“If the doors of perception were cleansed, man would see himself as he is, infinite.” Aldous Huxley, written in my yearbook 2002
“Met him what? he asked. -Here, she said. What does that mean? He leaned downward and read near her polished thumbnail. -Metempsychosis? -Yes. Who’s he when he’s at home? -Metempsychosis, he said, frowning. It’s Greek: from the Greek. That means the transmigration of souls. -O, rocks! she said. Tell us in plain words.” James Joyce, Ulysses p. 64, The Modern Library
I’m to tell you about a dream I had, a bad dream, but one that leads me to acceptance, not, in so many words, giving in. In itself, it has no meaning for anyone, and I expect the following is not of general interest, except something has to put an end to this story.
I still loathe myself often, loathe all of my circumstances and it doesn’t matter how many people I ask for their point of view. That is, I feel evil. I don’t want to convince you of this at all, and I was hoping distracting myself with James Joyce might, I don’t know, put a rosy hue on things. There is one alternative.
(There was a retired teacher whom I would meet from time to time on the corner, I mention now that she was a teacher of English, and when I told her my name, she straightaway nodded ‘Dedalus’, Stephen, my namesake of Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses.) When sometimes I find life so very ordinary, I tell myself that must be because I’m something like the Wizard of Oz behind it all. This cannot be explained, I reckon, it must be experienced, much like Joyce’s books, and I find I tell others I’m ‘away with the fairies’ thereby placing myself as an odd relative, out of reach. Who is deceiving whom?
In my dream, I awake from a deep sleep (called so softly but I’m waiting expectantly) and in a flash, I’m running ahead, there’s so much to do, my recording session, my family will be here tomorrow, wow! I’m really achieving something, being somebody! And then….
Is it raining? I pause to try to read the weather, then I see my body blocking every point of view, any feeling, and I disbelieve in myself. Any observation or attempt at thought pulls me toward the ground, a beast of prey. I can’t see my clothes, then my body dies part by part. I’m urged to forget everything, and as I wake, I challenge myself to let go.
The disapointment concretely set in, that just as I could visualise my own life, boldly independent, but it’s just a story, and what’s more, I identify my dreamself as Stephen Hawking, and so I tell my mother later that morning, and next my psychiatrist. Imitating Hawking, I try to think through the drama. It’s impossible. Still fresh in my memory, I know then I believe Stephen Hawking to be a true hero, his inward world matched his outward reality, his thinking so peerless, singularly screaming I AM WHO I AM to the whole universe, but unable to find and name God. I want to see things from his eyes, paralysed, like Abraham Lincoln at his memorial sitting, that Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. could stand there and proclaim, I have a dream, a word, a thought, and I hope, realize his relationship with God was just once, mutual.
I tell myself this, but it’s a rationalization. Why shouldn’t I be able to just collapse, and truly it will mean nothing? I don’t feel like I’m achieving anything, except something to do tomorrow. “Curse your God and die,” said Job’s wife, but I am not Job. I remember being sad for the writer Douglas Adams when he died, just collapsing on his treadmill. Now, I think, that must have been some relief. I didn’t know Douglas Adams, and if he collapsed in my arms, I wouldn’t have tried to resucitate him but stupidly, called for help.
If I acknowledge that the alternative to fear and loathing is action, and I’m drawing again on my English classes with Shakespeare, and that I don’t have the genius of Stephen Hawking, well, then, I think the letting go of life will be continual, that whenever I act in favour of change, I also release my desire for change, and that I may be getting in my own way by being so stubborn. I don’t want to justify myself continually, it is very hard on my own sense of self. The thing is, if I’m really stuck, like quicksand, I can only let go, and how then can I be afraid of death? I can’t lie to you about how afraid I feel, I’m deceiving myself, and getting deeper into the sand.
Then I guess I’ll really have to write my own account of my life where somehow it doesn’t end where all the details have been revealed but somehow create a story I can love where the end is only the beginning.