Sunday, March 3, 2024

Backwards dreams

I dreamed that I was going to hear a speech by Nibley Hugh. (This was clearly Hugh Nibley, the 20th-century Mormon intellectual, but in the dream everyone called him Nibley Hugh.) I was with a group of people I knew, including some family members, but no clearly defined individuals.

When we went into the building where the speech was to be held, which looked something like a university and something like a hospital, I accidentally went through the wrong door and found myself outside on the roof. When I tried to open the door to go back in, the door handle broke off in my hand, so I had to find another way. I spent some time climbing around on the roof, getting quite far from the door, and finally found a place where I could get back in through an open window.

I found myself in what was very clearly a restricted room, used by the security personnel, and I was worried that if anyone saw me in there I would be in trouble. At first the room seemed to be empty, so I made for the door, hoping to get out before anyone noticed me, but then a large White man with blond hair and a beard appeared and blocked my path.

I began explaining, in Chinese, how I had ended up in the room, but he just snapped, in English, "Where's your mask?" He was wearing a surgical mask, I now noticed.

Still speaking Chinese, I said, "Oh, is it all right if I use English with you?"

He ignored this, or more likely didn't understand it, and said, "Are you going to put on your mask or not?"

I found this annoying, said, "No, of course not!" in a dismissive way, and went back to explaining (in English now) how I had gotten lost on my way to the Nibley Hugh speech. After a bit more of this cross talk, he finally let me out of the room and into the lobby. I saw my friends there and realized that the speech was already over. It only felt like I had been gone for a few minutes, but I had missed the whole thing.

"Where's Nibley Hugh?" I said. Someone told me that he was just leaving, but that I still had time to talk to him if I hurried.

I saw him -- an extremely elderly man, looking to be well over 100 years old -- walking out into the parking lot. "Nibley Hugh!" I shouted, but he obviously couldn't hear me.

I ran right up next to him and shouted in his ear, "Nibley Hugh!" He just kept walking, completely unaware of my presence.

I went back to my friends and said, "He doesn't even seem to be aware of his surroundings. Was he really able to deliver a coherent speech?"

"He spoke like a much younger man," someone said. "I think delivering prepared remarks is cognitively easier than interacting with people in real time."

Despite missing his speech and failing to converse with him, I was very pleased just to have seen the great man. Just think, I said to myself, now I've seen [someone else] and Nibley Hugh! (The someone else was some contemporary Mormon scholar, perhaps Richard Bushman or someone like that, but I can't remember who exactly it was.)

In a later dream the same night, I was exploring an enormous Catholic church made of unadorned gray concrete. The church was conducting a survey and had created a system of narrow forking corridors for the purpose. The forks were shaped like tuning forks, not like Ys. At each fork in the corridor, there was a sign asking you a question, and then you'd go left or right depending on your answer. Then someone would count all the people coming out the various exists and would know how many had given each possible set of answers. The only question I remember was, "Do you think we should keep doing the Stations of the Cross every week, or only once at baptism?" (I'm pretty sure that question is nonsense, using Catholic-sounding vocabulary but in a way that would make no sense to an actual Catholic.)

I tried to go through the survey corridors just for fun, but I found that I was going through them backwards. I had apparently started at one of the exits and was working my way back to the single entrance. At each fork, instead of having to choose between two paths, I was finding my path merging with that of people who had the opposite opinion. I was obviously doing it wrong, but I just kept going until I came out at what was supposed to be the entrance. I was met by a visibly annoyed priest.

"What do you think you're doing?" he demanded.

"Sorry," I said, "I think I did your schism thing wrong."

"Schism? What's that, music spelt backwards?"

In a final dream vignette, I was looking at an English dictionary to see if it would be suitable for my students. Flipping through it, I found an entry for the word skunkkeeper, and I was impressed that such an unusual word had been included.

Note added: Several hours after these dreams, including the one in which Hugh Nibley is repeatedly referred to backward, as Nibley Hugh, I ran across this on the Internet, referring to Presley Elvis:

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