I’ve had a recurring dream the past few days. The first time it happened I woke terrified. It haunted me after I woke in the morning, as much from its subject matter as its vividness. And I’ve been gripped with a terror ever since.
In the dream a space shuttle crashes. It’s coming in for a landing in Florida. The shuttle misses the runway completely. Instead, it comes down in the water, and like a rock skipping across a lake the shuttle becomes momentarily airborne again, and then it crashes headlong into a building.
The dream was extraordinarily vivid. And, curious for dreams, it made logical sense.
I awoke, sweaty and terrified. I rolled over and managed to fall back asleep.
The next night, the dream happened again.
But what did the dream mean? Why should I have a recurring dream of a space shuttle crashing?
I think it has to do with the election and the surreal logic of the dreaming mind.
A number of years ago I read Stephen Baxter’s novel Titan. The novel concerns itself with a near-future NASA mission to Saturn’s moon Titan. It is not an optimistic novel. Rather, it paints an incredibly bleak portrait of a possible near future for humanity. Religious conservatives take hold of the American government and pass laws to make the United States a scientifically backward country in the name of upholding religious dogma. The United States turns its back on space exploration, leaving the conquest of the solar system to the Chinese with devastating consequences. And how does the novel begin?
With a space shuttle crash on landing.
It’s not the beginning beginning, but it happens sometime before page fifty or so. The landing gear fail, as I recall, and the crew survives though the shuttle itself is a total loss. This tragedy becomes a catalyst for America’s scientific retreat, a process the religious conservative takeover of the government completes.
Might we be there? A recent article in Newsweek argues exactly this:
Given the most common interpretation of Biblical prophecy, it is not an exaggeration to say that nearly half the American population is eagerly anticipating the end of the world. It should be clear that this faith-based nihilism provides its adherents with absolutely no incentive to build a sustainable civilization-economically, environmentally or geopolitically.
Could it be, by evoking the imagery of a space shuttle crash on landing, that my subconscious is trying to warn me of the impending societal danger if we remain on our present course? Trying to instill the importance of voting in this election and effecting a change before American society passes a tipping point?
I thought about this dream at work today. I thought about this dream as I stood in line at the polling place. I thought about this dream as I stood and filled out my ballot on a Diebold touch machine. I thought that the dream was a warning of sorts, about the dangers of where this country will go if we don’t change our government today. Religious intolerance. Scientific illiteracy. A selfish abandonment of the principles of christian charity. An irrational acceptance of christian eschatology.
Strange thoughts, disturbing thoughts to have, in the week leading up to an election. Perhaps the election.
Today can be the beginning, the start of what could be our last, best hope. Or today could be the equivalent of a space shuttle disaster and the death of hope.