleeting thoughts over which we have little control. We can train ourselves away from these feelings so that we rarely have them, but you can't help what pops into your head.

What you can control is popping it right back out of there. It would be a good idea, for example, if you are one of those people trying to train themselves into lucid dreaming, that you would use that time to train yourself, using that same technique and energy, to control your waking thoughts and fears. Just my two cents.

One last thought. If you are having a lot of dreams in which you are the perpetrator of untold mayhem, see a shrink. Your brain is trying to tell you something.


Regina said...

Hmm... a very interesting question and answer today. I usually try and tell myself what I would like to dream about before I go to sleep at night- sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't! I also don't watch or read news before bed! No violence before bed- that's my motto!

Claudia said...

I know I dream , but the remembrance only last for a few fleeting seconds. I do not think I have killed anyone in those dreams.

I do remember a dream of having to go to the bathroom, I am glad I woke up in time for that one. LOL

Marion Teague said...

Wow sister, you have much more exciting dreams than I do. Flying? I'm usually sitting on a bus, or something equally dull.

Chunks of Reality said...

I wish that you lived closer and we could have a coffee and a chat together. I absolutely love your blog. You are highly interesting and I thank you for writing here. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the answer, Sister.
Greetings from Cidade de São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro.

momcat said...

I'm usually a nicer person in my dreams than I am in real life. I wonder what that says about me. Or my mother.

Lizzie in far off Australia said...

Not about dreams sister, but school recycling. At my school the students are very aware of their carbon footprints, and recycle all sorts of paper for their school assignments and essays. One girl whose mother was a doctor regularly submitted work on the back of the minutes of the regional doctors' group and another with a father in the Anglican clergy used his old sermons and notes from clergy meetings. These were sometimes most interesting and I was sorry when she left. So if it's not slanderous or secret Sister, reuse it!

Anonymous said...

Hello Sister,

Boy, have I got a doozy for you.
After spending most of my life praying for "the One", my prayers were answered seven years ago. I am now married to a wonderful man who is intelligent, kind, faithful and amazing in every way. Remember that song "Something Good" from the Sound of Music? Well, that's how I feel about my guy. The thing is I'm Catholic and he's an...ahem...as the priest said today...a "pagan" (I'm not even going to use the "a" word) but as you know God's gifts come in the most unexpected packages...plus I think He also has a highly developed sense of irony.
When we decided to get married, my husband knew how much my faith meant to me, so he said we should get married in an ecumenical service so the whole religion or lack thereof doesn't have to be an issue. But I decided that if I couldn't have a Catholic wedding then I would be content with a civil ceremony. I believe that if my guy ever finds God, then it should be through grace, just like the way I found him - and not because his fiancee strong-armed him into it. So we got married and that was that.
A couple of weeks ago, I caught the tail end of a program about a Hindu-Catholic couple who had a Hindu and a Catholic wedding. Being 1/2 of a bi-racial and multi-cultural couple myself, I was happy to see it. But I have to admit that inwardly, I was pissed off - why didn't I even try to see if it was ok to try for a Catholic wedding? Because I remembered my catechism which held that you couldn't enter into the sacrament of marriage without experiencing the sacraments that preceded it. I'm not sure how the couple on TV managed that compromise. And I thought it was high time my catechism got updated and I got a few questions answered.
So my questions are: (1) what are the circumstances in which a Catholic and a non-Catholic can get married, (2) would it ever be possible for a Catholic and an atheist (there i said it!) to get married in the Roman Catholic rite, and (3) if two people get their marriage annulled, does that mean their children are illegitimate?

Thanks Sister!

JP said...

Dear Yellowhammer

I can't answer all your marriage questions, but I can answer some.

The children of a marriage later declared null (an anullment) are not illegitimate. Legitimacy is a civil declaration, not a religious one.

A Catholic and non=Catholic, even an unbaptized person can be married in a Catholic ceremony. The marriage with an unbaptized person is not considered a sacramental marriage, but a natural union. My parents had a marriage of this sort.

I've been told by a priest that in the event of the breakdown of a natural union, a declaration of nullity (anullment) is not required for the Catholic to re-marry, although there is some formality which is done and of which I cannot recall the name.

Catholicanuck said...

Sister, I have blogged on our seemingly split personality with regards to environmentalism and crazy things like laws which prohibit the line-drying of clothing, and the profusion of cheap, easily worn-out consumer goods which ultimately clog landfills.

I agree that much does not make sense!

Anonymous said...

Thanks JP!

That certainly clears things up for me and the hubby. Now I really, really wish I'd spoken to a priest first.