In earlier and more wretched times, there was a dream. It was a dream less dreamed and more sensed, somehow. Like all dreams, it had a context, a backdrop against which to cast a shadow and hold a torch. In more wretched times it made sense to dream and since I imagine others have similar, though not the same, dreams, I mention it in passing.
Though I didn't know it then, the environment I grew up in was one of privilege. And I was one of the privileged cast-aways, living in a world well-heeled enough to be neurotic. I availed myself of that privilege without knowing it, gathering up the forms and formulas of politeness and intelligence and social grace, yet never quite sure of anything, least of all the credibility of forms and formulas.
The forms and formulas allowed me to pass for sane, but behind the curtain, life felt like a salted wound: How did everyone else manage to be so happy and assured?! How did they manage that while I stood precariously on some towering cliff, staring into a gorge whose floor I could not see, clinging to my meager possessions while all around me seemed so abundantly provisioned. One misstep, one errant breath, and in those wretched times, I would fall into a maw whose capacities and malevolence I could only guess. I was scared and lonely and self-involved. I saw no way forward and no way back. Back where? Back to a place before I was scared and lonely. Somehow I was convinced it must be there, but where 'there' was I had no idea.
The days of form and formula passed. I tried to believe what others seemed to believe -- that jobs and possessions and affairs and intelligence were places of credible delight. I really tried. And sometimes it almost worked, but never quite entirely. The harder I ran towards some approved and reassuring light, the more closely the shadows followed me and the deeper the gorge appeared. I wanted an assured footing and found no purchase. Little wonder there should be a dream.
So much for an ill-defined context.
|Seurat: Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte|
It was a good dream in wretched times ... it was light to the darkness, settled in a realm that clung to an uncertain footing. The privileged lifestyle that paid for my horrified neuroses allowed for a dream of something and somewhere else, for some light above a maw of darkness, for some blessed relief from whatever it was that gnawed and growled and promised to eat me alive. It was an ahhhh where eeek prevailed. And I followed that dream.
Some might love to explain that my interest in spiritual endeavor was nothing more than a way of seeking the fulfillment of that dream. Maybe so, but from within, I find the explanation too facile by half. Describing spiritual endeavor as a trip from the wretched to the wondrous strikes me as the simplistic fearfulness of an intellectual still clinging to his meager possessions. Still, maybe it's so in some sense. At any rate, I followed the dream, step by tremulous step, still scared shitless that I might fall and fall and fall and never survive.
Looking back on those wretched and dreamy times, I have sympathy. Poor bastard ... just like all the other poor bastards. In wretched times, of course, no one could be so wretched, so needy, so praying for relief as I was. Why didn't anyone care???!!! The dream, without the borders of a Monet or Seurat, was that someone did in fact care and water lilies or picnics were not simply a dream. Yes, I have sympathy, not from above and not from beyond such wretched times, but from within their clutches. Poor bastards ... lovely picnic. Time to stop putting salt on the already-salted wound.
The trouble with framing a dream -- with describing a peaceful human life as "rooted like a tree" or admiring some version of Monet of Seurat -- is, of course, that life moves. It dances. It refuses all blandishments of belief or description or adoration. It dances just out of reach. And if, by some chance it were within reach and could be added to these meager possessions, why that would be the death of life, a guaranteed trip to the self-indulgent, wretched funny farm.
Life dances. And to my mind, the only perfect brush stroke of which anyone is capable is...