During a particularly troubled part of my earlier life, when declining enrollments had, after five exciting and turbulent years, cut me out of teaching Shakespeare in college, I found myself moving out of my profession, moving out of a house, moving out of a relationship, moving into a period when from time to time I felt nearly paralyzed with the feeling that I had wasted my life.
Then I had a dream.
In the dream, I was alone in a bare room, feeling depressed about the conditions of my life. I looked up and saw an open door. Through it, a man was painting at a canvas–not exactly painting: the canvas contained small, complete objects as well as painted shapes. He was positioning an object–I believe it was a small animal, possibly a sheep–on the art work.
I watched with fascination. The man was not young or old. There was little that called attention to his appearance or manner: He was focused on the work before him. He seemed engrossed in finding a way to bring every object on his canvas together into a whole.
In the dream, I felt that I was being allowed to see into some mysterious level of being that is working, constantly, to create and re-create our lives. Yet I was still the watcher, looking as if through a telescope, apart in my isolated room.
Suddenly, the man turned and looked across the entire distance between us, and that distance evaporated. His look passed deeply into my eyes (while he sat, still holding the object he was placing on the canvas) with a look that indicated that he knew who I was, why I was there, and had known all along that I was watching.
He looked at me with an unrelenting truthfulness, and yet kindness, that seemed to see every imperfection of my being, condemn nothing, and extend to me an honesty and acceptance that penetrated to my core.
When he spoke, his voice implied: “Listen! What I am about to say is of great importance. Remember this! It is the key.”
But he looked deeply into me and, in a strong, kindly voice, said only these words:
“Nothing is irrelevant.
Nothing is wasted.
And with that he turned all of his attention back to the object he was placing on the canvas, leaving me to wake up.