I had an intriguing dream last night. I walked into a room where there was a lady behind a table. She asked if I would play a game. I agreed. She had a set of little cups, each upside down, and a marble. Immediately I knew what the game was, and I knew I would lose. I tried this game recently when the family was over and we were all playing Brain Academy on the Wii. On that, bird cages (some with birds, some empty) were covered and moved around all over the screen until they stopped at the end, and you were supposed to point out which ones had the birds in them. This is definitely not something I can do well. After the first couple of moves, I lose track and my final answer is just a wild guess.
Anyway, in my dream, this lady started the game. Under one of the cups goes the marble, and then she started moving around the cups. I was trying to pay attention, because, smart as I am, I knew what she was going to ask at the end. She came to a halt. This time, though, was my lucky day. I had concentrated well and I knew exactly where the marble was. Smirking, I could hardly wait for the question. She looked at me. Then she asked, “Can you describe the picture on the wall behind you?”
If one can be totally shocked in a dream, I was. What do you mean - the picture I scarcely noticed as I came in the room? What kind of question is that? Ask me where the marble is, lady!!
The whole thing reminded me of the familiar game where someone gets you to add up numbers in your head. “In the Meredith-Springdale school system, there are 439 students. All but 220 went on a field trip in 10 buses. Nine buses held 21 students each.” You’re thinking the question will be “How many students rode on the 10th bus?” but the question is usually, “What was the name of the school system?” It’s never what you expect, nor what you prepare for.
Yeah, I had this happen in 11th grade when Miss Weaks had us read Walden Pond, then on the test was the inane question, “How deep was Walden Pond?” Of course, it can work the other way. We might be studying the trivial part of the book and have to answer the big question of what the book was actually trying to say.
Sometimes in life, I’m afraid we get focusing on the things that won’t help us when the question comes. Some people think a question will come on Judgment Day, but there’s no need to even wait for someone else to ask. These are questions we can ask ourselves over and over to keep our focus in life on what matters. Have I poured myself into my job so much that I have neglected other priorities? I am doing things that bring me pleasure and fulfillment, things that make me a better person to those around me, or I am doing things that make me feel tired, anxious, or drained? Am I elevating family members into their proper place for my attention? Is there an important part of my life I am neglecting in order to focus on lesser things? Is there a decision I have been procrastinating about because it is unwelcome? Am I really paying attention as the days, weeks, and years fly by?
The questions always catch us by surprise, because sometimes they are not the questions we wanted or expected to hear. But sometimes they have to be answered.