These Dreams Will Never Sleep. Or, It’s All Greek to Me.

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Greek Toy in the Benaki Museum (https://www.benaki.org/index.php?lang=en). Space scooter, astronaut on scooter made of chromolithographed tin and plastic, with battery mechanism, by K.K. Masutoku Toy Factory company, trademark ΜΤ. Japan, 1960s. (ΤΠΠ_5273)

Meanwhile, lousy election, covidiacy-without-end – there remains a faction of the population seemingly gleeful about the idea of wearing a worthless (unless perhaps you’re a surgeon) mask and rebreathing their own carbon dioxide for the rest of their lives – heartless self-serving agendas, shameless hypocrisy and tyrannical obsession with me and mine. In other words, it’s the way it’s always been, people are people, no worries. Things tend to fall apart, as Nick Caves sings, but then again they tend to come back together again and in the end, it all balances out somehow, too. Be assured there is life on other planets and their struggles are the same. The play-of-opposites in mythological terms and everything in between is what we call life perhaps cosmos wide, from when we huddled around campfires and painted the cave walls to, well, when we still huddle around campfires and paint the parking structure walls.

But on the good side of things, we’ve enjoyed a wave of remarkably nice autumn weather. Which is to say that I’m convinced it’s wise not to talk politics nor pay much attention to current events. Because in the end today’s so-called news isn’t markedly different from yesterdays. Or yesteryears. The same stories over and over. I recall being in college and having a prof try to convince us all that we ought to be reading the newspaper every day (back when there were newspapers). That being informed was important. Informed about what, I would ask myself? Because I’d long ago given up trying to find anything worth reading in the newspaper that was delivered to our house each morning. Journalism to me simply seemed tossed off and rote and a rehash of the day before. As if it were all a journalist could do to get the requisite word count submitted to his so-called editor each evening and then fill up the empty space again the next day. Ugh. I likened it to being assigned papers in school – middle school, high school, what have you. You are to write three to five pages on the following…. What misery. I immediately concluded that as soon as somebody tells me what to write about, how many pages or words it has to be and when it’s due, I’m out. Checked out. And anything anybody else can manage to expectorate under such conditions, well, just try to recall anything about any article you’ve ever read from the media.

An analogy might be how whenever a hilariously irreverent and accidentally trenchant comedian becomes suddenly keen to reference up-to-the-minute current events as the driving force of their schtick. Johnny Carson comes to mind. The man was hilarious except during his opening monologue, written by his writers – all those years of him cracking lame jokes about this or that president and then only getting a laugh by way of leering at the camera and repeating the punch line. Yawn. Hey, folks run out of ideas, the zeal tends to dissipate with success and newsworthy politics mostly isn’t. News within the context of the news media, after all, is a commodity. I read somewhere, some ex-journalist explaining why she was compelled to quit the business of selling the news as she called it: that out of all that is happening – the whole of the news of the world – there is after all only the plane crashes, murders, suicide bombings, train wrecks, movie star infidelities, terrorist attacks and stupid pet tricks that captures anybody’s attention enough to click on a headline. Sale! Cha-ching! The negative always has a greater impact, it grabs us more readily than hearing about something good that happened. Would you click on a story with the headline: Remarkably Delicious Pancake Recipe Discovered? Well, perhaps you would. Which is to say, perhaps I would, too.

My point is course that we are begin sold the news. Which is what the phrase “fake news” is trying to communicate; namely, that the so-called news isn’t what’s happening as much as it’s what the media is trying to get us to click on so that they can increase advertising revenue. The news is a business, not a public service. Don’t let any journalist tell you otherwise, either, because they’re selling their stories to the media who sells them to us. I’ll shut up about it.

In other non-news (hah!), no book sales for over a week. And the only thing that really matters is the no book sales for over a week. Because it makes me crazy and transforms the otherwise trivial bullshit of life into major irritations. Because that’s how my brain works.

How to increase sales? How to break through and make the book “take off?” Let it go. That is, keep up the marketing experiment, envision a significant and lasting boost in sales as a result of the holiday season, envision glowing reviews that garner even more sales and otherwise soldier into 2021 in TC2 editing mode. The long haul, long term perspective is my only chance at breaking free from exile and mediocrity and the humiliation of a pedestrian level hobby business. Fame and fortune? Irrelevant. Well, I’ll take the fortune. But I only really require $100K annual, say, from the books for the rest of my life. Which translates to about eighty sales a day. Every day. Alternatively, I’ll take a huge spike in sales for a year or two or three that nets me the cash that I can sock away. But that route will require perhaps double the sales to double the revenue to cover for the doubling in taxes. Yadda, blah.

