I don’t know how this particular giant found a position on the local police force. I don’t know why his existence didn’t seem to bother anyone else around me. I don’t know whether he was the only one of his kind, or if there were others volunteering their ways into the operations of other local police forces. These aren’t the kinds of questions we ask ourselves in dreams.
What I do know is that this particular giant was acting very…sketchy. He hovered over the murder scene investigation, paying no mind to the delicacy of the tasks being performed around him. His every breath seemed to threaten the dust of fingerprints and chalk lines, and his presence intimidated the witnesses being interviewed. At fifteen feet tall, he had to crouch in order to fit inside the cramped parking garage, where I stood watching the commotion with a small group of friends.
The giant seemed more intent on satisfying his own curiosity than being of any actual help to the people he had volunteered to support. He stomped from clue to clue, ignoring boundaries established by crime scene tape and pushing his gnarled nose into every startled officer’s investigative bubble.
As we watched the integrity of the scene being so flippantly compromised, my group of friends was casually offended at the officers’ tolerance of the giant. How could justice be served when the evidence that could make or break another human being was being kicked and crushed under mobile tree trunks?
A couple of my more opinionated friends finally took it upon themselves to speak up and defend the justice process – already horribly corrupted as it was, in their minds. Catching the ear of the nearest officer, an older gentleman with graying hair and chubby, pockmarked cheeks, they proceeded to complain about the giant’s clumsiness. How could they let him undermine the professional efforts of a law enforcement profession already under intense public scrutiny? they asked.
The giant, who was nearby, overheard the low-voiced conversation and narrowed his beady eyes into a full glare at my companions. (Apparently giants have impeccable hearing. Must be the gigantic ears.) The officer, meanwhile, stopped listening the moment he realized the complaints were about the giant and gave a lethargic half-shrug before turning back to his police business.
As the officer and the crowd around us shifted away, the giant’s deep scowl seemed to burn a hole around my small group of friends. The parking garage grew dark. Street sounds and the babble of voices fell into a stony silence. Visibility narrowed into a red-tinted tunnel-vision close-up of the giant’s murderous stare, aimed with laser precision at the spot just between my eyes. The dream then shifted, as dreams often do, into a montage of the violent head-crushing, face-ripping murders of my companions as we were slowly picked off, one-by-one.
As I observed each kill in my floaty, disembodied way, it became painfully apparent that my friends would receive no help from any authorities whatsoever. Their murders would go unsolved just like the crime we visited in the parking garage. Perhaps it was one of the giants’ own murder scenes that he was pretending to help investigate that day.
Finally my last surviving friend and I sat at the kitchen counter in her seventh-story apartment. Cupping warm coffee mugs in our hands, we hunched over and admitted our fear to one another. It was only a matter of time, we felt, before the giant would find us and kill us, too. We stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the rain, trying not to jump so obviously at every sound that echoed through the building.
A loud thud shook the building. My friend and I stared at each other across the tiled countertop. The second thud pinpointed the sound to the outer wall of an apartment somewhere below us. The clash of silver-on-china lingered in the otherwise solid air. I never knew a sound could be so still. The third thud was higher in elevation, closer to us. We sat frozen as four decreasingly distant thuds crescendoed into loud crashes, the last of which came as the giant wrapped his hands around the bars of the balcony, lifting his face to peer into the apartment through the sliding glass door.
I screamed at my friend to hide behind the counter. She didn’t move. The giant saw us and pulled himself onto the balcony, sneering as he slammed his fist into the glass door. A spider web fracture appeared in the glass. He slammed his fist again, deepening the cracks. One more blow would break the door and we would be helpless against the impossibly huge man. The giant pulled back his fist, and with a deafening roar, he plunged it through the glass, shattering the door as a sharp, biting wind ripped through the apartment.
I awoke in my own apartment, throwing my eyes around the dark room to bring my consciousness back to the real world. Wake up, wake up, wake up! I told myself, shaking my head to come out of the dream. I didn’t want to fall back asleep and into the hands of the giant, who was hovering on the outskirts of my awareness, waiting for my return.
