On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
My Bid Is 8 Spades
The people are real…the events are real…the circumstances are real…the principles are real…the lessons are real…the story is real; but this story, itself is about a dream.
Some people truly believe that if you can dream it, you can do it. The self-appointed observer in the person of the Footloose Forester believes that dreams have some merit as venues for thoughts, actions and circumstances about people, places, and things that may exist; but they are also ethereal abodes of people, places, and things that do not exist. We should acknowledge that dreams make sense sometimes; but we should also acknowledge that dreams don’t make perfect sense at any time. We cannot act on dreams alone as we go through life in making decisions about important matters. On the other hand, we should not dismiss every aspect of every dream.
Dreams contain ideas about things we fear, circumstances we dread; and about people we wish to avoid. But the opposite is also true; other dreams are about circumstances we wish would come true; about a prince charming we yearn to meet; and about a hoped-for reconciliation with a friend or relative. Dreams are full of wishful thinking. Yet, we cannot choose if our dreams are going to be about pleasant things or about baleful, foreboding themes. We don’t even get to choose whether or not we will dream. Any deliberation about dreams comes in the aftermath of the dream, itself; not before.
In last night’s dream, the Footloose Forester was talking on the phone with another party who intermittently kept him on hold, so he was aware that a game of Contract Bridge was going on next to him as he stood there next to the chair of Jerry Jensen, who represented the card player at South. Bridge players who read about the progress of actual games, as reported in newspapers, know that the compass position South is an arbitrary contrivance to allow readers to follow progress in an accepted, conventional progression. Yet in the dream, and because it was a dream, Jerry Jensen occupied South; but he really was not physically there. He was bidding by telephone. The Footloose Forester was standing next to Jerry’s empty chair, at the position a map reader would recognize as South-East. It was next to Jerry’s chair where he could hear Jerry make bids, but since the Footloose Forester wasn’t a player, he carried on with his own phone call. In the dream, Rick Rust at East opened the bidding.
South---one spade. That was Jerry Jensen phoning in his bid.
West---pass. West was at first not clearly identified early in the dream but Footloose Forester knew, during the dream itself, that in order to have the dream make any sense at all, he had to have a real person sitting at the position West. A bit later in the dream, he chose Don Barbaree too sit in the chair at West.
North---Three-No Trump John Harper is Jerry’s playing partner at North.
After North made a forcing bid of Three No-Trump, everyone around the table knew it signaled a demand to go beyond game, to at least a small slam. And that is when the unreality of the dream took over. Jerry Jensen who was presumably on the phone, but at a distant location, did not respond with a closing bid. The other players wanted to finish the hand, if for no other reason than to find out if the bid was going to be for six tricks, or for all seven in an attempt at grand slam. We were all friends, so when Jerry didn’t respond with his bid by phone, the others asked the Footloose Forester to pick up Jerry's cards and play out his hand. That is when the Footloose Forester blurted out a bid of 8 spades. The reasons why he chose to bid 8 spades is part of the sub-conscious messaging in the dream, itself.
As often as we try to make sense out of weird dreams about which we vividly recall certain parts, it is unlikely that anybody can present proof that any dream, in and of itself; and in its entirely; has any valid utility. Yet, without dreams as a personal and sometimes comforting expectation, we might not look to the future in a way that holds out hope for something better in our own lives.
The most recent dream of the Footloose Forester about bidding 8 spades in a game of Contract Bridge was more meaningful than most of his past dreams; and he knows it. There were many symbols there; many principles; many lessons; many re-creations of past events; and many of life’s values that were presented in the dream. He knows that; and he is compelling himself to identify some of them and to analyze them, if only for his own sense of rationalization.
SOME NUGGETS IN THE DREAM
· The characters in the dream were all people that the Footloose Forester knew personally. They are (were) all people he served with in the Peace Corps. All of us served in Pakistan; and all of us knew how to play bridge. In fact, the Footloose Forester learned to play bridge in Pakistan and the characters in the dream game taught him much of what he knows about the game. They were also his most frequent playing partners; on noisy moving trains as we rocked and rattled across India; in the silence of remote tribal huts that had no electricity; inside poorly lit tents in the rugged mountains of the Hindu Kush Range; and elsewhere.
