Naked From the Waist Up

BookshelvesOver my lifetime, I have had at least 4 dreams that turned out to have profound significance.  For two of them, it took decades of recurrence before their meanings were manifest.   For the other two, their message was clear as a bell at the get-go.

Tonight, I’m going to share the most recent one.  It came sometime in the fall of 2016.

In the dream, I was on a sales call with my top sales person.  As this was a highly important potential customer, he’d asked me to come along.  We walked in the front door and up to a counter.   Two people were behind it.  The counter was chest high.  I rested my arms on it as my companion made the introductions.

It was then that I noticed a huge and embarrassing problem.  My sales person was dressed in appropriate business attire.  Be me?  His boss?  There I was, perched on the front counter…..without a shirt on my back.  Oh man, was I ever rattled by that sudden realization.  How the hell did this happen?  How am I going to hide my nakedness from the prospect?

But….no one was staring.  That was odd.  Three others in the lobby.  None were casting furtive glances at my naked torso.  Were they just being super polite?

My embarrassment heightened, as I considered the ramifications of ruining this prime opportunity.  My stupid and disrespectful appearance was certain to get me kicked out of the executive’s office.

Shortly, we were escorted into the room where the meeting was to occur.  The head man was not there…yet.  Several of his employees were.  They presented a full array of gender & ethnicity.  All appeared to be young.  In their 20s or early 30s.  The office had the appearance of a crowded library.  All four walls lined with bookcases filled to the brim.  The books were are varied as the people.  Their spines colorful.  Some small.  Some tall.  Most having a classic, antique look about them.

A drafting table and accompanying lamp were pushed up against one set of bookcases.  In front of it, an elevated drafting chair.  It’s occupant was turned to look directly at me and my shirtless body.  The other people were seated behind antique leather-topped desks.  Or standing with an open book in their hand.  Me and my sales person were also seated in elevated drafting chairs.  There was nothing in front of us.  Nothing to block what I was so anxious to hide….me.

We small talked.  I’m usually pretty good at that.  But, there was something in the air.  Part discomfort.  Part anticipation.  And a little bit of electricity.  I could sense it…but couldn’t quite put my finger on what I was feeling.

After talking to one person, I turned towards another.  What the hell!  He doesn’t have a shirt on anymore!  When did he take it off?  Why did he take it off?  No way was I going to ask.  I acted as if I didn’t notice.  After all, everybody else seemed to be pretending not to notice MY toplessness.

I turned around again.  Another person was now naked from the waist up.  This time a young woman.  In the dream I could see that she had taken her shirt off.  But, I didn’t snap to fact that she was bare breasted.  Somehow I didn’t notice that.  Only that her shirt was gone.  More electricity in the air.  A feeling of huge anticipation.  Something important was about to happen.

The door opened.  In walked the boss.  Immediately, I knew exactly who he was….Mark Zuckerberg.   Facebook’s founder.  The electricity evaporated.  The anticipation dissolved.  I was screwed.  Somehow my sales person had landed an appointment with a billionaire and I showed up in my birthday suit, from my belly button up.

Then…. it slowly dawns on me.   He doesn’t seem to notice my nakedness.  He pays no attention to his two employees who are also shirtless.  I look around the room.  What the heck is going on?

Mr. Zuckerberg sits down on the lone remaining drafting chair.  He leans back and rests his elbow on the bookshelf behind him.  He appears casual and comfortable and intensely interested….in something.  I turn my eyes away from him to the opposite corner of the library.  What!!!  Another employee has shed his shirt….with his boss sitting right there in the same room.

I turn my head back to face the dominant figure who is still framed by the colorful & magnificent books behind him.  And there he was….leaning back….elbow resting on the shelf….and….naked from the waist up.  For some reason, his shirt is now gone.  Scanning the room again, no one had anything on above their belt.

