I once had a dream about a carnival. Specifically, I dreamed I was in a little house on carnival grounds. It was night, but the light streaming in through my windows was bright and garish. It flashed bursts of purple and white and blue and red and yellow, ceaselessly, across walls and floors and faces.
There were other people in the house, sitting quietly in my little living room. The faces around were serene and still. I knew we were praying.
It was a "staying" sort of dream, the kind you carry with you throughout the day and perhaps long after. I felt it captured much of the essence of my life as a cloistered heart.
Like the house in my dream, my life is encircled by "the carnival." I don't have to look far to see the truth of this, although I often forget it. I live surrounded by so many things that don't really matter in the long run... things that carry the atmosphere of carnival.... the chase after fun, self-indulgence, riches, entertainment, pleasure, the pursuit of what pleases me-me-me. Yes, that last sentence contains redundancies; and yes, the carnival does as well. Like a wheel spinning round and round going nowhere, the carnival spins back to self and I and me and mine and what I can get out of life.
It's tough not to get caught up in the carnival. After all, there is much in it that can be legitimately enjoyed. But oh, how easy it is to let the clamor and excitement, the music and the neon, the magic and illusion take my focus off what really matters! It is a constant struggle.
How to live in the carnival while not being part of it? Perhaps, for me, a clue lies within the dream. I am to remain in that little house of prayer, in the cloister of God's will, wherever I may go. I am to keep the light of prayer lit within it, for that will illuminate the shadows and reveal the Truth of God.
Like a turtle in its shell, I can carry the cloister with me. I can live in a house of peace, in the midst of the carnival's neon glare.
"The world with its seductions is passing away, but the man who does God's will endures forever." (1 John 2:17)