I grew up knowing that my Dad dreamed of flying. He didn’t have feathers or airplane wings in these dreams. He just lifted up like superman. In slow summer morning, we used to relish in our dreams. To me, the most exciting dreams included stormtroopers, lightsabers, Ewoks, and the rebel cause. As we sat with messy hair and no shirts, because we wore shorts instead of pajamas, we would bring vague recollection to dramatic conclusion in the telling of it. It was remembrance and invention at the same time.
Throughout my life, I have only dreamed of flying a few times, none of which I remember very well. But when I woke up I thought to myself, oh yes, I too have now dreamed of flying. It was something, in my mind, to be proud of. I don’t remember how I flew but when I imagine it now I have wings and there is joy simply in the performance of it.
It’s a joy that I remember most vividly experiencing once, after soccer season had ended, I went for a run, just to stay in shape. It was sometime in June, still a month before the dry heat of a Colorado summer. At the end of the run my pace continued to accelerate and I realized I wasn’t tired. It was as if I could run forever. The joy, I think, was not that it was easy but that it had become that way. What had been unnatural was now automatic, and for a moment it was as if I was flying. To this day, that’s what I think about when I think of flying.
And I think life has become this way for my father. Flying in the natural sense. His job is secure, his career has reached apogee. His mind and muscles trained to execute day to day rituals with fluid perfection. Even if he had wings, they would be unknown to him now, in the way that we learn our bodies until they become us.
But soon enough it all falls apart, the body I mean, and if we can endure the metaphor, the wings. Is it the mind or the body itself that grows sloppy, or do the two just fall apart, like ears of corn to expose the inner fruit? The life of one outpacing the other.
That may explain why my father’s leisure time these days is preoccupied with religion. He spends his time writing talks, talks that he will deliver at church. He has a position of authority which means he travels to nearby congregations to deliver messages he’s written. They are messages concerned mostly with God’s love. And not that God loves people, but rather, as he firmly believes, that feeling God’s love makes all the difference in the world.
Belief in God is unremarkable and ultimately, if you ask him, ineffectual. It is perhaps a pity that so much Christian theology has focused on accepting Christ as a product of belief rather than the sort of acceptance practiced daily between sons and their fathers.
The son may know that the father is there, that the father is powerful, that the father buys the clothing, the car, the house, the food as my father did for me. I find myself grateful for all of these services, how could I not be, but it is the kind of gratitude that is also embarrassed, even ashamed by the cost. These are some of the reasons my identity as a burgeoning adult feels encumbered, restricted, anxious. We pull away, we kick against, or we succumb.
That is the result of knowing God lives. But knowing God lives is not the source of the Christian power to transform, at least according to my father’s theology. Instead, it would be something like this: When we accept and truly feel that God loves us, the restriction is ennobled, the encumberment dispersed, and perhaps most remarkably, the anxiety is gone. There is no more need to remeasure ourselves against the doorframe to see if we’ve grown, to see how we compare to our siblings.
When this happens, we cease to be motivated by fear of failure and instead we find our motivation to be the love we have for him. That’s the miracle. That love comes of love.
There is beauty in our habit of describing intercourse as love. Intercourse can be, and often is, anything but love. Yet love is the origin of procreation, below even our sexual appetite. Love will have love, they say. It is, I believe, the most primitive appetite of all. To be filled with love is to be full of love. And to be full of love, is to be in the deepest possible way, content.
The unquenched desire to be loved still fuels the substance of my dreams. I dream of woman, of fame, of heroism. But I wonder what would happen if that appetite was satiated, what would I dream of then? If I stopped dreaming of heroism, of winning the girl, of doing something worth relating the next morning. Instead, maybe I would dream of flying.