Wednesday, August 10, 2011


My old grade school, which had been Coffee high school for my brothers and where my dad was coach and principal, had burned leaving a black shell. The building was much larger in the dream than it actually had been. I was touring the remains as were many others. I realized that it was a dangerous place to be. Some men simply pushed on some steel girders and a whole heavy section came falling down with a crash. Also a train-like machine came roaring through an area where I was standing. The dark basement had water trickling down all the walls. It was a ghastly place to be.

Coffee High School

A very clear voice that nearly woke me up said with strong emphasis, 'Jim.' This gave me the idea that it was my task to rebuild and remodel the burned Coffee building. I had no creative thoughts about that. I only saw trying to restore it as it was. But then my brother Ike appeared and it was obvious that he was the one for this job. He was excited about the possibilities. He was envisioning some kind of modern community mall rising up from these ashes.

Later, the dream showed a house directly attached to this burned school. It was a typical white bungalow where I and my young family lived. It was not damaged by the fire at all. I was asked to sign some papers and I was reluctant. I figured that they were absolving everyone, such as insurance companies, of any responsibility toward my house and the possible consequences of the adjacent school burning. But I was delightfully surprised when I saw they were papers assuring that the appropriate parties would be fully responsible for any damage or property value that was lost presently or in future construction. The official papers were 'for me' and not against me at all. I was appreciative and relieved.

I and a woman were stretching out a yellow fabric shaped like a perfect square. The fabric was waving in the breeze like a flag as we held it.

REFLECTION: The old Coffee High building was a central landmark in my hometown of Florence,AL. And it had especially strong meaning in my family. My parents had come as newly weds from Middle Tennessee for my father to become a successful coach and chemistry teacher here. Later he would be the principal and then the Superintendent of Florence Schools. All my six older brothers, each of whom I have adored as kind father figures more than as brothers, had attended school in these halls. When I began school this old building was used as the grade school and a new Coffee High was built across the street from our family home.

We were a strong and sincere Church of Christ family but the school environment centering on Coffee School had been our cultural anchor, in some ways even beyond the church for it tied us to the whole community. My dad had an extremely positive and accepted persona throughout the town. This made life better for his sons and their families. They each all had a good opportunity to get the educational foundation needed to go on to college and to enter professions of their choosing.

For the dream source to picture Coffee burning is a powerful personal symbol for me. More than any of my brothers my path led me to values and ideals that were not fully consistent and honoring of those represented by the Coffee building. So in a sense I experienced the 'burning' of some long cherished ideals. My learning  and life experiences 'saw' some incompleteness and  insufficiency of the world view represented by Coffee. I 'saw' the dark side of what the first half of my life were seen as glowing values representing the highest goals of the responsible and spiritual life. I still have enormous appreciation for the meaning of Coffee and all that it has given me but I also had to eventually experience these as stepping stones toward some other values. A wise person said, 'There are times in personal and collective history that the good must step aside for the better.'  That has been an experience of mine. And I believe we are living in such a chaotic time of hopeful transition now in our nation and the world.

The values represented by the 'burning Coffee' include, contrary to my family's belief, that the Church of Christ is one of many equally imperfect denominations of the Christian religion and not a superior one. Also Coffee was a symbol of Southern segregation with never a black person in its halls as a student or teacher. And the Bible would have been highly regarded even in this public school as the 'inspired and only Word and message from God.'  Women though 'adored' and patronized  in many ways were  confined by patriarchal systems  to very limited roles and opportunities and kept financially dependent on  males. And the concept of 'equality for gay' persons was not even imagined in the public mind. Most of these were not just 'Coffee' values but Southern and more broadly American values in the first half of the 20th century.

These beliefs, and others that logically follow, were burned to rubble just as the Coffee School in the dream. It was not a happy transition for me. In the dream I was sad. And I realized that the state of these values of the past were still strong here.  In the dream when my name was announced I felt I was expected to do something to restore these ashes but to me they 'are what they are' and I am not of the temperament to raise something new or better from them. To me it seems that only what appear to be new foundations can move us into the needed personal and community future. I was unable to arrive at any intellectual structure that fastens itself directly and seamlessly to these former ideals. Sometimes our most cherished beliefs must suffer nothing less than a burning. My brother Ike, who has been a very successful entrepreneur in actual life,  saves the day for me by his excitement of building something good and useful from these ashes. He envisions a modern shopping Mall.

The dripping basement of the burned school building is, as in so many dreams, a picture of the state of the Collective Unconscious. It is generally pictured as in the lower regions, a dark and wet place. It is from here that all things conscious have originally come. The highest and most beautiful things of art, religion, law and ethics originate here in the dark unknown recesses of the human unconscious. Humans must stoop very low to retrieve the treasures that come from this most dreaded and frightening place in our darkest imaginations. It is eternally true that God and new things of the Spirit are always to be found in the most unlikely places and there is no more unlikely place than the human unconscious with the visions, intuitions and dreams it generates. The basement of the burned Coffee School is a typical image of part of the work of  the Collective Unconscious. Here it is good that the basement walls seem solid and the water flow far more manageable than the images of the unconscious that I had and lived with 25 years ago. I am grateful for that and I hope my 'fighting the floods of the unconscious' days are over.

The waving yellow square flag must be a reminder, and how deeply I need it, of the goal of my changed values. The square being the timeless symbol of psychological and spiritual wholeness of Being and balance in human personal and community affairs. Yellow is not a color to which I attach strong significant meaning. It is bright like like the sun. It also, however, is associated with cowardice in my culture. In a way I have moved toward this goal in a cowardly way for it has been the way of the internal. Most of my work in value changing has been with and on myself and not a public work. Few people know of the development of my inner life over the past 25 years. These have been the years of my conscious understanding and movement toward the 'square.' So it may be seen as cowardly that I have not entered into much outer conflict in what has definitely felt like waging a revolution to me inwardly. I will accept the yellow square flag gladly and I am not convinced that I have been living or acting cowardly. I have behaved and shared my thoughts and experiences in the most thorough way possible considering my specific situation and responsibilities. And I am grateful for the reminder of my continuous accomplice in my endeavor and adventure. 'She' is the  inner feminine aspect, the beloved and faithful anima.

My dwelling house being so attached to Coffee symbolizes how deeply I personally drank of the fountain of the values of my upbringing. They were fully an integrated part of my conscious being. I am the last person who would have expected myself, even at age 40, to have such changes in my core values. I was nearly forty before some of them began to crumble in light of my growing knowledge and life experiences. Yet the dream positively depicts that I am not left without a psychological and spiritual dwelling for my house of changed values is not destroyed. Also, the dream indicates that in time the 'powers that be' which can break or make any one person's work of a life time will side, at least for awhile, with the values I have come to hold dear. These are values I have fully described elsewhere, many of which have to do with the 'uniting of opposites' that our secular and religious cultures had so fully and necessarily separated. Also implied is the reality that the values of 'family and friend' relationships are ones that were for the most part  fully retained and even expanded from those associated with Coffee School. These values have not been burned away at all but are alive in the little white bungalow.  Jim

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