Dream of: 04 January 2002 "Comparative Religion"

Dazed and half-awake, I was sitting in a classroom with other students. Our chairs where arranged around the periphery of the room, leaving a wide open space in the center of the room, where the teacher walked around, asking the students questions. She was a short thin woman, probably in her early 50s. She had never seemed kindly disposed toward me, and I was concerned she was now going to question me. I had been away for several days, on a trip to Iran, and I wasn't prepared to answer any questions about the subject of this class. My stay in Iran had been grueling, and I hadn't yet fully recovered. My hair was disheveled, and I was wearing my black leather jacket.

Thus I was apprehensive when the teacher picked up a piece of newspaper which I had carried back from Iran and which I had carelessly left lying near me. I was sure the teacher would begin criticizing me. Instead – surprisingly – she asked me to tell the class about the importance of Iran; she only stipulated I shouldn't discuss the military strategic importance of Iran.

I stood to my feet, relieved I could talk about a subject with which I felt comfortable. I first stated that Iran was of course most important militarily due to its strategic location. But I immediately said that since I couldn't talk about the military aspect, I would pass on to Iran's other main significance: religion. I was already beginning to feel a little doubt whether I knew enough to speak in front of a class. I began thinking of what I would say; I decided I would begin by explaining the difference between Shiites and Sunnites, and explaining how Iran was historically important as the birthplace of Shiism. However, when I began speaking, even though I was describing Shiites, I called them "Sufis," and I spoke of the birth of "Sufisim" in Iran. I continued to describe the role of Sufisim in Islam, which I described as one of the world's "great religions."

The teacher interrupted me once, reading something from the scrap of newspaper she was still holding, and asking me about a particular word in the article which sounded as if it had something to do with Hinduism. I explained that Hinduism was very important for comparative religion; and then, perhaps for the first time, I began to understand what the words "comparative religion" meant. I even explained to the teacher, and the class, that comparative religion involved comparing and contrasting two distinct religions.

As I continued speaking, I realized I had misjudged the teacher. She had purposely allowed me to speak about a subject with which I was familiar, thus encouraging me. I even began to think I might like to be a professor of comparative religion.

When the class ended, I walked outside into what was apparently a college campus, but which also seemed like a quaint old town. Students were scurrying about, hurrying to their next class. As I walked along, I thought I recognized someone walking toward me – a black-haired woman in a light red, almost pink, dress – probably in her early 30s. Yes, it was Louise. When she was only about a meter away from me, I thought she would turn away without speaking. Instead, I was surprised to hear her mumble a few words. I was glad she had spoken; unfortunately, I hadn't understood what she had said, and before, I could respond, she turned and walked away. I was disappointed; I wished we could talk and be friends. But it didn't seem meant to be.

I continued walking, soon found another classroom and walked inside. Probably 20-30 students were sitting in the room and talking among themselves; I soon realized they were playing a homonym game. One person would speak out a word, then the other students would try to find a homonym for the word. I played along, coming up with a homonym for a word. Then someone spoke the word "pause." I racked my brain, tying to think of a homonym for "pause"; I finally concluded no such homonym existed. But suddenly I thought of one, although I was uncertain in would be accepted. I called out, "Paz, Ecuador." I thought that Paz was the capital of Ecuador, and that "Paz" and "pause" were pronounced exactly the same. I figured someone would object because "Paz" was a proper noun, and a Spanish word. But, no one said anything and they seemed to accept my homonym.

I was enjoying the game, but my fun was soon interrupted. A fellow walked into the room, stepped up to me, and told me I needed to return to the first class I had been in, where I had given the comparative religion speech. The teacher was waiting for me there. I stood to leave, realizing I was indeed supposed to return to that class, and not dally here playing homonym games.

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