145 mph, awake and dreaming

7 Mar
Drag racing crash - Photo on NYDailyNews.com credited to Suffolk County Sheriff

The remnants of what was once a red Dodge Neon SRT is seen after the fiery crash… (Suffolk County Sheriff via the New York Daily News)

Just after midnight on Thursday (March 3), according to Suffolk County Police, two cars were drag racing at 145 mph on the Long Island Expressway. If you happened to be one of the drivers these two idiots were idiotically* passing and dodging in front of, your stomach would likely be balled up in fear for a week. I speak as a driver who’s been passed on the LIE by drag racers doing what I would guess is closing in on 100 mph. *(The original violated a principle I try to hold to: condemn the behavior, not the person.)

So my reaction to the video on the 11 o’clock news was visceral. After the drivers spotted a cop operating a radar gun, they took the next exit—and one of them lost control. That car crashed into a gas pump at a gas station, sparking a fire. But the most serious injury to anyone in the two cars (there were passengers) was a concussion. Because of that, my reaction was also pessimistic. There’s a good chance anyone who’d drive 145 mph (or drag race on the LIE, period) won’t be bright enough to realize he’s used up his entire lifetime allotment of good luck. Odds are the reaction will instead be double the arrogance, adrenaline addiction, and sense of invincibility. A sound bite showed a neighbor, about the same age as the drivers, laughing as he said 145 mph “is asking for it.”

It’s no big surprise, then, that I woke Friday morning having dreamed of

two young men who’ve just been drag racing at 145 mph, now parked at the end of a tree-lined, residential street. They’re the center of attention in an excited, admiring  gaggle of their peers.

What surprised me was the

brook-no-stupidity redhead, their mothers’ age, who wades into the group and commandeers the car. She drives off into a scene change, onto a desert proving ground, headed straight toward a distant mountain range at 145 mph. Now I’m the one who’s looking on admiringly, and I think, “Now that’s the place to do 145.”

Good point, but other than the more optimistic tone of the dream’s outcome, did I really need to be reminded that driving 145 mph is irresponsible and a grown-up should take over? Not literally, I didn’t, but perhaps metaphorically. On the day leading up to the dream, I had been experiencing some pretty strong, pessimistic emotions about an unrelated situation; I’d had to outwait the potential that I’d do something irresponsible and destructive in response to them, something that might be the verbal equivalent of driving maniacally on the LIE. When I woke up from the dream, I quickly felt it reaffirmed that the approach I’d chosen the night before was reasonably adult, responsible–and straightforward. High-horsepower, but with lower risk of damage.

The term proving ground appeals to me in this context. It’s a place where new technology (such as weapons or car models) is tested. Riffing on the term, I recall a dream I had some years ago—I’m guessing ten, but don’t have access to my journal at the moment. It was in a situation related, in a roundabout way, to the current one. The dream prompted me to do some research online, and the place name Aberdeen came up as a result. That name has intrigued me on and off since then. One of the Aberdeens I know of is the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

I don’t recall whether the sex abuse scandal there came up in the research I did at the time. But that makes for an interesting correspondence to the present moment, because I recently started reading The Lonely Solider by Helen Benedict, about the widespread sexual assaults against women within the U.S. military.

Pursuing another line of association, I think of the word crucible as a metaphor for the metaphor of the proving ground, in the sense of definitions 2 and 3 at Merriam-Webster Online:

2 : a severe test

3 : a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development <conditioned by having grown up within the crucible of Chinatown — Tom Wolfe>

The crucible association  links to another subject on my mind recently, because of Robbie Bosnak’s January 30 talk on “Nieuw Amsterdam and the Dream of the Golden Age: An Alchemical Perspective.” The crucible was a  tool of transformation in the practice of alchemy, in the sense of definition 1:

1 : a vessel of a very refractory material (as porcelain) used for melting and calcining a substance that requires a high degree of heat

Alchemy itself, Bosnak explained, was a metaphor: its attempts to refine lead into gold were really descriptions of a spiritual process of refining human nature to reflect the divine.

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