I opened my eyes wide. They grew heavy and drooped. My brain scrambled for an alternate thought, but it only grasped ethereal straws.
Sleep overpowered me and I fell back into the dream – though I did not go quietly. As I stared up at the giant, towering over me with clenched, knotted fists, I thought to myself, “You know what? Fuck this giant! He just gets away with everything, bullying people with fear, and I’m not going to be afraid of him, too.”
My friend had disappeared. Just me and the giant. I ran to the drawer where she kept her gun. Fully (magically) loaded. A sharp turn and I emptied the cartridges into his chest. The blasts were enough to push him back onto the deck, but they failed to pierce his skin. He laughed as the proverbial “Oh, shit,” look flashed across my face. His laughter only flared my anger. I summoned my energy to find otherworldly ways to destroy him.
Glancing up at the gathering storm, I collected the water from the clouds. It didn’t take as long as you would think. Using my hands to focus my energy, I drew it all down in a mighty waterfall onto the giant’s head. I stepped back into the apartment, fearing the weight of the deluge would carry the whole balcony down. The giant gripped the railing, seeming to keep the structure in place through sheer willpower.
As the roar of the water faded into the trickle of a weak stream, I lost no time. I thrust my hand up and pulled the lightning from the clouds into the giant’s skull. He threw his head back and cackled, reaching with his own hand to grasp the bolt at the base of the cloud.
Clenching my jaw, I ceased my efforts to defeat the giant through manipulating the natural world and I brought my energy inward. I pulled in deep and drew out the fire of my rage, a low, burning inferno. A deep, angry red glowed around me. My root chakra simmered with the anger of every survival-fight-trigger, every confrontation-induced adrenaline-rush, every suppressed cry and bitten tongue in the face of bullying and abuse. I collected this fire into a concentrated burst. Forcing it out of my hands, I directed it at the giant, who screamed in agony as he burned.
I screamed too, a wild, primal sound, and I understood why Goku and the other Super Saiyans screamed so much when they fought. I suddenly wished I had something as cool as “KAMEHAMEHA!” to yell as I unleashed this fire, but I was doing this on the fly and thought it best to focus on not burning myself with my own power.
I burned and he screamed. He burned and I screamed. At last the giant was little more than a smoldering pile of ashes, and I turned in satisfaction to embark on other dream adventures for the remainder of my REM cycle.
When I awoke, I combed through my dream to decipher its meaning. It was obvious that I was pissed off about something. I thought back to the two halves of my dream.
In part one, my friend and I cowered in fear from the giant. We sat helplessly in her kitchen, waiting for the giant to murder us. The scene was domestic—a typical coffee morning in the developed world. While our friends’ murders were carried out in dark alleyways and abandoned warehouses, this horror story came right into our home.
As the giant approached, it seemed like there was nothing we could do, and so we did nothing. We were paralyzed by our own fear. He was big, and powerful. He intimidated the police force into submission. Bullets couldn’t stop him, so it was no wonder nobody did anything about him. At only fifteen feet tall, he wasn’t a big enough problem to call in the military or the press. Everyone knew he was dangerous, but there was no obvious evidence to pin him to his own crimes—or if there was, no one was talking about it. He created no explosions or mass murders—he killed quietly. No one wanted to disrupt the status quo, so he kept killing, and we kept quiet. We accepted his violence as the new normal.
I saw parallels to the dream content in the real world. In the news, riots erupted in opposition to excessive police brutality. A string of fatal shootings in cities across the country were drawing national attention. The “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” movements gained momentum.
One shooting in particular shook me to the core. A teenage girl was shot by Denver police. She looked almost exactly like my little sister. Also an LGBT youth, my sister was a year older than this girl and lived only an hour from the city. Like any one of my friends or siblings, even like myself, she grew up as an at-risk youth. Boredom, disillusionment, broken homes and an overall sense of helplessness often combined to land us in illegal situations. But such was life. We flirted with the threat of imprisonment, taking the gamble just to feel alive. Jail was a reasonable risk and consequence to our immature antics—but death at the hands of those meant to teach and protect?
