I had a dream this afternoon that I was about to go to space. It was well into the future. We had discovered warp drive and many alien planets and species.
I was going on a kind of rescue mission, because some astronauts had become stranded in an uncharted area of space. In the dream, I was a scientist.
The night before liftoff, I had an existential crisis. I felt inclined to pray for a safe journey but I hadn't prayed in years. I tried to pray, but couldn't. Instead, I made little wooden crosses and wore them for shoes. (This is a dream, remember, so things don't have to be logical.)
In the morning, as we were riding the elevator to the spaceship, preparing for liftoff, another astronaut asked me, "What have you got on your feet?"
"Wooden crosses," I replied matter-of-factly, "It's a form of prayer because I can't pray anymore."
Instead of referring me to sick bay, or a psychiatrist, the astronaut simply said, "It wasn't studying the Bible that got us to space. It was science."
I didn't have a good reply because I agreed with him. I was a scientist, after all. Instead, I pulled my space-boots over my cross shoes and said, "I'm still wearin' em."
And then I woke up. When I awoke, I thought how uncomfortable it would be to wear those wooden cross-shoes, how they would probably interfere with my space duties, perhaps even give me some kind of infection.
"Always take care of your feet," my mom always said. But she also taught me to pray.
I imagine, were I ever to travel into space and encounter strange new species, I would need to take more than just science. I would need to take love and empathy and justice.
Maybe that is what the wooden cross-shoes meant for me, in the emotional logic of the dream.