My “guardian” dream from late last month continues to haunt and puzzle me. Though I’m no closer to understanding it (and it demands understanding and perhaps action), I’ve had some help along the way. I’ve already mentioned Commentariat member Shel leading me to Jung — actually two Jungs, Carl and his wife Emma.
Then yesterday I found an unexpected gift in a locker at the post office. That up there at the top of this blog is a framed and bejeweled print of a 15th-century Russian icon of a (or perhaps the) guardian angel. Or as the handy translation sheet that came with it tells me, it’s an icon of “St. Guardian Angel,” holding an orb containing the swaddled soul of one of God’s own.
If you’ve read recent comments sections, you’ve probably already guessed that this came from reader and friend Dana.
No, officially I don’t believe in guardian angels. And the shriveled remnant of my soul that survived an austere sin-and-punishment Protestant upbringing observes the glorious gaudiness of this icon and … well, Cotton Mather is probably rolling over in his grave somewhere, doing a tango with the corpse of John Calvin. Idolatry! Graven images!
But Orthodox Christianity reaches toward God through (among other things) philokalia — love of beauty. And this beauty spoke to me as soon as I opened the box.
I’d been feeling quite sorry for myself. Moving and comforting as the guardian dream was, it reminded me of early times when I badly needed a protector. As a kid and teen I longed for one of those adults who shows up in movies and books — the teacher, the counselor, the coach, the wise older neighbor, the attuned uncle or aunt — who turns up just when the troubled kid needs it most, who understands, redirects, inspires, and changes the course of a life.
But that’s fiction. The reality for most screwed up kids — and if you were one, you know — is that we end up making our own way — or we don’t. I was lucky. I turned out sane and even sensible once I got out of the crazyplace. But weeks after the dream I thought about the guardians that never were and … well, damnit, I felt whiny. There’s no prettier way to put it. Just whiny. Sulking over things that happened — or rather didn’t happen as I wished and prayed — decades ago.
Then the icon arrived and spoke to me (not literally; in some perfectly sane, but aesthetic and numinous way). And I realized a couple of things, one universal, one solely personal.
One, there may be protectors for any of us out there — humans or forces — who are real but beyond our limited perception. Could there really be guardian angels? Maybe, though I doubt it. But there surely could be (for instance) Freedom Moles in powerful positions who see that our records get helpfully altered or erased, or see that eyes that might turn toward us turn away instead. Or other people in high or hidden places who like us and help us without comment or notice. Could happen. There are simply forces acting upon our lives that we don’t know about and may never realize.
Two — personally speaking — I now have more guardians than anyone could wish. I’m speaking of you guys; you know who you are. You know what you’ve done. You’ve helped me build my house, recover from sickness, get through rough times, figure out what’s wrong with my old cars, stay safe in the world, and have courage when I’ve felt weak. You’ve given me gifts and you’ve been gifts in equal measure.
Sane, practical, and self-sufficient as I now imagine myself to be, I’m blessed with more guardians than my young self could ever have dreamed.