The general fear became personal. She could have been my baby sister. I begged for it to stop, but no one listened.
In the broader world, terrorists continued to have their way. Religious militants and national militaries slaughtered innocents without conscience or accountability. The longest war in American history continued to rage on indefinitely. Drones killed children and blew up hospitals. Men raped women. Banks stole from the poor. Big Business destroyed the environment in the name of Profit. Politicians sat in their mansions and let it all happen. Corporate news lied to us. Television and social media distracted us. And for our own parts, we accepted everything.
The world sucks. It’s broken, we think, and we can’t do anything about it. We all know that the giants in the room are hurting and killing and threatening the global future—but what can we do? We can’t control them. The only thing we can control is our feelings, so we’d better make them good. We decided not to care. We shrugged and kept scrolling through our news feeds, occasionally pausing to watch a cute animal video or read a funny meme. In our more ambitious moments, we left indignant comments or started an online argument so that we could at least give ourselves the semblance of engagement in the world.
But who was I to judge? I, myself, knew the power of bullies all too well. I couldn’t put a number to the times I was intimidated into silence by strangers, classmates—even friends and family. I was no stranger to being knocked around by a lover, to being verbally bruised and physically battered. I cowered at the invasion of a stranger’s stare, and winced at the sound of others’ unprovoked laughter. Why risk a relationship to stand up for yourself? Why start trouble to defend your own dignity? Why subject yourself to criticism and disapproval when it’s so much easier to keep quiet and stay out of sight?
These are the small acts of silence that lead to the bigger ones. We stay quiet when others bully and intimidate us, so we stay out of it when they do it to others. We don’t help the helpless, we don’t expect them to help us.
It gets easier with time, and we start practicing early on. Maybe we don’t pick on anyone in school, maybe we do, but we generally ignore those who are being bullied and harassed. And as we get older, we get quieter. We turn a blind eye when a woman is sexually harassed, or when a man is intimidated by an ego-freak. In the one place we are given a voice, we choose to share selfies and real-time commentary on the mundane, because we all know internet anonymity leads arguments into the dead-end ditches of ignorance and slander.
So by the time we catch a glimpse of actual news, and we learn that we are being swindled by the unholy union of money and power, we keep doing what we’ve always done. We do nothing.
Which brings me to the second half of my dream.
I woke up for a moment—only a moment—and I realized, fuck this. I am not going to cower. I am not going to live and die in fear. I am going to do something about this. I’m going to stand up for myself, and in so doing, I’m going to put a stop to the giant’s abuse of others.
I pulled in from the environment around me, like Jackie Chan turning everyday objects from his surroundings into weapons. The tools at my disposal were powerful—the waterfall of emotion, the lightning of communication—but they weren’t enough to take down this giant.
So like any good martial artist, I pulled from within. I accessed my dormant energies and summoned them to turn power into external force—because all effective change must first start inside us.
I thought I had this down. I had journeyed deep within myself to draw out a hidden power and reclaimed my right to safety and wellbeing. It was easy to believe that I was well on the path to personal empowerment and liberation from outside oppression.
Until the following night.
My kitchen glowed gray with the twilight-aura of dawn. The fluorescent light from the refrigerator blinded my sleep-saturated eyes, but it was just as well. Nothing in the cold box interested my appetite. I felt the rubber suction as I closed the door, heard the glass and plastic bottles bump shoulders inside. Perhaps a cup of tea would be a fair compromise—my tribute to the hunger gods of early morning.
I turned to contemplate the stacked tea boxes in the corner of my counter—the first conundrum of my day. Cinnamon or green tea? I wondered. In the next moment, I was on the floor. My face pressed into the tile and a weight pressed down on my chest, crushing the wind from my lungs. The odor of dirty dishes and rotting garbage filled my nostrils, but all I could see was him.
With red glowing eyes, dreadlocks and bone-ornamented top hat, I recognized the Shadow Man immediately. The voodoo demon looked deep into my eyes, whispering my name in his creole accent.
“I have a task for you,” he said. “Would you like to know what it is?”
Barely aware of what I was doing, I nodded my compliance.
