tag: Dreams

Jul 2007

I dreamt I argued with myself

“I’m in a bit of turmoil at the moment.”
– Turmoil?
“Yeah… teetering on the edge of full-blown despair, in fact.”
– Hmmm. Nasty place to be teetering. I’ll bet it’s that bloody peak oil again, isn’t it?
“No. Well, not really. It’s more general than that. I’ve been thinking about some of the challenges we face in order to ensure that the future isn’t an extremely unpleasant place for us and our children to live…”
– Sorry, I’ve got to butt in there.
“Why? What did I say?”
– Just that the future might be an unpleasant place to live. The future isn’t a place; it’s a time. And even if you want to get all metaphorical about it, who was it pointed out that we don’t just ‘arrive’ at the future, we ‘build’ it?
“Tim Leary, I think”.
– Well there you go then. Nobody does metaphor like acid-heads.
“Actually, that’s a big part of the problem.”
– What? The ability of LSD to provide a metaphorical perspective to things?
“No! And stop trying to deliberately derail me. It’s the very fact that the future will indeed be a product of modern man. I’m just not sure I trust us to do a good job. In fact, worse than that, I’m starting to think our hands are tied. That the foundations have already been laid, and the job’s a bad one.”
– Jeez, I’m sorry I brought up the building metaphor now.
“Fair enough. To be honest, I usually use the ‘bus heading over the cliff’ image.”
– Ah, but of course. It’s a classic.
“Indeed. Here’s my thing though… I’m starting to get the feeling that when it comes to those big challenges; resource depletion, climate change, biodiversity collapse; that the bus is already in the air. We haven’t hit the ground yet, but attempting to slam on the brakes has become a singularly pointless exercise. May as well convince all the passengers to flap their arms for all the good it’ll do.”
– So what are you saying? We should keep taking those 99cent flights to Las Palmas while we can? Seriously man, if you tell me I’m in that bus waiting to hit the ground, then I’m going to party hard with the few minutes left to me.
“Well, it’s entirely up to you. I’d be lying if I said I honestly believed it’d have a measurable impact should you decide never to fly again. Peak oil is going to stop all that within fifteen years anyway. All of these airport expansions and all that airline investment; it’s the last gasp of a dying industry. And a shocking waste of time, energy and resources given their limited lifespan.”
– So that’s a yes? Let’s all party? I can hardly believe it.
“That’s not what I said and you know it. If we go back to the bus metaphor: We in the industrialised nations all bought our tickets on that bus. And the tickets came with complementary booze and strippers. But we also rounded up most of Africa and large chunks of Asia and stuck them in a badly-ventilated box and tied it to the back of the bus. I guess I just don’t have the stomach for partying when I think about that. But hey, you should enjoy yourself.”
– Miserable bastid.

2 comments  |  Posted in: Announcements

Jul 2007

Er… Nietzsche?

Crappity crap crap fuckity fuck!

Well, I’m back from my interview at Trinity. Many thanks for the good luck wishes (in the comments to the last post) Zoe and Lucas… plus the others who emailed or texted. In the end, however, I fear I may have squandered all those positive vibes. Of course, it’s very easy to exaggerate one’s screw-ups in retrospect. And just because things didn’t go 100% perfectly doesn’t mean they were a disaster. All the same…

Q. So which philosophers are you currently interested in?
A. Er… [jim draws a complete blank… can’t even think of a single philosopher’s name, let alone one he’s currently interested in]… er… [the seconds tick by. For feck’s sake, there’s a copy of Paul Feyerabend’s Against Method in my bag not three feet from where I’m sitting! Yet can I think of a single name? No, I can’t.]… er… Nietzsche?

Or how about…
Q. So describe the basics of Freud’s theory of dreams…
A. Wellll… [once again jim draws a total blank. The words “symbolism” and “displacement” refuse to come to mind, as does the phrase “wish-fulfillment”. So instead there’s two minutes of incoherent nonsense as I try to describe Freud’s theories without recourse to those three terms].

