REM is More Than a Band: MLK and Remembering the Dreams
Because of my son’s brain injury, I sleep in the same bed with him.
See, he gets stuck, like a beetle on his back, with troubles turning under the weight of the blankets. And if, as has been known to happen to any of us, Karl gets sick in the night, he can’t quickly lift his head. I have to be there to help him so that he won’t aspirate the uck.
So when I say that Karl and I sleep in the same bed, the word ‘sleep,’ as it references me, is a bit of a stretch.
It’s actually a long stretch.
I…sporadically rest, because I have to be attentive to Karl’s needs through the night. I can’t afford, really, to fall into the deep sleep/REM sleep cycle.
I’ve joked, then, that REM is really only a band to me.
That whole Rapid Eye Movement deal, those extended moments where people experience dream-filled sleep, sleep that helps keep depression, anxiety, and lack of concentration at bay, sleep that aids memory and vision…that piece?
What a deal that must be!
(I do find my way through the day by occasionally extending myself the grace, if my eyelids droop, to a well-earned power naparoo.)
Turns out that this critical, dreamy REM sleep can be prevented not only because of a restless boy, but by cold and hot and coughing and anxiety and depression: generally, by disruption of what’s happening in the awake world.
In other words, when you don’t have peace, it’s a lot harder to dream.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous line is the one resounding again and again through his litany of hope found in the very address after which the famous speech is named: I Have A Dream.
The paradox, of course, is that he was dreaming of peace precisely because there was no peace.
That he was able to do so, and invite others into his dream, is a large part of his remarkable legacy.
Sadly, on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we are still dreaming of peace because there is no peace. Certainly not the peace to which he called us, for which he invited us to yearn with him, toward which we still must strive.
In stark counter-content of MLK’s litany of hope, we know of a well-earned litany grief and rage and exhaustion from the African-American community: Baltimore, Ferguson, Charleston. Racial slurs. Lending discrimination. Educational discrimination. Freedom of movement discrimination. Employment discrimination. Housing discrimination. Legal discrimination. Cinematic discrimination. Economic discrimination.
And as a white woman, it’s a daunting deal to come to terms with the privilege I don’t notice because I’m busy living in my own dream.
Dr. King’s life and words remind me of an observation I heard once in seminary about the gospel writer Luke: Just as the poor need to be redeemed from their poverty, so too do the rich need to be redeemed from their wealth.
There is redemption for us people of privilege to wake up to the dreams of others, dreams that are really about who we are as an entire people of God.
One of the most remarkable qualities of Martin Luther King Jr., I think, was his ability to pull us into that coveted REM sleep, despite all the surrounding racket and anxiety and fear, to settle us in to a place where we can all dream together.
And when we dream together, we can together participate in the hope of an alternate, equitable, vibrant reality.
The trick, of course, is to remember these dreams.
Remembering dreams: that’s hard to do, even with a dream journal by the bed.
It’s hard to do especially with the racket and anxiety and fear and violent acts and language and accusations whirling around in the awake world.
We do have, though, the journals of Scripture, which call us to recall the dream of a Way of equality and mutuality and suffering sacrifice.
We do have, though, the dream journals of MKL, in his writings and speeches and letters.
We do have, if we care to read them, the dream journals of Black Lives Matter.
So yes, when you don’t have peace, it’s a lot harder to dream.
And therefore all the more important that we do dream, together.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.