I dream a lot. Dreams are one of the many ways I get inspiration for the creative things I pursue. I’ve dreamed everything from complete dance choreography to jewelry designs to story plots. Dreams are also one of the inviolate holy places where I can connect with the mysteries of the not-yet-discovered. There are worlds of rich, detailed, emotionally layered experiences available to me and all I have to do is sleep to see them. Last night I had a dream that still has me thinking about what’s going on in my brain.
I’m a gamer. I’ve been rolling dice and crawling dungeons and putting monsters to the sword since I was pre-pubescent. Having a dream about being in a game is a fairly common occurrence, but last night was something new for me. This time, the dream had real meaning to me.
It was a fairly typical castle. Stone walls, abandoned suits of armor, old but usable weapons scattered around. When I opened a heavy oak door, I was confronted by a yeti-like creature that roared and attacked. Gamers know this routine: grab something big and heavy and kill the mob. I grabbed a mace that was little more than a baseball bat with a spiked steel head and went to work. It stopped fighting back. It stood there passively while I hit it on the head over and over again, trying to crush the skull. It was quite realistic. There were no pixels here.
The Yeti stopped being an assailant and became a passive sacrifice. I felt blood spatter my face, wondered why the thing didn’t just die already. My arms got tired. I thought about getting another weapon, but I was committed to killing this big furry thing so I might as well keep hitting it. It finally went down and I put my hand on the body. The creature’s heart beat faintly, irregularly. It was in pain, and dying slowly.
I felt awful.
In real life, I grew up on farms and ranches. I have killed scores of animals for food. I can’t tell you how many I’ve decapitated with a short, forceful blow of an axe to the neck, or killed with a gunshot through the brain. I have, in fact, been up to my elbows in the still-warm corpse of something I just killed. Yet an animal lingering in pain is a cruelty I don’t wish on any creature.
These were all animals I’d raised from birth to death, husbanded all the way from conception to the dinner table. Sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys have met their end at my hand. All of these animals were raised with care and concern, protected from predators as best we could, and appreciated for their wool, milk, eggs and meat. Butchering day is a necessary act of survival, one more stop along the circle of the food chain for those who are connected to the land, as we were.
The dream tells me that I may not be acting in a humane manner in some aspect of my life that is necessary to my survival. Or perhaps I’m letting my sense of duty get in the way of an appropriate emotional response. I’ll be keeping a closer eye to my waking life for a while.
But it won’t stop me from gaming, killing the elite mobs and taking their stuff.