Of course, the moment I stepped out of the interview, my brain kicked in… and as I walked down the flights of stairs and out of the building, I was muttering… Freud saw dreams as being of central importance to psychoanalysis. Initially he viewed dreams as a process of wish-fulfillment undertaken by the unconscious mind. However, because dreams often don’t appear that way, he hypothesized that dreams had both a manifest and a latent content. The manifest content — how the dream is recalled by the dreamer — is often a heavily-disguised or censored version of what the dream is really about. And what the dream is really about is the fulfillment of unsatisfied childhood desires. These desires — often shocking to the conscious mind — are rendered safe by two separate but connected processes; displacement (the association of disturbing emotions with apparently innocuous images) and symbolisation (almost always sexual in nature). Later in his life, however, after working with World War One veterans who had suffered from shellshock (what we’d now term Post-Traumatic Stress), Freud was forced to modify his theory of dreams. His ideas that dreams — almost invariably — referred back to childhood was incompatible with the clinical data he was gathering from the war veterans (whose recurrent nightmares of the trenches were clearly neither wish-fulfillment nor related to childhood events). This eventually led Freud to hypothesize the existence of ‘The Death Instinct’ or Thanatos.

Now, why the hell couldn’t I have said that in the interview? Why did I end up muttering it to startled passers-by instead? Goddamn it!

And what makes it all worse is the fact that the interview wasn’t exactly intimidating in any sense. The professor (Dr. RS) is very amiable, easy company. Formality was kept to a minimum and the whole experience was more like a chat than a classic interview. Albeit, a chat where one of the participants has inexplicably forgotten half his vocabularly and about 90% of what he’s read in the past 6 months.

Still, all I can do now is wait and hope that I’m recalling things as worse than they were. I’ll find out “within a month”. Fingers crossed and all.

3 comments  |  Posted in: Announcements

Mar 2007

A visit from the dead

Did I say a head-cold? I’ve had nothing of the sort, dear reader. I didn’t have the physical strength to make it to the doctor, so never managed to get diagnosed. Nonetheless, I’m pretty certain I had an as-yet undiscovered variant of Ebola that lasts about a week. Either that or a temporary case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or Double-Malaria. Something really nasty anyways.

Well, perhaps not Ebola. All the same, it was no ordinary cold. In all honesty, the last time I can recall being so physically debilitated was when I was struck down with a fever in Brazil and was unable to make the short crawl to the bathroom without passing out at least twice (and that’s not an exaggeration). At least this week I’ve been able to make that journey without losing consciousness. Though it was a close-run thing on a couple of occasions. The weird thing is that it only lasted a few days… on Thursday I figured “well, this is obviously the difference between a cold and a flu”. But influenza lasts a good deal longer than four days. And a head-cold doesn’t send your temperature into the low hundreds, leaving you with full-on delerium and a tendency to pass out without warning. Also, at the risk of grossing you out, dear sensitive reader, I somehow managed to expel my entire body weight in snot and sweat. Which calls a couple of fundamental laws of physics into question.

Sleep Paralysis

And let’s not forget the sleep paralysis. When I was living in Brazil I took an anti-malaria drug called Lariam (for a giggle, check out the ‘side-effects’ section on its Wikipedia entry). I didn’t contract malaria I’m happy to say. Of course, nor did any of my companions, and they weren’t taking the stuff (presumably because they’d read the side-effects). So I can’t really credit the Lariam for protecting me from illness, though I can credit it for several months of seriously messed up nightmares. The most powerful of which was a terrifying instance of sleep paralysis.

I awoke in the middle of the night because — I felt — someone was shaking me… urging me to wake up. I was lying on my back, eyes open, staring into the darkness. But except for my eyes I couldn’t move any part of my body. It was difficult to breathe, and I became more and more terrified as I struggled vainly to move or to cry out. This was no ordinary fear… it came from a place dark and oceanic… a place of madness… and it was utterly overwhelming. Then, as my eyes slowly adjusted to the near pitch black, I became aware of another presence in the room. A small child — a girl of about seven or eight years old — was standing at the foot of my bed. She radiated an indescribable malevolence.

Time seemed to pass very slowly. And I wasn’t quite ‘right’ for several days.

I’d had a similar experience a couple of years earlier in Mexico. But I’d been consuming a lot of visionary plants during the preceeding few days and had — I believe — shifted my consciousness enough to allow me to better take it in my stride. When I explained it to my guide the following morning, he informed me that I’d had subida del muerto… a visit from the dead… an experience not uncommon to those who’d taken a lot of mescaline in a short period of time.

And then a couple of nights ago, it happened again.