Meanwhile, it’s all so miserably unglamorous. Which doesn’t trouble me either. Hell, I’m used to unglamorous. What troubles me, if I apply a little quick and dirty RAIN-style analysis[1] is the risk of another full blown, balls out failure. Another vanishing point that renders my bank account drained of tens of thousands of dollars, my heart and soul and personal mythology crushed and my life worthless. It’s that simple. Write, publish, succeed or die a miserable failure.

What else is there? The writing and authorpreneurial endeavor for its own sake? The modest sense of having accomplished something worth doing won’t cut it. I’m not living for half measures. I want it all. If “all” turns out to be too much, well, that’s a good problem to have. No? We’ll see. All I know for certain is what jazzes me, what enables my experience of being properly alive and slaving away at novels only to sell fifty books a year in the end is not the sustainable vision.

All that said, I’m compelled towards nothing else. My life’s work is this. The realization of which has taken near a lifetime to achieve. And it makes me wonder what my life would have been like up till now had I grasped my life’s work in my early twenties, say, akin to most artist-craftsman types. Would I have enjoyed a long and critically well regarded and economically successful career of publishing novels and non-fiction and what have you? Would I have been an author now at the peak of my career? God knows. Or the gods know.

On the topic of God and the gods it strikes me that I recall a portion of one of my dreams last night, a rare occurrence. I do have the sense that I experienced several dreams or dream sequences, what have you – it’s not as if a dream is a story in the sense of expressing a beginning, middle and end. With conflict, protagonists and antagonists. No. Dreams are a mess of nonsensical imagery and disjointed, juxtaposed symbology (at best) and spurious tangles of directionless anxious energy. So much for my opinion of oneirology. That is to say, I believe, as Campbell did, that mythology or parts of it can originate in dreams both sleeping and waking. But mythology is not exclusive to dreams or dreamlike states of mind. It can be a visionary experience, a happenstance of full consciousness, cogent awareness and rational presence. And when you paint it or sing it or write it out, you get a piece of more or less compelling art-craft. Time Crime, for example.

Now, regarding the type of fully functional cultural mythologies – Christianity, for instance – that drive the development of religions and their followers, this I think has to do with the dynamic mash up of personal vision, specifically on behalf of particularly charismatic and articulate “dreamers” or visionaries, and historical fact. In other words, facts of Nature and facts of human history. Which in many ways are the same if, like me, you are a romantic in the sense of classic romanticism which seeks in Nature the revelation, so to say, of the self. Biology as mythology and vice versa, as it were. Which is not positivism. I’m not reducing the truths of mythology to the facts of biology per se or as such. Which is to say I’m not convinced biology is merely biology in the sense of cause and effect as a person who thinks in exclusively scientific terms would happily render it. No. I have an intuition, common to many, that biology is still an undiscovered country in the sense that the power of metaphor – the comparison of two (or more) disparate things that results in an unforeseen Third Thing – is a real and not merely imaginary power. Or that imagination is a power. I won’t speculate here on the existence of the supernatural or (as Jeff Kripal terms it)[2] the super natural or a so-called block universe and whether our imagination can literally affect the past, present and future or what have you. I’m only establishing or reiterating or continuing to enhance here in this journal my ongoing speculation and ever-transforming understanding of the experience of life. My recent dream, then:

I’m exasperated and anxious and I’ve somehow sought out or come upon a church and I’m compelled to attempt to enter, scrambling up the broad steps, testing the heavy double wooden doors common to the older churches and bursting in. I’m more anxious now that I’m inside – I feel both out of place and that I’m in exactly the right place to resolve whatever anxiety-inducing thing that is going on. Of which I have no clear sense at all.

The floor is white marble as are the steps before me. But I pause to snatch a flag of some type, wooden handled, the flag itself of red (I think) cloth, embellished with religious or mythological imagery in white or metallic silver and perhaps gold but I can’t be certain because I don’t properly see it, somehow. I just know that I need to have this flag so as to mount the steps and enter the church proper, which I do, encountering rows of pews filled with people, their backs to me. Ahead there is the inevitable raised alter of which I can’t make out any details. Somehow I’m embroiled with my sense of panicked urgency and this confounded flag in my hands that I’m keen to wave, clumsily, as a sort of appeal or declaration or I don’t know what. I don’t know what the matter is with everything. It’s all very fraught and urgent what I have to do but damned if I’ve no clue at all what I’m doing and it seems as if it’s only in my own head. For I fall on the floor with my flag in relief of having found what I sense is a safe house, a neutral ground at least but also possible salvation. But then I sense trouble, that I’m not welcome, that the threat remains and I scramble to my feet again.

