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I Have Dreamed a Dreary Dream

Jul 7, 2020

‘I have dreamed a dreary dream beyond the Isle of Skye…’
Medieval Scots Ballad – The Battle of Otterbourne.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I quoted these words because they express for me a feeling of utter exhaustion and helplessness and create an image of far away places where perhaps I would rather be. ‘Beyond the Isle of Skye’ represents the Celtic vision of Tir nan Og – the place of departed warriors. The ballad is sung by a Scots soldier who foresees his own death in the forthcoming battle – ‘I saw a dead man in a fight and I dreamt that man was I.’

Please forgive my somewhat morbid thoughts. I share them because recently I have heard many of you share feelings of profound tiredness and emotional exhaustion which in some sense might be similar, if not as extreme, to those in the poem.

There are, I believe, things that we all want to talk about in the present reality of distance and separation, but I think many of us have reached a point where there simply isn’t the energy to do that very much. Although the grief and loss of these times, along with the fear and anger about our deeply troubled community, are ever present and undeniable, my own response is increasingly one of: ‘leave me alone – wake me up when it’s over.’

Clearly, as a Priest – as one who is commissioned and charged with the message of hope against despair – of love against fear – I can’t just ‘pull out.’ There are so many people who look to me and to all of us for the reassurance, the support and encouragement that is ours to give. But I am tired. I feel drained. I am beginning to lack imagination and creativity where it is needed.

There are, I believe, two faithful responses to this dilemma, which I now dare to propose.

We need refreshment. That comes from engaging in a kind of ‘selfishness’ which involves looking into what I most want to do for myself – eat, sleep, read, sing, shout, watch movies, call friends, write poetry. paint and draw, ‘travel’ online (VikingTV),
visit historic places ( e.g.English Castles and Cathedrals – British Heritage online), miss church on Sunday! Whatever is gratifying.

We need renewal. That comes from contemplating the transcendence and beauty of God. This is something that I find relatively easily in my connection with nature, landscape, rivers, and oceans and in the biographies of interesting people.

We need to resist the fear that such contemplation is a form of primitive pantheism and not part of our Christian story. It is part of our Christian story because it is incarnational. It is the presence of a living and loving God in what we see and experience and in what we IMAGine. Thank God for the Incarnation – The Word became flesh and DWELT amongst us.

Go for it my friends and relax.

From The Rev. Canon John Bolton

Canon Chaplain for Clergy
(404) 402-7599