Sunday, September 1, 2019


It was one of those nightmares so intense that when you wake up from it your mind can't let it go, but keeps trying to resolve it.

I have been engaged by a major university for an important lecture series in a huge auditorium with many tiers, like a rather lush concert hall. I have no idea what the topic is, but the first lecture in the series must have gone off well, or at least alright, because I am not especially nervous about the second. Before the lecture I decide to go out to lunch with Ellie and a young man who seems familiar, even though I'm unable to identify him. He is part of the staff involved in the event.

It is raining. We drive south to a restaurant the young man has recommended. Why do think it's a BMW that I'm driving? After lunch, Ellie is typically in no hurry to get moving. She thinks there will be plenty of time to get back for my lecture, and the young man supports her.

I am now nervous though. I hate to be late and don't want to risk it in the rain. We leave the restaurant ten minutes later than I would have wanted to. I'm also nervous about turning north across traffic on the busy highway in the rain, and decide instead to try taking a back road which will lead behind the university. The young man proves to be a useless guide, and we miss a turn that would have taken us to the campus.

Driving north on the back road, I take the next turn toward the highway. There is a big slope in front of me with a curved concrete barrier at the top and I wonder if the car will manage to get over it. Deciding against this new risk, I turn back north again and find myself in a built-up area where a long, rain-slick cobbled stairway leads down toward the main road. I decide the BMW can make it and drive slowly down the steps.

We rejoin the southbound highway and finally arrive at the university, already a half hour after my lecture was due to start. When I join the group of academic principals, one of the staff members mutters pointedly that the organizers had "set aside three days for this," implying that my late arrival had badly let them down.

I am still not dressed for the occasion. For whatever reason (for lunch?) I am wearing baggy green swim trunks, a Hawaiian shirt, and the kitchen apron I wear to bathe the dog. I ask Ellie to go back to our room and at least find me some trousers. When she returns with them, the next problem is to find a men's room where I can put them on. We try a number of doors without success, but finally find one.

I am on the steps up to the stage where I'll be delivering my lecture when I realize that I have not the first idea what I'm supposed to be talking about and have made no preparations ahead of time. It's at this moment that I wake...

... and find myself in a panic about having an hour to fill and not a thought in my head as to what to say.My waking mind seizes on the vacuum and tries to get prepared before I read the podium. I will start out with a heartfelt apology for having kept everyone waiting for so long, Then what? I decide the only think I can talk about it myself. I will tell my own story, starting with St. Peter's chains in Rome. I will speak about authenticity, the need for self-examination and the rewards to be expected. I can think of nothing else.

But I'm heartily relieved to realize that I am now awake! I have no lecture to deliver...

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