"Elihu's theory that dreams are warnings against pride (33:17) has a peculiarly strong resonance with me today, Job, and I want to tell you why. These last several weeks for me, Job, have been seemingly filled with ceaseless activity. I haven't had time to do my patient Hebrew reading and meditation. I have had to teach my regular law classes and then teach a few other classes on Job--things that I like to do, but things that have taken a lot of time to prepare and teach. Then, instead of having my three days on the weekend to "think" and "relax," I have taken a trip to Phoenix and then had to film several hours of video takes for my Job CD which I hope to produce this Spring. Then, I did the taxes, which, I have to admit, I hate to do. Then, in the midst of all of this I got some news on my teaching that I didn't receive with equanimity and some other messages about family and health that created some fears that I quickly tried to dismiss.
All of these things had a curious effect on me, Job. Instead of making me more sympathetic with people, who themselves have little time to "sit down and think" because of the pace of their lives, it made me become even more removed from people, critical of them, and satisfied with myself. If anything, I became more prideful than ever before, imagining that people were not good enough to listen to me, were not worthy of my attention, were not able to contribute anything to my life. My unattractive side took over, and I began to identify with lots and lots of your words, Job. That is one of the reasons I think I like you, Job. You give me a vocabulary and a store of images that not only enables isolation to take place, but justifies that isolation in ways that render you (and me) even superior to God. It is a hideous and twisted way to approach life, but there we are, right Job?
When I finished doing the taxes last night about 11:45 p.m., then, I was pretty tired, pretty much feeling that life was nothing but a grim battle where everyone is trying to cut you down and humiliate you when you are with them or ignore you when you aren't with them. I relaxed as best I could for about an hour, then went to bed. During the night, I had three of the worst dreams I ever had in life. But, when I awoke this morning I was so fully refreshed and relaxed that I feel like a new person. The only way I can understand what happened to me in the past ten hours, Job, is through Elihu's words to you in 33:15-17--that the dreams were warnings--"that he may turn them aside from their deeds, and keep them from pride."
Let me tell you about the dreams, Job, and how I have "construed" them. The first saw me in an academic context, sort of like Reed College where I taught from 1982-88, but the building into which I was walking was not a Reed building. It looked sort of like the new Salem (OR) Conference Center, which just opened to fanfare on Mar.1. In any case, I was some kind of (visiting?) professor at this school. I entered the large two story, glass building, with spacious interior lounges, at about 8:00 a.m. one day. I usually didn't get to my office until about 10, but I was surprised to see so many people in the building already at 8. Some of the faculty was coming out of a room, and it looked as if they had just been in a meditation or religion session. I recall, now that I think of it, when I was at Reed College recently visiting a friend, that he mentioned that several faculty members are active members of religious communities today. This was certainly not the case 20 years ago at Reed; indeed, I think that my active religious participation in those years was one of the things that didn't endear me to the Reed establishment in those days.
So, Job, I was walking in this building and going to my office. While going to my office I saw a student who is in my Willamette law class and greeted him. Then I put the key in my door and discovered, to my surprise, that it was unlocked. I went into my office and found an associate dean and three faculty members (I didn't recognize any of them from any institution I have been affiliated with in 25 years) sitting around my desk, poring over all the papers I had on my desk, table and in my files. They obviously were "surveilling" me, and didn't anticipate that I would be in the office so early. I abruptly said, "What are you doing here?" And the dean said that they had received some reports about my teaching and were looking into them. He handed me some handwritten student comments about my teaching. Even though it was mid-semester and evaluations are not taken until the end of the term, he had some. I read the evaluations and they spoke of me in "middling" terms (the dean had said they were "between 20 and 80," whatever that means), but they were only speaking about how I taught Islam. I recognized the handwriting of one as that of one of my law students. Then I awoke.