Next I’m down at the entrance again, the white marble steps and a crowd of people are coming in and I’m replacing this flag where I found it which is to say within some sort of flag stand or holder some three feet tall, also made of white marble, but with a hole ostensibly for the flag pole but there are two such holders with holes and I’m burdened now with the sense of having placed the flag in the wrong holder and the other people in church somehow may be upset by this. There might be a large blue and white umbrella to do with the Greek flag or something (I recall thinking that it’s somehow Greek) that I may have misplaced or confused with the other flag. Or something. The dream ends with me standing there confused and baffled and frustrated and anxious inside this church with this issue of the red flag and the other blue and white umbrella or flag.

From wikipedia.org:

The national flag of Greece, popularly referred to as the “blue and white” or the “sky blue and white” is officially recognized by Greece as one of its national symbols and has nine equal horizontal stripes of blue alternating with white. There is a blue canton in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a white cross; the cross symbolizes Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the prevailing religion of Greece.

According to popular tradition, the nine stripes represent the nine syllables of the phrase “Freedom or Death.” The nine stripes are also said to represent the letters of the word “freedom.” There is also a different theory, that the nine stripes symbolize the nine Muses, the goddesses of art and civilization (nine has traditionally been one of the numbers of reference for the Greeks).

A church I’ve never been to, some crazy flags, a sense of panicky, fraught urgency and an unknown woman? Oh, I forgot to mention her. She was dark haired, middle aged, no erotica or sense of attraction or emotion involved – she was just there. Carl Jung has some things to say about the unknown woman. And I have a sense that he’s right, that for a man she represents something of the unknown aspect of ourselves that each of us has yet to properly or effectively assimilate. For a woman, at least in heterosexual terms, she dreams of the unknown man. That Jung described the animus as the unconscious masculine side of a woman, and the anima as the unconscious feminine side of a man, each transcending the personal psyche rings true. The mythologies of the world have of course long ago addressed gender in sophisticated and compelling terms – the idea, for instance, that there are perhaps four genders: man, woman, men-identifying-as-feminine and women-identifying-as-masculine. If it’s unsettling to you, so be it, it’s real and allowing it in your head simply means allowing how things are.

Meanwhile, what innovators like Jung, for instance, were doing of course was to become scholars of mythological imagery as a way to perhaps better understand the substance of dreams. Because intuitively the myths seem born of dreams, asleep or waking. And why not follow your intuition? If anything dreams seems to express or seek in some manner to express our intuitions. Too bad, then, that dreams insist upon obscurity and mystery and what seems oblique imagery. Most of my dreams seem to be nonsense. Jung recognized the pedestrian variety which he dismissed in the same manner as we all tend to; namely, as distorted and transformed memory, wish and unhinged imagination. The so-called big dreams were what he focused upon in his psychiatry. And within his mythological scholarship. And his own life.

I have since learned the difference between my wild imagination in dreams and affecting symbols. Even when the symbols are mostly or completely indecipherable in conscious, cognitive terms they affect us as if loaded with other energies – unconscious, super natural or super-biological, what have you: such dreams possess palpable portent. They feel different to have experienced hence I legitimize that phenomenon and label the dreams like Jung did as indeed big. What to do with the imagery and symbology, such as it is? Experiment with deciphering them as best you can, within your interest and means and otherwise, as Campbell suggested, let the images work on you. He implies that the results or outcomes or influences of big dreams upon us can be occult yet valuable. And I agree. Because that’s the sense I have of them and I prefer to maintain a certain faith in my senses. Hell, life if nothing else is a phenomenon and why not respect the phenomenology?

These dreams will never sleep. So sings Graham Parker (“Blue Horizon” on the album Deepcut to Nowhere, 2001). Indeed. Here’s to dreams then, and the unsettling symbols within them. And to aspiring to allow them to work on us in spite of ourselves….

P.S. Hats off to veterans today!

[1] RAIN. Or, R.A.I.N. Recognize. Allow. Investigate. Non-attach. It comes from Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance, (New York: Bantam Dell, 2004). Tara Brach, PhD., as Wikipedia describes, is an American psychologist, author, and proponent of Buddhist meditation.

[2] One of Kripal’s more popular books is the one he wrote alongside Whitely Strieber, a controversial author and ufologist. Like many, I’m deeply skeptical of Strieber but also like many, I’m wholeheartedly convinced of Kripal’s integrity and compelling vision. See: Whitley Strieber and Jeffery J. Kripal, The Super Natural: A New Vision of the Unexplained, (New York: Tarcherperigree, 2016).