“You are going to become pregnant with my child.” The demon thrust his hips sharply into mine. I was too frozen to cry out, even as he placed a clawed hand over my belly, and the other over my mouth. “You will suffer greatly throughout the pregnancy. Ultimately it will kill you. But you will do this for me because I love you.”
Despite the sick feeling in my stomach and the pain already coursing throughout my body from the demon’s touch, I found myself believing him. After all, if a man as powerful as he spoke these words, they must be true. The whole thing was happening too fast for me to process the real truth of my situation.
“Do you accept this task?” the demon crooned, flashing his sharp teeth in a sick imitation of a smile.
I felt the yes welling up inside me, so badly did I want to please a bid for my acquiescence. In fact, my consent was even weaker than a yes—it was simply an impotent “Okay.” The demon wasn’t exactly giving me a choice—he was issuing a command and awaiting my submission. His red eyes bore into mine, erasing all independent thought. He made it easy to surrender. All I had to do was give in and let him take over.
But a deeper part of me screamed against the deal. Blind obedience in exchange for indescribable pain and suffering, all to the advantage of evil? No!
I pushed back against the demon. He pinned my hands to the linoleum. I arched my back and flailed, fighting desperately for my body and soul. The force of my resistance awoke me, and I sat up in bed, blinking against the dark.
What have I done? I wondered. It didn’t matter in that moment that I had ultimately refused the demon’s proposition. I knew that my initial response had been acceptance of a hideous fate, and my face burned with shame at the knowledge of my weakness. I had dropped my guard and slipped into unconsciousness, and in my moment of trial, I came perilously close to giving away the one thing that I hold more precious than any other: my personal freedom.
So precious is this commodity that to surrender it is akin to living in hell, as my dream so aptly illustrated. But the temptation to submit to outside will is strong, especially when one believes that will to be more powerful than one’s own. As a woman, this temptation grows even stronger still, as we constantly live with the pressure to accommodate others and are conditioned from a very young age to serve the needs and desires of those around us. Yet regardless of gender, the submission comes without choice as we float through life in a haze of unconsciousness.
The dream came as a test only 24 hours after my initial dream victory over the forces of oppression and intimidation. Though the test came as a surprise, the theme made perfect sense. In my personal life, I was dealing with a loss of personal power. Somehow over the years, it had slipped away from me. My life was out of control. People placed demands on my time and energy, which I gave up to please them. My days were dominated by a constant yes and no—“yes” to the needs and desires of others, and “no” to myself. I had no time to tend to my personal artistic dreams in the service of a demanding career, no time to rest and enjoy life or spend real quality time with my loved ones—no time to even pause and consider whether this fast-paced lifestyle was what I really wanted for myself.
In this life, we are conditioned to surrender our personal wills to the larger will of authority, usually in the forms of government and society. The current educational and corporate environments demand obedience and acquiescence for the meager handout of (usually moderate) material success—often at the detriment of personal happiness and fulfillment. We are regularly called upon to sacrifice our dreams and freedom of personal expression for the sake of an unremarkable, regimented existence and a life of service to authority. And what’s worse, we let ourselves believe that that is what we want.
In fact, we believe it so much that we even allow ourselves to believe that it is what others truly want, as well. We start to pressure each other into conforming to the formula of success. We push our kids to closely follow the school-college-career-marriage-kids diet, continuing the cycle of closed-options lifestyles. We criticize our friends and family members for deviating from the prescribed norms, telling ourselves that our judgment and our force is coming from a place of love. Don’t shake the boat, don’t disrupt the status quo, don’t challenge authority. Yet when we examine this, we find that we impose these pressures because we are afraid that they will suffer otherwise. And true love never comes from a place of fear—only from acceptance.
But giving up this fear—and hence the illusion of success that we seek refuge in—isn’t easy. It has become normal for industrial citizens, regardless of education or vocation, to regularly give up the majority of our most precious resource: time. We do this for various reasons. Unfortunately for many of us, this reason is as fundamental as ensuring our basic survival. For others, we do it for acceptance, approval, and validation. Many others believe that the material benefits of such a lifestyle will lead to our ultimate happiness and satisfaction.
