When my alarm went off this morning, I woke up from a really disturbing dream. The kind of dream that made me afraid to go back to sleep, even for those 15 minutes until my next alarm. The kind of dream that made me want to squeeze my eyes shut and never open them again. The kind of dream that made me afraid that life had altered irrevocably in the eight hours I’d been asleep.
I wasn’t the main character in the dream, but I felt everything he was feeling. I only remember brief snatches of the dream, fortunately. A man and his son were in some sort of large shopping center or department store (subconsciously pulling in the shopping cart from The Road, perhaps?). It wasn’t a store any longer, though. Some sort of disaster had occurred (i.e. the apocalypse or something), and groups of people were waging a war against each other. I can’t even describe the terror of just moving through the aisles of this store. Anyway, a group of evil men were hunting for this man and his son, and they kidnapped the boy. The man had tried to flee with his son, but to no avail. He dashed into the parking lot, searching in vain for the vehicle they could have escaped in. The parking lot was pitch black dark, with rows and rows of empty vehicles. The man knew that he had arrived at the store in a minivan of some kind, but he couldn’t even remember what specific vehicle was his or where he had parked it. He was desperate and hopeless. When I woke up, he was standing in an empty parking lot, with no one around, absolutely certain his son had already been killed, and knowing that nothing remained that was worth living for.
Dramatic? You bet. My first thought? I’ve got to stop reading dystopian literature.
Over the past year, I’ve read a lot of dystopian novels and seen a lot of dystopian films: the book and film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend; Patrick Ness’ young adult novels The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer; other children’s books like The Giver and The Last Book in the Universe; Alan Moore’s graphic novels Watchmen and V for Vendetta. Books and films that have impacted me greatly–enough so that out of all the books I read and films I’ve seen, these made it into blog posts within the last year or so.
I enjoy dystopian literature and films, in a very strange way. Dystopian texts, and post-apocalyptic texts, remind me that, right now, life is worth fighting for. I have hope in a God who cares for me and for this world, and I’m blessed in immeasurable ways as a result of that. Dystopian settings, depressing and often empty of any higher power, are an other that I can’t really understand outside of my own faith. You can’t understand darkness until you understand light.
I never really realized how much it affected me. Sure, some of my favorite books are dystopian novels that make me feel angry while realizing the power of love. Yes, I wept during the film adaptation of The Road. Now, my dreams are taking place in a dystopian society, full of fear, hatred, and anger? Maybe I don’t need to see The Book of Eli just yet, even though I’m so intrigued by it.
Maybe I also need to read happier books. I’m working on L.M. Montgomery’s The Story Girl, happy, light reading. But next up on the list is Dickins’ Hard Times for the class on the Victorian Period that I’m auditing. Not so much happy.
At least this dream is making me realize what those books and films do, as well: I have a God who’s in control of everything–my own life, the lives of my students, the lives of baseball players who take steroids, and the lives of poor people in Haiti. I may not live in a utopia, but I certainly don’t live in anything resembling dystopia, either.