Anatomy of a Scene – ‘The Dream’

“In his 30+ years as a police officer, he means well but he has noticed an increasingly brutal fact that is inescapable. The world has become more unforgiving, violent, and it is hard for him to make an impact whereas at the beginning of his career, he sought to make it a better place.”

Tommy Lee Jones is an elderly police officer overmatched in the excellent ‘No Country for Old Men’ (2017). He is overmatched for a number of reasons including not being able to keep up with the actions of violent men who show no compassion or no remorse. Throughout the film, he is always just a step behind the sociopathic Anton Chigurh and fails to either apprehend him or to prevent him from killing innocent people. In his 30+ years as a police officer, he means well but he has noticed an increasingly brutal fact that is inescapable. The world has become more unforgiving, violent, and it is hard for him to make an impact whereas at the beginning of his career, he sought to make it a better place.

Ed Tom Bell is your average protagonist who means well, wants to do right in his work, and believes he can do good but finds himself overmatched and overwhelmed by what he is asked to do. When he thinks of his future, he wonders what is left for him and if retirement will bring him peace or have him think back on what could be.

The dream scene begins with Ed Tom, now retiring, looking out of his window at his farm’s seemingly barren landscape with a sole tree to his left through the window behind him. A man of seemingly few hobbies and fewer words, he thinks about his day ahead and thinks about the possibility of riding around on his horse. Not too enthused about it, he also asks his wife if he should help around the house. Seemingly because he is less than skilled at this work, his wife believes it’s better that “he not.” He asks if his wife will join him riding but she is still working and a member of society actively.

Resigned to his fate as a retiree instead of being an active police officer, he reflects to his wife that he’s had dreams and he wants to share them. She says that he has time for them now and that she’ll be polite while he remembers them. He goes ahead and states that there were ‘two dreams’, they were ‘peculiar’ and both of them involved his father who has long passed away. Ed Tom is an older man than his father ever was indicating his father passed away at a younger age that of which Ed Tom will live to be longer.

The first dream is almost like a flash as most of our dreams tend to be with the details muddled and hard to recall. Ed Tom only states that he meets up with his young father in town and he leaves him some money perhaps as a way of his father being there for him even if he wasn’t present physically in his life. Similar to losing his father early in life, Ed Tom believes he lost his money in the dream as well leaving him without help as his father’s early death may have inadvertently done.

The second dream is much more imaginative and involve Ed Tom and his father living in ‘older times’ perhaps when the West was not settled and was lawless. He is no longer a police officer maintaining law and order but rather a horse rider having adventures with his father as he wishes they perhaps would have had time for had he lived longer.

This second dream is much more vivid as Ed Tom recalls how it is cold, they are going through a mountain pass together. They ride together in the snow among the mountains of the night until his father rides past him with no explanation and his blanket wrapped tight against him. This is confusing to Ed Tom at first knowing how hard it is to be without his father who he loves and must face the cold world without him as if he has been abandoned again. Though he may have lost his father, Ed Tom recalls how his father was carrying ahead a fire and a horn of a golden moon color, which gave him comfort despite the fact that he was not with him riding together.

“He was going on ahead, fixing to make a fire.” Ed Tom believes his father in the dream is out there doing this noble act in the middle of all the dark and cold, which is brutal to handle. “I knew whenever I got there, he’d be there…then I woke up.” The hope that Ed Tom haves is that his father even though it seems like he abandoned him as the son is that he really is instead looking out for him and paving the road ahead with light so he would not abandon his hope.

He believes that his father even though he may not be there with him wants him to keep going ahead and to meet him eventually instead of becoming deterred. He paves the way for his son to chase the flame of his absence and to resolve to not let the dark encapsulate him fully. Ed Tom’s expression about the dream is one of resigned sadness that his father is no longer around but also one of lingering strength to believe his death was not in vain and that he will reunite with him one day. His father, like him later, use their lives to keep the flame and the light moving forward even when surrounded by the darkest aspects of human nature.

Like any dream scene in a movie, this one has a deeper meaning behind it related to one man’s grief involving the loss of not only his livelihood but of his hope for a brighter future for humanity. Having seen the horrors that people inflict on one another, he may be resigned to that fact but he also believes his father would have wanted him to keep the flame ‘alive’ and to keep carrying it forward throughout his life even if things looked bleak. His death did not stop Ed Tom from keeping the flame moving in his own life and to carrying it forward in the hopes that he would bring it to his father someday when they would eventually be reunited in another lifetime or in another dream that seemed real.