Yet contradictory evidence is apparent everywhere. We set our satisfaction at the end of ever-advancing goals. We’ll be happy when we finish grade school. Then we’ll be happy when we finish college and start our careers. But wait, we’ll be really happy when we can afford to get married and buy a house and have kids. No, we’ll be happy when they grow up and move out and we can pay off the mortgage and retire. Then, at the end of our lives (if we’re lucky enough to make it to old age), we’ll truly start to live.
Now, there is nothing wrong with this lifestyle if it is really, truly making a person happy. The key is in the choice. And the freedom necessary to make that choice comes from within.
Too often we sleepwalk through life, blindly accepting the status quo and buying into the life options that we are being sold. This blindness ripples throughout our lives, bleeding into the lives of others and contributing to the bigger picture of societal dysfunction and injustice. The question then becomes: are we happy because we have willingly chosen our current lifestyles, or have we taken the only options we believed were available and convinced ourselves that happiness must follow?
This question can be the domino that opens doors to numerous other questions. Is the world really normal? And if it is, does that mean that normal is good? Are mass violence and suffering and oppression and control acceptable? Are the risks of resistance worth the trouble of opposing an unjust social and political system? Is real change possible, and if so, to what lengths are we willing to go to realize it?
The first step to reclaiming personal power and living consciously is to give ourselves the freedom to answer these questions honestly and completely, without allowing our own fear to keep us frozen in place. Many are already undertaking this process, as painful and as challenging as it can often be. But the real hell lies in being trapped by one’s own fears—and I am not wording that too strongly, nor am I indulging in melodrama for the sake of impact. One need only look at the tragedy of the world to see this truth, and the consequences of inaction and fear.
When one truly wakes up to the world, to one’s own consciousness and the greater consciousness of the mass mind, fear naturally dissipates. One realizes that nobody is really alone. And despite the buzzwords like “consciousness” and “waking up,” this isn’t some esoteric metaphysical dogma—this is a very practical, very real, very tangible thing that happens. Movements gain strength as passionate individuals gather into groups and dedicate themselves to constructive action. Support groups are everywhere for just about any kind of issue or focus. People all over the world are waking up. While much of what they wake up to is unpleasant and often unbearable, the rewards come in the form of a fuller freedom, a purer love, and an appreciation of a deeper beauty found in life—along with the power and will to change the world for the better.
All around us, so many are choosing alternative lifestyles. Some are giving up the security of stable careers with steady income to pursue artistic dreams, or going to live in off-grid communities, or choosing a life of world travel. Traditionally oppressed peoples, such as LGBT individuals, women and people of color, are standing up for their rights and protesting the status quo. Others still choose the “standard” industrial lifestyle, but do so with an open and inquiring mind, challenging ideas and pushing themselves to grow and learn. More and more people are channeling their energies into meaningful careers where they feel they are making a positive difference in the lives of others. Slowly, quality of life is starting to take precedence over the trophy salary. People are choosing to live more authentically, to become aware of the global situation, and to put their efforts into changing things for the better.
The consequences of these decisions can initially be difficult. Violence is a natural progression from strong emotions, and it can easily get out of hand. Fear of failure and suffering will threaten to overpower us. The wills of others will tempt us into quiet submission.
But we can fight back.
We can channel our fears and our frustrations and our sadness into creative expressions.
We can choose to transmute our violence into passion and conviction.
Communication is possible.
We all have the power to change ourselves, to master our inner worlds and be our own champions for justice and love.
From this place greater change is inevitable. It won’t come easy. It will take time, effort, and a lot of striving to understand the complex webs we have woven ourselves into. But once we make the decision to learn, once we commit to making the change, once we stop fighting ourselves and dare to dream and hope for a better future, taking steps towards realizing those dreams becomes a lot easier.
The road ahead is long. But to begin, all you need to do is stand up.
She graduated from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Creative Writing minor. She currently resides on Planet Earth, and therefore has a vested interest in the goings-on and goings-to-be around the place.
She's also really friendly, so feel free to drop a line: Jacquelyn@radicallyenlightened.com.
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