Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The View from the Body

Dramatic dreams of public transformation, of railway stations, dreams of being lost in cityscapes, dreams of hospitals.... In my case such dreams always mean the body, more precisely being “lost” in the body. When I dream of hospitals, these are the enormous institutions I remember from my Army days: unending corridors. My consciousness at such times appears at the right scale: the body is a vast domain and I’m a mere individual. But the dream-scale is probably not really exaggerated enough. The consciousness seems to me the size of the point as described in Euclid: it has no dimension at all, it has no size, but to make me see anything at all, the dream provides the narrative of little man in the big world. Such dreams wake me up; in them I’m always headed for some destination I perceive vaguely by general direction; or there is a gargantuan task to be accomplished but always with a pressing deadline. And in nine cases out of ten my own absorption in the task keeps me dreaming whereas the point is to awaken; hence problems arise. The environment begins to look more dangerous, desolate, disorderly—or if I am engaged in an enterprise, things start going wrong, then become worse, and at some point it’s actually too much—and I wake up just to escape all this.

Such dreams are invariably very vivid, the emotions very strong; it takes a while to shake it all off and to let the hormones used to rouse me be absorbed. So I’m still mulling the “lost” feeling or its equivalent, the great melt-down of the Important Project, during breakfast, not quite able to concentrate on the equally vivid images of social meltdown presented to me in the New York Times.

For quite a while now the explanatory narrative that jells out of all this is that awakening from genuinely deep sleep is a kind of return from another dimension. But it is a reluctant return. I really want to stay asleep a little longer. But that’s not what I’m meant to do. If the wondrous scenes do not awaken me with their delight, the dream begins to ratchet up the stimulus by turning that world into a much more frightening display. At last it’s done. I open my eyes. But then I have to drag the emotions, which adhere to the hormonal releases, along with the old body out of bed and down, groping for the light switches as I arrive.

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