· As bridge players, we all knew the meaning and the significance of bids. Thus, even in the dream, we all shared the same sense of what was important in the bidding process. In life, people who know what bids signify, also know the thoughts and the values of the other persons who are silmultaneously relating to those established guidelines.
· In the dream, the Footloose Forester knew that the others realized that a bid of 8 spades made no sense. He also knew that they respected him as a person with an honest demeanor and a record of sensible judgment. So although they had visceral and personal misgivings about the impossible bid of 8 spades, they muted their reactions somewhat and did not impetuously judge the Footloose Forester as being stupid, insane, or silly. They reserved their judgment as the friends that they were.
· As the dream was flashing through his brain and with his eyes still closed, the Footloose Forester knew also that one of the lessons being presented to his sub-conscious brain was the need for rules, commands and obedience in his life. Bridge has structured rules; and adherence to the commands that must be obeyed is fundamental if a partnership is going to succeed in winning the contract. There are analogies in our own roles in society. There are rules that have to be followed, if you want to play the game, at all. If you want to be a bridge player, you have to learn the rules. However, even if you know all the rules but do not adhere to the commands that are part of the game, your chances of succeeding are jeopardized. At this stage, the sleeping Footloose Forester knew that the symbolism also applied to his personal life; and to military discipline.
· Soldiers must be trained in the rules of survival; if they are to survive on their own. They are expected to follow commands, even if they dislike or disagree with the commands. Furthermore, following orders without questioning them is also expected. When practiced to perfection, the orders and the commands usually lead to successful completion of the mission objective. All the while, the individual soldiers should evoke a sense of mutually shared kinship. Brothers in arms, as it were. Such unspoken bonding leads to “unit cohesion” as a sign of trust in the others.
Unfortunately, some individual soldiers do not share in all of the precepts about what it takes to attain unit cohesion and forward striving to accomplish the mission. Unlike being a partner in a game of Contact Bridge, there is an invisible undercurrent of distrust, dislike, and distain among some who wear uniforms with different insignias. The rules for playing and winning at bridge are fairly rigid; but the purported rules of military conduct, while equally compelling, are not universally accepted nor applied. Thus, the results are uneven, despite human lives being at risk.
· The nonsense bid of 8 spades in a dream about playing bridge with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Barbaree, Harper, Jensen, and Rust had another aspect. The Footloose Forester himself knew that the bid was nonsense; and he also knew that they all knew it to be so. But he purposely made that bid of 8 spades to test their reactions. At other times in his waking life, the Footloose Forester sometimes tested other people by tossing out a red herring, just to see how they would react. Sometimes, the red herring was tossed out in a light-hearted way with no particular motive; but at other times he did it with the pre-meditated purpose of finding out if their demeanor or body language would detect some clues about them; clues that might be taken as signs of caution.
Although it might seem that the Footloose Forester has presumed unduly upon the reader to believe the far-fetched idea that his most recent dream contained all of the elements that have been described above, the explanation is much simpler. He merely took advantage of the fresh memory of that dream; then, by rising early from sleep and commencing the task of capturing the essence of the dream via printed words about those parts that he remembered, he was able to satisfy himself. This is that story.
Truth is often stranger than fiction, thus the Footloose Forester has come to accept the belief that his dream has value in helping himself understand something about its content; something about his kinship with friends and fellow soldiers who shared the same space during developmental periods of his life; and something about himself and his propensity to analyze the meaning of his surroundings. If the finished product of this mental exercise in chronicling has been embellished ex post facto, it merely points to the need for an editorial treatment of most things we think about, or see in print.
Don't believe everything you read; don't believe everything you hear; and don't believe everthing you dream. But above all, don't dismiss, out of hand, everything that does not square with everything that may go against everything you personally believe.