Immediately, the beautiful interpretation of my dream burst open.  My nakedness represented being open and vulnerable.  When others took their shirts off, it meant they had recognized that they were in a safe place.  They could now reveal who they really were.  Even the billionaire responded with naked openness.  A blaze of lively and heartfelt conversation spontaneously erupted.

I don’t remember what was shared in that room that day.  What I do know is that the electricity in the air was the wonderful anticipation of the possibility of being who we really were, out in the open, with no fear of  judgment.  Judgment, that we so often conceal our true selves from.

Honesty.  Openness.  Vulnerability.  Empathy.  Authenticity.  I have a new found love for these gorgeous ideals.  Today, I go naked from the waist up, as often as its safe.

Conversations. Chapter 5: George Politely Declines Talkeria Invitation

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From George (For Context see Chapter 3)

Dec. 20, 2016

Sam,

Geography makes this impossible.  I used to travel to Houston frequently for work, but that was a previous employer.  I expect that I would not be considered “safe” by your group.  I would defend the doctrine and teachings of the Church.  I would encourage the invited people to reconcile themselves to the prophets of God and to subject themselves to the will of their Heavenly Father like a child despite places where their opinions and understandings differ.  Your guests would not be happy to have me there.

My Response

Jan. 3, 2017

Hi George,

Oh, that darn geography.  You are probably right. Your presence might not contribute to a ‘safe’ environment.  When trying to find answers to questions and doubts, being called to repentance can be very off-putting.

Defending the doctrine and teachings of the church is absolutely permitted in the Talkeria. But, the discussions have to be totally open to examine the complete history and doctrine from all sides.

A faith crisis is often painful and lonely.  The purpose of our meetings isn’t to tell someone what decision to make or what direction to take.  Rather, it’s to listen, support, and empathize without judgment.  These are intelligent, thoughtful adults who are hurting and confused.  They’ll make the choice that is right for them and their family.  I trust them.  Those who choose to leave, I can and do support.  Those who choose to stay, I absolutely support.

The last 2 Talkerias have been dedicated to help struggling members remain active and continue to serve in their callings.  Of course, that’s what these folks desire.  The heavy weight of silence is lifted from their shoulders as they are able to talk and share openly.  At the end of the gathering one person said this, “I’m looking forward to going to church, now.”

This Thursday’s Talkeria will be much more diverse.  One person wants to stay.  One person left the church 15 years ago, but still has issues.  One couple has decided to leave.  Again, I’ve asked members to come who can relate to specific concerns that have been expressed.

George, you are selling yourself a little short.  I think you would be surprised at how well you could express love to people in all stages of testimony.  After all, we are in the Church of Jesus Christ.  His great commandment is to love.  Charity never faileth.

By the way, I plan to respond to the longer email soon.

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year,

Sam

 

A Compassionate Caution to My Dear Mormon Friends

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Over the past 2 years, I have seen a particular scenario play out many times. People question.  They study and ponder in silence.  They reach conclusions.  They leave.  Parents, spouse, and siblings are caught unawares.  Family rift and strain sets in.

I would love to share the following message with ALL of my adult friends at church:

Our history, our doctrine, our current policies and especially the stigma and prohibition of even discussing these matters….is coming after your children, your grandchildren, your siblings and your spouse.  The sad part is that you won’t even know it until your loved ones have been eaten up by what WE are so anxious to hide from.  

Now is the time to talk and prepare.  Now is the time to build bridges of safety, trust and understanding.  If we don’t engage the discussion here, INSIDE OUR CHAPELS, our loved ones will KNOW that it’s not safe to discuss at church or with faithful church members.  Instead, they will turn to a community where it IS safe to discuss history, doctrine and policy.  A community where there is no stigma or prohibition.  That community is populated by a small minority of faithful members and a huge majority of people who no longer believe.

I have talked to many members who have not shared their transition with their loved ones.  Especially family.  Only when the transition is complete and irreversible is their story revealed.  Today, that’s pretty much the only safe way to pursue questions and doubts.  It reflects very poorly on the culture of our church.  And that church culture permeates our families.