This time I can point the finger of blame at neither mescaline nor lariam. This time it was fever-induced, but was no more pleasant for it. I awoke in the early hours of Saturday morning, again with the feeling that someone had shaken me awake. A faint grey twilight filtered through the curtains, indicating it was sometime around dawn. I was staring straight up at the ceiling, still in the grip of delerium, and that dark ocean of terror began to rise up within me just as it had in Brazil. It felt as though someone was pressing down on my chest but thanks to my position and the way the duvet had bunched up around my neck, my field of vision was restricted to a narrow strip of the ceiling. I was convinced that someone (or something) was there, standing next to my bed, leaning on my chest with their full weight. I urged my body to struggle against this pressure, to convulse in some way, but to no avail. A scene from the film The Serpent And The Rainbow, where a character has been ‘zombified’ and is unable to move during his “post-mortem” examination, leapt to my mind and I tried to scream… now overwhelmed with terror. But still I lay there completely immobile.

Once again, time seemed to pass slowly. Though in truth it may have been only a minute or two before I started to cough (thank heavens I’d been too ill to make it to the pharmacy for some cough medicine) which seemed to confer life to my body. I leapt from the bed, forgetting just how feverish and debilitated I was and promptly passed out. I regained consciousness a split second later as I crashed onto my bedside locker knocking over the almost full, but open, two litre bottle of water.

After a few moments of lying on the floor, I managed to pull myself back onto the bed and open the curtains. And there I sat, soaked and freaked out, staring at the gradually brightening sky while my terror subsided.

I hope, dear gentle reader, that you had a more pleasant St. Patrick’s Day.

I received a few emails regarding my last post, wishing me a happy birthday and responding to my ‘cheeky request’. Although my fever has broken, I’m still far from fully recovered. So while right now I’m off to lie on my bed and moan weakly about how I’m dying of ebola; let me first thankyou for your emails, apologise for the delay in getting back to you, and assure you that I shall reply tomorrow once I’ve regained a little more energy. I’m very grateful.

4 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

Feb 2007

Dream haiku

Empty offices
I’m surrounded by signposts
And yet I am lost

3 comments  |  Posted in: Poetry

Jun 2006

The food of love

Ah music. Music music music.

About fifteen or sixteen years ago I was in my first band. We were good. No, really, we were. We weren’t “commercial” in any way but the sound we produced had the ability to transport some of our tiny audience to that sacred place where time stands still. It was in the days before CDRs and mp3s… the days of cassette. And it’s years since the last of those demo tapes disintegrated. Now there’s no record at all of the music we made.

I don’t see that as a great tragedy though. We were never that serious about “recording” and those tapes that did exist failed to capture our sound; our philosophy was about connecting directly with small groups of people, about removing as much of the mediation as possible between the act of playing and the act of listening.

Each performace would begin with Pete – the bassist – creating a deep throbbing drone… the bass was routed through numerous filters and distortion devices until it became an unearthly low growl. Then I’d begin to talk… barely audible over the sound of the bass… I’d describe a vision I had one evening after I spectacularly misjudged the amount of Psilocybe Semilanceata that it’s sensible to consume in one sitting. Or indeed, in 8 or 10 sittings.

After three minutes, the rest of the band would kick in… drums, guitar and keyboard… all improvising around the rhythms of my voice and the bass. Sometime before the 10 minute mark, what we called “the click” would occur. Everything came together. By this point my speech had become a kind of chant; each time different; I’d hit upon a series of short phrases in my little mushroom riff and work them into the music. By the end of 22 minutes the room would be too small for the music it contained… as though the hypnotic throbbing sound had expanded the very space around us. Then, at 23 minutes, Alison (our groupie) would unplug all the plug boards. Amps, instruments, microphones, all would suddenly get shut off and the 20 or 30 strong audience would freak out.

We’d take a five minute break for “refreshment” of various kinds, then play a couple of cover versions, a couple of fairly straight songs of our own, and then repeat the 23 minute jam. All in all we’d play for a little over an hour.

Last night I dreamt I was back there. Every detail, every burst of feedback, everything was exactly as it had been. Except our guitarist was Prince.

Fuck it was good.

4 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

Mar 2006

Hotel people

I’ve probably spent between 18 months and two years living in hotels. So perhaps it’s no surprise they feature so prominently in my dreams.

