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Through the Bathroom Window

Written by John : April 1, 2008

showerhead.jpgLast night I had a strange dream. Normally my dreams are not the subject of much reflection: counter to pentecostal norm, I don’t take too much stock in dreams unless they’re particularly lucid or substantial to what’s going on in my life. And last night’s dream was neither. In my nocturnal movie, I awoke from sleep early in the morning and proceeded to turn on the shower - but I didn’t get in. Sometimes this is the case in real life, as I’ll get the water going and proceed to brush my teeth or deposit fluids into the toilet. The difference being, and what led me to understand it was a dream upon waking, was that I went through the entire day without showering. And the whole time, water ran out of the shower head, collecting in the tub and flowing down the drain grave into water heaven or wherever it goes in dreams.

I should pause here and mention that I have a completely unscientific theory about dreams.

I think dreams are utterly convincing when you’re experiencing them, and there’s a transitional moment when you’re waking up in which you are completely bought-in to the narrative of your dream state. It’s that groggy twilight when your eyes and brains are adjusting and there’s a tiny little part of you that is still in Hawaii (or Las Vegas, I guess, if you live in Hawaii) and riding through clear blue skies on the back of a dolphin and you’re so completely in the moment that it takes your drab bedroom or the snoring of a bedmate to tell you, hey, welcome back. We have to kind of fact-check our dreams, you know, figure out where the story line breaks away from real life.

In my case, it wasn’t so much the concept that I would leave the water running all day long. I think my initial response to that upon waking was intense shame and embarrassment, like walking out of the house having forgotten to put on pants. I wouldn’t put it past me. It wasn’t until I realized that you don’t get split-screen effects in your waking hours, the kind that show you going through routine daily tasks on one side of the screen, and the constantly running shower on the other. Grocery shopping on the right, shower on the left. Driving to work on the right, shower on the left.

Obviously we don’t get that benefit, otherwise we wouldn’t ever lose our car keys or sleep with our secretaries or yell at our kids because we got hurt by somebody else instead of for a good reason, like to get out of the way of a moving car. We don’t get the postmodern equivalent of a cartoon cricket reminding us of the unintended consequences of our action or inaction.

I think that sometimes we want the split screen feature in our minds, so pastors like me put in a lot of effort to create guilt-filled narratives for people to live in, crafting sermons and contributing to rumor mills that reinforce ever-lengthening lists of do’s and don’ts with THINGS THAT GOD DOESN’T LIKE ABOUT YOU scrawled in big bold letters on the canvas of our fertile minds. In this way, folks can anticipate wrongdoing far enough in advance for us to commoditize forgiveness. We go through our days imagining the searing laser vision of God cutting through the ceiling, watching us to make sure we’re not thinking about viewing pornography, or reading a comic book instead of data entry, or voting for a democrat in the ballot box. With this intense kind of guilt-based scrutiny, no wonder western evangelical Christianity has created a cottage industry of squeaky-clean retail subcultural kitsch. We fill our lives exclusively with “christian” books, “christian” music, “christian” tv, and limit our social interactions to church-related activities because we feel like it’s the green zone of God’s wrath - the only place we can escape the knowing gaze of our Lord and Savior and his clipboard of righteousness. We know that, as long as we’re doing what we’re told, we can turn off the split screen and give our conscience a much-needed rest.

Don’t get me wrong - I own and love a lot of literature that can be described as “christian.” There are even a couple of Christian bands that are pretty good. My problem isn’t with the industry itself, but the frame of thinking that fuels it and makes it a practical necessity for so many people. We need Christian subculture like an addict needs a fix. I think this is because we’ve tried to replace the hard work of consciousness and balancing liberty with responsibility with a system of sanctions and penalties.

To go back to my weird dream, we’re so afraid of leaving the water running that we never leave the bathroom - we just keep ordering pizza and Chinese food delivery.

Photo 5.jpgAuthor Bio:: John O’Hara is trying to follow Jesus. He posts Oakland-flavored reflections frequently at his blog, and is initiating a conversation between the emergent and pentecostal movements at Emerging Pentecostal.




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    Heh heh heh...staying in the bathroom's never been my problem (metaphorically); although plenty of people have had problems with my absence from it.

    Particularly on the music front. It's interesting how that is such as strong issue for many.

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