By Brian George
“I don't develop; I am.”—Pablo Picasso
In “The Republic, Book X,” Plato writes, “When all the souls had chosen their lives, they went before Lachesis. And she sent with each, as the guardian of his life and the fulfiller of his choice, the daimon that he had chosen, and this divinity led the soul first to Clotho, under her hand and her turning of the spindle to ratify the destiny of his lot and choice, and after contact with her, the daimon again led the soul to the spinning of Atropos to make the web of its destiny irreversible, and then without a backward look it passed beneath the throne of Necessity.”
As you read (or hear) this, my voice echoes in your short-term and then long-term memory. As I speak to myself I imagine your—as of yet—nonexistent face. We both ask, “Who let You in here?” Daylight savings time assaults the nocturnal light of dreams. It does no good. Earth suddenly goes black. The transparent moon returns. To what end should we argue about the title of the preexistent death-flash video? Dreams hang on the tree of knowledge. It continues to sprout branches. Images are waiting for whoever stops to try them on.
The dead reproduce. Cities land on clouds. An epileptic bird damns robots to the labyrinth. Earth’s rulers act at a distance, as mechanics reverse the pull of the great magnet of dissociation; you are not where you are. Your small hands violate the precession of the equinox. It is clear to me stranger that your tribe grows monstrous. Your prehistoric boats now dare to take x-rays of omphalos!
Of course, it is also clear that you do not approve of me. I copulate with a race of questionable gods. A starfish is my master. The most considerate thing would be for each of us to go back where we came from.
Symbols exchange fluids. You wake smelling of the ocean. Someone has put seaweed in your hair. A squid snores beside you. Is everything ok? A spell enforces the inviolate order of appearances.
What a strange thing it is for the self to be inhabited by the other. How strange to be almost dead, to be viewed by other subjects as an object. What a strange thing it is to forget one's mother tongue. How strange to be an omnipotent mushroom trapped inside an atom. How strange to find yourself projected into someone else's dream—to know it is not yours, but not be able to get out.
There is a unique horror to such experiences. How odd, since they are nothing if not common. How quickly the disorientation is written off as over. Hermes goes in one ear; a pedestrian falls out the other. Amnesia voids the traveling violation. The ego is a useful construct; it allows us to take possession of even the most surreal of events.
Perhaps each of us inhabits and acts out not one but many dreams. Their intersection allows us to create a role for choice. If the role is real, it is also perhaps more circumscribed than we are willing to admit.
In the physical world each actor sees himself as the enormous central character, without whom no story would exist. The actor is provisionally conscious. Let us say that the ego gets with the preexistent program. The actor follows where the death-flash video leads, as the future and the past trade places. You are that actor; the remnant of the shadow of an enigma, the warrior once swallowed by the dream. You will work with the phenomena that present themselves. You will use what is put before you.
Doors open as you pass. Impediments dissolve. Your head cracks like a seed— whose chromosomes go crazy. Junk DNA becomes an audio-book, a spiral memory theatre, a see-through encyclopedia whose symbols you can read. It does not appear that your memory is native to the Earth. Your arms reach for the land of no return—where a radioactive treasure blossoms. Omens bounce. Empires fall up. Your heart is in your mouth. A breeze harvests you.
If you cooperate with the instructions that the three fates have embedded in the dream, it is possible that you may actually have fewer choices. Paradoxically, you may also experience a greater wealth of opportunities. Freedom becomes less of a burden in becoming less rational and more intuitive; action becomes an aspect of attention. Knowledge roars like a recombinant species. An instruction manual on ecstatic death appears, a bit wrinkled from the flood, perhaps, but just lying on one’s doorstep and waiting to be picked up—as if we and not death had all along been the problem!
Water fuels the broadcast of the social hallucination. Boundaries are plastic. Voices interpenetrate. Faces serve as cues to prompt the interest of the dead, who, for the past 12,000 years, have had better things to do.
“Hey, I know him,” one exclaims, “that is Argos Panoptes, of the 360 degree vision, who Hermes—that delinquent—had once hypnotized with his music, then beheaded!” Once, the world was much smaller than it is today—about the same size as an eye—while the beings who inhabited it were almost infinitely large. Sex is happy to interpret the most abstruse of symbols. As you exit the labyrinth, light towers to the sky. You are right at home. The hand of synchronicty throws gifts across your path.
(Illustration: Rene Magritte)