Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Dreaminess.


The dreaminess was a response to life's general nastiness, an inner migration.

I read once about how people in solitary confinement taught themselves to survive the ordeal by developing fantasies, one of which was called "the hotel". In order to maintain control of his mind, the prisoner would elaborate the fantasy of being a millionaire hotel owner, imagining everything from the bellboy's buttons to the hotels architecture and the streets around it in fantastic detail.

The dreaminess is involuntary. It's an Apollonian state of mind, about self-removal. It's connected to music. When I got the dreaminess I'd hear music in my mind and then the dreaminess was most powerful the music was apocalyptic, distressing. At other times the music was usually melancholy: Neil Young from "After the Gold Rush", or Joy Division. The films that best capture the dreaminess are "Closely Observed Trains" and "My Own Private Idaho", where the dreaminess is transformed into narcolepsy. The author is probably Celine, perhaps Hamsun.

I remember one summer I had a job in a shop in Edinburgh. The under-manager was an ugly hag from Wester Hailes with a drooping lower lip and hideously pink skin and a penchant for nagging in her plebian accent and I spent the whole three months in the dreaminess, never leaving. I survived by anaesthetising myself totally from the monster.

I remember entering the dreaminess when I was walking to school. The tedium of the walk (twice daily, as I lunched with my mother at home) pushed me into the dreaminess and I began to imagine mysterious underground railways or that I had wings to fly so that I could complete the journey more rapidly. Transport and movement have often been a theme of the dreaminess, perhaps because it is a response to confinement and restriction.

At other times, my childhood experience of the dreaminess involved self-transformations into animals, (usually hybrid animals combining the fierce cats with eagles and sharks) or cavalry officers: beings that expressed unassailable will-power, energy and force, qualities my languid mind so clearly lacked.

I have never spoken to anyone about the dreaminess. When I was a child I imagined it to be commonplace: now I am older I have come to realize that few people ever enter it. It feels like being stoned, or that you are in that suspended state of mind usual after waking from a deep sleep. I developed the dreaminess as an antidote to the extreme tedium and restriction of school (I still feel considerable resentment about how my time was wasted there). It is a sort of respite from pain too. In one way it makes one quite powerful because you are unassailable in the dreaminess. On the other hand, it weakens you because you are prevented from confronting the things tht might permit you to change your life: because the dreaminess is involuntary it can come and prevent you from achieving things, like an unwanted dose of morphine.

For example, the dreaminess prevented me from passing my driving test: I found it so nasty to sit with the boorish instructor (why are so many driving instructors such oafs?) that the dreaminess engulfed me and I would go through the lessons as if asleep.

Of course, these people don't know about the dreaminess and think that by being rude or aggressive they can make you "snap out of it".

Ultimately, the dreaminess is a morbid state, and when the dreaminess has been at its strongest is when I've felt closest to suicide. I don't enter it often now because I am lucky and don't so often have to suffer the ennui and nastiness that seemed to colour the first thirty years of my life.

The photo is a detail of a photo of Chantilly by Frederick H. Evans, from The Chateaux of France, from the Archives of Country Life 1897 - 1939, by Marcus Binney (pub. Mitchell Beazley, London, 1994).

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