The Passage of Time

One of the consistencies of life that never changes is how much time there is in a day. You have 24 hours in a day to do everything that you need to do. You can also keep in mind the fact that there are seven days in a week, 52 weeks in a year. Any human being on the planet doesn’t know how much time they will be given because none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. You may be thinking that you’ll live to be 100 years old and get to accomplish everything you set out to do but life tends to get in the way of our preconceived plans.

All you really have when it comes to time is the here and now of living in the present. While it’s the law of science that we have 24 hours in a day here on planet Earth, as humans we’re really down to 16 hours a day or even less if you’re a deep sleeper. Then, you have to take into account that time you’ll need to put away for eating, drinking, commuting and working to make money, which are more necessities of life than things that we enjoy doing every day.

Based on how finite time really is in our lives, it becomes more impactful the older you get. A common theme that you hear from people especially in the 30’s and beyond is how fast time seems to fly by. I’m starting to think about that more and more as I head into my later 20’s about how the days, weeks, months and years are starting to go by quicker than I would like. It could be argued that after you enter your 20’s or after you leave college, time starts to pick up and you become more sensitive to its quickening pace. When I was in childhood, time felt like a limitless ocean and that my life would last forever. However, when you become a fully- grown adult, you realize just how naïve that childhood belief is. It also plays into the fact that we have much less responsibilities when we’re younger and have a lot more time to play, learn, and socially develop ourselves.

With adulthood, your conception of time does a complete 180 as you now have a lot of responsibilities based around earning a living, taking care of yourself, and maintaining your personal interests. You have much less time for play and a lot more time devoted to work. Because of the limited amount of time that we have in a day, you start to think more about what you should spend on it. Everybody is going to have different priorities with their time but the older you get, the more you realize that you want to spend it well because time is precious and fleeting.

A direct consequence of time passing is that you start to value certain things more and other things less. You have to be able to choose about who is worth your time and who is not worth your time. That’s a harsh truth but you cannot make time for everyone so you have to figure out who you are compatible with or what kind of activity or vocation is worth your effort. For example, I used to love playing video games when I was younger but as I got older, I realized there were other activities and hobbies that I was more interested in and would be worth more of my time. That’s why I’m writing this article for my audience instead of playing Grand Theft Auto V all night long (even though that’s a great game). Similar to one’s interests and hobbies, the way you use your time in your life is inevitably going to change.

Prioritizing who or what matters to you is a crucial part of being an adult and is also necessary for good time management. You may not see your parents as often as when you were a child so you’ll make the trip to visit them every Thanksgiving and/or Christmas even though you hate dealing with airport security and bad traffic. That’s why you’ll plan activities with friends a few weeks in advance because you don’t see them as often as you’d like because you’ve been busy working on a new business idea.

Because our time becomes more limited as we get older, you have to plan in advance and think deeply about what is worth your time. While time is limited, it’s always a good idea to try new things and be consistent about it. If you’re going to the gym in your spare time, make it a habit and even go a couple of times a week. When you’re not working, do those things that make you happy or that challenge you in some way. Spend time with those people who matter to you most and who treat you well.

You don’t have to plan your time down to the minute and it’s good to be spontaneous every now and then such as taking an impromptu vacation. However, you don’t want to spend time doing things you dislike or pass the time with people who you don’t like. In order to live a happier and healthier life, you’ll need to cut out the bad and keep the good. Doing work that is meaningful, enjoying activities with good friends, learning new things are all productive ways to spend your time. Also, you should try your best to balance your life out so that work isn’t taking up too much of your time where you don’t have enough time to pursue other interests.

Whatever you decide to do with your time, remember that it does not discriminate among people. It’s the same for everybody in the world. From when you wake up to when you go to sleep, that time is yours and yours alone. You alone have to make the choice of what to do with the time that is given to you. While there are obligations and commitments that we all have to fulfill, you have the power to use your time as you see fit.

You can’t get the time back so use it to the fullest and remember that it’s finite. While you shouldn’t overwhelm yourself with too many things taking up your time, remember that you shouldn’t put off possible interests, hobbies, or opportunities forever. You don’t want to wake up one day and realize you wasted too much time and didn’t get to do all of the things you wanted to do. Time is fleeting and you never know when it’s going to run out. As the Roman poet Horace once wrote in the year 23 BC, “Carpe diem”, which translates in English to mean “Seize the day.” I couldn’t agree more.