I have long had the bad habit of reading in bed until I become drowsy; then I click off the light and slip into slumber.  This practice thoroughly violates the canons of sleep hygiene, which I preach not infrequently to others, in that if you want to train your body to sleep soundly, then any activity in bed other than sleep and sex are verboten.  Perhaps with maturity comes the right to occasionally preach one thing and practice another.

The other night, by the bedside lamp, I perused Bruce Hoffman’s recent article on terrorism in The Atlantic Monthly.  Though the article was engaging, soon enough I was hypnotically dousing the light.

Soon I began dreaming.  In the weird world of reverie I was a Mossad operative, working with the Israeli Defense Force and active on the most dangerous front in the world – the Middle East.

In the course of things – and in dreams the course of things is usually erratic – I was seriously wounded.  I found myself suspended in a kind of nouminous void, and I lay on the ether like a medieval warrior on his shield.  The thought occurred to me that I might die, and for the first time, I knew precisely what that meant.  I had the revelation, as I lay there, that if I died I would be unified with everything else, and that would be okay.  It was okay, I understood in that moment, because in fact I was known by everything else, had always been known, and, as long as I existed as a differentiated being, I would continue to be known.

I relaxed in the knowledge that that is all one can ask – to know and to be known.  The experience of knowing and being known, in the same moment, I realized, is in fact bliss, and it is precisely what, after all our travails, awaits us.

This state is not equivalent to the dancing moon-eyed maidens or drooping fruit trees of various literary depictions of paradise.  There are no endless orgasms or bitching motorcycles or bottomless steins of mead in my Valhalla.  There is only the simple, immediate sense of knowing, and of being known, without boundary or difference.  There comes a time, I realized as I lay suspended in the void, when that is enough.

I experienced a moment of indecision and conflict as I struggled to decide whether it was my time to become unified with everything else or whether I needed to continue…being whatever it is I am.  I wondered, for a moment, whether, if I let go, I would be projected through another cycle of incarnation, another substantiation, or whether I knew enough, had done enough, had completed my share of wrestling with the existential demons and so was finished with this endless round of being and nonbeing.

But this wondering itself caused me to recall the web and weave of relationships, the tangle of meanings, thoughts, and memories, that comprised my life, and those poignant thoughts alone were enough to remind me of who I would leave behind, and who would have to leave me behind, should my cycle end, and how sad that would be.  It was not the sadness of grief, rather it was the simple realization of the inevitability of loss of such relationships.  I immediately apprehended that these relationships were not complete.

I woke up.

I lay in bed for a time, in the dark, wanting to preserve this dream and not allow it, like so many others, to drift into the void.  I have had my share of terrible dreams, clammy sweat-inducing images of standing naked before my fourth grade class, ploughing in slow motion through deep sand as an agile monster pursues me, falling, falling through darkness and awakening with a start upon impact.

But this was not the basic terror-dream in which my unconscious fears batter me from pillar to post.  This dream had bigger fish to fry.  This dream was saying that when my moment comes and I am laid low in the course of doing something honorable, I need not worry.  If I am ready, I will be integrated into everything else.  If not, the story will continue.

The most powerful element of the dream was the realization, the absolute internal apprehension, of the unity of knowing and being known.  It was clear to me that knowledge is the most essential feature of love, and love without knowledge is mere infatuation.  The kind of loving that is pure knowledge is passionate and courageous in its capacity to assert the simple truth in all circumstances.  It is forthright and cautious in its unwillingness to go beyond what is there.  It is compassionate in its willingness to carefully see clearly, and feels no need to turn away from the elements of reality that reflect humanity’s frailty and confusion.

I thought that maybe it was a good sign that I should have such a dream.  I thought it might help me get through the turmoil of the coming day and of my life with a bit more dignity.  I thanked whatever had sent me the dream – my own unconscious mind, God, the ether, the previous night’s pepperoni pizza  –  for a small but powerful piece of wisdom.

We know, and we are known.  And there will come a time when it will make no difference.

Not bad, for an ending – or a beginning.