Turning away from evil

I had a dream last night.

An epic, Joseph Campbell/ CG Jung type dream.

The part I want to share with you involved a snake.

Back off, Freud wanna-be. Before you go analyzing me, let’s take a journey together.

It wasn’t really a snake — more like a supernatural serpent demon type thing — the body of a serpent but the head of a monster — that most everyone else around me was mistaking for an interesting, but somewhat harmless boa constrictor.

In the dream, I was safe inside an enclosed car. The serpent thing couldn’t really hurt me. I knew this, but I also knew he was a threat. My boss was in the car, too. He noticed the evil behind us and suggested we high tail it out of the forest we were in. Smart thinking.

As I looked back, however, I saw the serpent make its way towards another car — an open-topped convertible– in which a young child sat alone strapped into a car seat. I screamed as I watched the serpent begin to devour the child.

I turned away then.

I urged with my eyes my boss to look too, but he refused. He knew what was back there and knew there was nothing we could do to save the child. We drove away.

As we often do in dreams, I suddenly appeared in a different setting with different people, but the serpent still loomed. This time, I wasn’t shielded by the metal frame of the car. I was in an old kibbutz building. The roof and windows were open. I knew it was only time before I would be in grave danger again.

Obviously disturbing, I soon forgot the dream when I woke up this morning. But I recalled it just now as I also recalled the incident that happened to me in real life yesterday that likely inspired the dream.

On my way to work yesterday morning, minutes before arriving at my destination, I had slowed behind another vehicle as we were both approaching a traffic light.

Suddenly, I saw the driver, clearly a grown man, reach across to the passenger seat and strike violently at the person sitting there.

I couldn’t tell if the passenger was a child or a small woman. All I knew is that the person was small enough that his or her head didn’t reach above the head rest, and that what the driver was doing was very, very wrong.

My mouth gaped open in shock. It was that jarring.

Immediately, the person in the passenger seat reached out in a defensive swipe back at the offender and the driver returned to the road.

Moments later, as the light turned green and we inched toward it, the driver did it again. Struck at the passenger violently with his right hand, while his left remained on the wheel.

This time, horrified, I honked my horn. The driver looked up into his rear view mirror.

He understood I was honking at him. That I had seen him.

But my seeing him did not stop him. Not for long.

As we drove through the green light, his car swerved a little from side to side as he again struck out at the passenger.

Beside myself, I started to feel my heart in my throat. But my left turn into the industrial park where my office is located was approaching. I quickly memorized his licensed plate number before making the turn.

And then he was gone.

Evil. There in front of me.

Me. An observer. Powerless.

Now, of course, I don’t know what was taking place in that car. I don’t know the words exchanged or the history between the passenger and the driver.

But I do know one thing. In the back seat, sat a young child …strapped into a car seat …witnessing the entire ordeal.

So, no matter what was taking place in the front seat, the child in the back seat, like I, was exposed to something horrific.  The child, in a sense, had been devoured, while I watched in horror.

I didn’t do anything with the license plate number. I didn’t report the incident. In fact, I did everything I could to forget about it as soon as I parked my car and walked the steps up to my office.

But clearly, I couldn’t forget about it. The experience haunted me in my dreams. It haunts me still.

What is my role when faced with evil in the world?

When can I be an active force — not a hero, per say, but a force — against evil?

And when am I compelled by time or by space or by powerlessness to remain a spectator? Left behind with only my heart in my throat and a deep sense of regret that there is some evil in the world in which we must simply turn away from.

Acknowledging it exists. And hoping that in the acknowledgement, we have done something small to stop it in its tracks.