It’s interesting how the same dream can go through phases…

… the essence of the dream is always the same though I’m sometimes alone, sometimes with a companion. I’m trying to get somewhere – it’s unclear exactly where – while trying to avoid being seen by certain people. I spot the hotel and decide it would be a good place to lay low for a while… you can loiter in a hotel lobby for a long time without drawing attention (usually in a comfy chair), and hotels have dozens of places to hide. In the dream the hotel isn’t quite a safe place, but it’s safer. It’s a place where I’m at a greater advantage.

I spent several months of my early teens living in the Athens Hilton and then later another spell in the Nile Hilton in Cairo. It always felt like there was intrigue in the air… that a James Bond film was just about to unfold at the top of the stairs next to the hotel casino… or perhaps in the rooftop bar… It was a world full of beautiful, self-confident women and successful, powerful men; a world where the most sumptuous luxuries a palate could desire would be demanded on room service as a snack to eat with a movie; a world of swimming pools and tennis courts and important business breakfasts with Jordanian princes and Kuwaiti sheikhs.

For about a year after returning from Brazil I would dream of grand old colonial hotels crumbling and decaying; overrun with amazonian flora and fauna. It was always night-time in those dreams, and the hotel would be bathed in moonlight, seeping through cracks in the ceilings and walls, splashing off a million shards of shattered chandelier. The air hung heavy with the scent of jasmine.

But recently it’s reverted to a slightly less exotic setting. It’s daylight and I’m making my way through the streets of Chicago. I spot the Hyatt Hotel where I spent four months. Trying not to run, because I know that’ll draw attention, I walk through the revolving doors and into the lobby. The lobby is sparsely populated, and the few people who are there are non-threatening. They’re exactly who you’d expect to find in a hotel lobby. They are hotel people. To my right is the news-stand and beyond that a smaller lobby with comfortable booths and relative privacy… straight ahead is the Atrium Café, currently serving lunch… there’s a hushed stillness to the air and my footsteps make no sound as I begin walking through the lobby.

The hotel becomes a carpeted labyrinthe. I walk through it for a long time, down corridors, past gift-shops and restaurants and bars. Up and down rarely used staircases and through dimly lit lobbies past mezzanine coffee shops. Around me the hotel goes about its business. Ignoring me exactly as it should. All the silent hotel people dreaming of sleep and going about their day. And the far off tinkling of a piano can be heard above the muted hum of the hotel soundscape.

I stayed at a hotel just outside Chicago – a place called Rosemont – for 5 or 6 weeks. The project I was working on required collating and analysing data gathered by a dozen or so field engineers. There were four of us living at the hotel. Four separate rooms. Plus another room which we converted to a makeshift office (the result of our analysis would determine whether or not it made sense to set up a permanent office in Chicago). Another two rooms to house the field engineers who each made regular short trips back to “HQ” to be debriefed and receive further instruction.

I would wake in my room. Walk the short distance to the elevator which dropped me off next to the breakfast bar. There I would choose from a menu and buffet containing every breakfast your heart could desire. I would eat with my three colleagues, and at 8am we would walk the short distance from the elevator to our “office room” where we would work until 8pm (with a sandwich ordered in at lunch). Then it would be back to the room to order room-service and watch a pay-per-view movie.

After work the other three would eat together, with a few beers, in the sports bar. I was seen as a little odd for disappearing as soon as work was over. Me… I just couldn’t spend an evening with the same three people I’d had breakfast and lunch and spent the entire day cooped up in a hotel room with. I need a bit more space than that.

And there’s an amazing sense of space to be found in a hotel room. I mean, these rooms in Rosemont were huge (two big bedrooms and a living area; each with big screen TVs; plus a bathroom and small kitchen… that was one room… like a mini-luxury-flat). But I’m not talking about the physical size of the room.

When you get back to your hotel room after a day working, the time you have in that small box belongs to you in a way that time rarely does. And the space around you expands to compensate. All of the essentials of life are provided for, but you’re coccooned from the real world. The real world may as well not exist when you’re in a Hyatt or an Intercon or a Hilton or Marriott. You’re in a castle outside time. You and all the other hotel people.

The dream continues until I emerge from the hotel through a side entrance. I occasionally become lucid or – more often – wake up at this point… leaving the hotel is leaving a dream.

And finally…

I apologise, by the way, for yesterday’s dreadful joke (the George Bush / bird flu thing). I was trying out a system for styling blog entries by category, and came up with the “NewsBite” category. And that dire attempt at comedy was the first thing that came to hand. I can only hope that my category-styles will tart up better content in the future.

14 comments  |  Posted in: Announcements