“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.”
Though indifferent to their desire, the perfect reproduce. Cities land on clouds. At first, most bodies are approximate, more like holograms. Prone to static, they fade in and out. For this reason, there must be more of them all the time. An epileptic bird damns robots to the labyrinth, where they must labor until they rust and fall apart. In the process, they discover that they are able to shed tears, if only for themselves. Next, they go in search of blood. Their new oyster-like use-once-and-throw-away bodies soon provide them with an ocean of the stuff. In time, they learn to put the extra in a bank. Earth’s rulers act at a distance, as mechanics reverse the pull of the great magnet of dissociation, which, for the past 12,000 years, has arranged our actions in its field. YOU ARE NOT WHERE YOU ARE. Unlike me, you do not see with your eyes closed; no, you keep them open, for they show you many things. Only certain of them are true. Coming face to face with your shadow, you tend to jump out of your skin. This is not good for either one of us, and, too often, I have to surgically remove your shadow from my feet.
Like freight trains derailing, the planets screech from their orbits. But who is this standing at the foot of my bed? You have one eye too many, you are brighter than the sun, and your head is far too conical. We had agreed that you would stay in your own world, and I in mine. Your thin 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 conscientiously 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 two halves split into four and then into eight and then into 64. Junk DNA becomes an encyclopedia, whose spiral stairway you are free to wander up and down, and whose volumes, A to Z, can be read from back to front or front to back, or from the middle out, or in no particular order at all. 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. Again, proving the second law of thermodynamics wrong, the empires that were locked inside of an atom fall up, as do the terrible secrets that were coiled in your coccyx. 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. An instruction manual on ecstatic death appears, a bit wrinkled from the floodwater, perhaps, but just lying on your doorstep and waiting to be picked up. As if we were creatures of habit! As if random events were able to diagnose our trauma and to prescribe a course of treatment before we knew that we had been hurt! As if we and not the Deluge had all along been the problem!