Something Else Entirely
The first thing I remembered was returning from the timeless void of a medically induced coma. I was slowly drifting toward consciousness, my brain flickering back to life. Somewhere in that transition between world and mind, I dreamed a little dream.
I found myself gently floating over a beautifully landscaped park. Scattered throughout were small gazebos surrounded with colorful flowers. The lawn resembled the tightly-mowed grass you find on golf course fairways. In this lush park, men and women, mostly older, and dressed in what I can only describe as old-timey outfits from different cultures and different epochs, were serenely strolling from all directions toward the center.
In the center of it all danced a woman in a long, yellow dress. She was perched on a pedestal, twirling in circles to music that seemed to be coming from nowhere and everywhere all at once.
And the music! Oh, that aching music was so indescribably beautiful! Like nothing I'd ever heard.
As she danced ever more frantically, twirling like a dervish, her head pausing with each spin to look my way, she spun faster and faster as I got closer. My turn was coming. I saw the others vanishing as they reached her. So this was it! I wasn't afraid; no on the contrary. I now surged forward uncoiled. I felt perfect peace, tranquility, bliss, even. Everything was going to be okay. Everything was as it should be. This was the way it's always been.
Then suddenly I woke up.
"Paul, can you hear me? Hello? You there? Stay with me now. Your wife and sister are here waiting to see you. You're at Broward Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale. You've been very ill. Now just relax."
Fuck...I was back.
As far as I can tell, this wasn't any near-death experience, just a vivid dream cooked up by my drug-soaked mind. Yet, this was far more soothing than the terrifying fever dreams full of lurking shadow demons that had haunted me early on as the infection slowly fever-cooked my brain. I was days past the danger point, but this trippy vision has stuck with me ever since.
I now understand in a way I didn't before that the mind is a vast, mysterious expanse, the subconscious like an ocean, and all of it taps into a wider reality that we cannot even begin to fathom. Consciousness is no more than a tiny, impoverished little island jutting out of this ocean.
Sadly, until then, I had spent my entire life wasting away on this desert isle of my own atrophied awareness, convinced that nothing more than matter could matter. That's wrong, so wrong, I know that now, and yet I can't say I'm any closer to understanding it all than before, just profoundly more humbled. I'm now aware that I'm not aware of much in the big scheme of things; my ignorance could fill a galaxy, my knowledge a bucket. That will never change.
Anyway...I've never spoken of this to anyone, at least not until writing it down here. Why would I? How could I? At a certain point, words fail to convey meaning adequately. My clumsy attempts to explain this vivid experience (see above) prove my point.
Words connect us to each other like nothing else; they are the ties that bind us to each other. Without them we would not be human. And yet they are such crude tools for conveying deeper meanings about hidden realities. That doesn't mean those deeper meanings and hidden realities are not there, even if we're too anesthetized by the banal routines of daily life to experience them.