I was working in a library in the Arts and Outreach section, liaising with a woman who was going to give a performance of story/music/acting/son et lumiere. (The exact nature was more than a little mysterious.) I was getting a lot of flak from colleagues who thought I should be working more closely with her, giving her more help, taking a larger part myself. But I was busy about hundreds of things, and told them my policy was not to interfere too much with artists, but to give them the freedom to follow their own path.
As the time of the performance drew near, it became clear they were right and I was wrong – I should have been more hands – on in what I was doing for her. It looked as if the performance would be a flop, and I’d get the blame. There was nothing for it but to fess up to my colleagues and get them to lay all the blame on the newbie; hopefully I would know better next time (if there ever was one).
I had carefully memorised the performer’s unusual surname: Smail (“I’ll be able to remember that: it’s like Tom Smail”). But when the time came and I stepped out to introduce her, I couldn’t remember the name (Was it Bailey, or what?) or the mnemonic, and I hadn’t researched any details about her that I could use in the introduction. There was nothing for it but to play the clown. I leaped onto the stage and performed a deliberately failed somersault, tried (unsuccessfully) to make the audience laugh, and finally said something lame like: “I’m here to introduce this evening’s performer but I won’t spoil the surprise by saying anything about her. Her name is Ambliss – she’s magic.”
And she was: a beautiful enchantress, who gave a performance that fascinated and entranced everyone. In the way of dreams, I didn’t actually see or experience any of it. Ambliss too was delighted and filled with gratitude that I had enabled her to perform better than she had ever done in her life.
I ‘came out’ of the dream enough to lie there thinking: Of course, this is just another of those dreams about not being prepared for an important event.
What is the dream telling me?
Is it telling me that I am not prepared to die?
Or – possibly even worse – is it telling me that I am not prepared to live?
Is anyone ever prepared to die? Is it possible to prepare yourself to die?
Dying is not a thing to do, but a thing to let be, when the One who breathed life into us at the beginning, who put a pure soul within us, at last takes it back again.
Preparing to die, then, is not preparing to do a thing, but to let be. And I think of Leonard Cohen in the title track of his last album, You Want It Darker. Let him be my spirit guide, then, as he sings הִנְנִי, הִנְנִי. Hineini, hineini; I’m ready, my Lord. The words are from Genesis 22.11, which tells the story of how it was demanded of Abraham (or, he believed it was demanded of him?) that he sacrifice the One Thing that was more precious to him than anything else in the world. Abraham, Abraham! came the Voice. And he answered the call: Here I am.
Perhaps that’s all it will be? Not to be concerned with being prepared, or not being prepared. Simply, to answer the call.