REAL LIFE starts with a dream (guest post)

“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.

Imagine Joseph Campbell knowing nothing of schizophrenia

We all have to start somewhere, and mythologist Joseph Campbell is no exception. Amazingly, according to the author, he was beavering away in his academic ivory tower of mythology, and it had to be brought to his attention late in his career (1968) that what he was doing had a real world application to schizophrenia.

In an unintentionally comical response to an invitation to deliver a series of speeches at the Esalen Institute in California, he suggested that rather than speak on schizophrenia, he’d deliver his talk on James Joyce instead.

James Joyce, the author of Finnegan’s Wake? How did he again miss the obvious? Well, miss it he did.

Below is a fragment from the word salad of Joyce:

As the lion in our teargarten remembers the nenuphars of his Nile (shall Ariuz forget Arioun or Boghas the baregams of the Marmarazalles from Marmeniere?) it may be, tots wearsense full a naggin in twentyg have sigilposted what in our brievingbust, the besieged bedreamt him stil and solely of those lililiths undeveiled which had undone him, gone for age, and knew not the watchful treachers at his wake, and theirs to stay. Fooi, fooi, chamermissies! Zeepyzoepy, larcenlads! Zijnzijn Zijnzijn! It may be, we moest ons hasten selves te declareer it, that he reglimmed? presaw? the fields of heat and yields of wheat where corngold Ysit? shamed and shone. It may be, we habben to upseek

Joyce spent the remaining years of his life worried that his work on Finnegan’s Wake caused his daughter’s schizophrenia. Nature or nuture? You decide.

The link in this blog is from Schizophrenia: The Inward journey, by Joseph Campbell, 1970, published in Myths to Live By