I had a troubling recurring dream last night, and I think I know what it means now.
The dream seems to be a happy one. In last night’s version, I was on a business trip in downtown Chicago, one of my favorite places. Before driving home, I walked into a seafood restaurant, a spectacular “crab shack” restaurant with numerous tubs of seafood and many boiling vats with exotic shellfish. I entered through the back entrance and was just walking around, thinking of how I wanted to bring my family there. In the area where food was being prepared, I saw about six species of squid alone, not that I particularly like squid, but they were fascinating to look at and represented the magnitude of the selections available there. It was a busy, bustling place with a lot of customers trying to get in.
I turned and looked into the area where customers were eating. In a nearby corner of the room, there was a glass wall that separated me from a customer who seemed to be on display for those entering the restaurant to observe. The customer was a rather large middle-aged man in a business suit, wearing a big napkin under his chin. He was seated behind a huge metallic bowl filled with large raviolis stuffed with seafood in a creamy Alfredo sauce. The bowl was about five feet wide with a broad sloping rim, shaped much like a very wide spittoon. Numerous large raviolis, each about 3-inches wide, lined the rim of the bowl, while hundreds of others were bathed in the pool of sauce in the center of the bowl. The man was there for the all-you-can-eat ravioli special. He had been there for a long time – perhaps days. He appeared to be sad and weary, his head dropping forward, his eyes closed, his hands still clutching his utensils. He was resting, perhaps unconscious, waiting for a little more space to open up in his stomach so he could begin the next round of eating.
I have seen this very image before in my dreams. The same man, the same tub of ravioli, the same image of a prisoner behind glass, held in place not by physical chains, not by the two wooden walls of a restaurant corner and the third wall of glass, but by appetite and greed. I am haunted by the image of a man virtually chained to his vast tub of food. And this morning, I realized that this image is there to represent me. Not that ravioli is a problem for me, but that there are serious risks if I do not become more disciplined in other areas of weakness.
Self-control and personal discipline is a critical area for all of us. We are each dealing with our own mix of destructive temptations. When we give in to appetites, greed, and other weaknesses, we can become like the prisoner behind the glass, not even realizing just how captive we are, thinking we have found a great opportunity–endless all-you-can-eat ravioli or some other foolishness–when in fact we have unknowingly become prisoners behind glass.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about becoming free, completely free, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. May we seek Him and live the Gospel more fully.