Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dreaming My Star

Note to visitors:  This post is about dreaming and my anniversary.

I like the word "consideration.”  My dictionary says it derives from Latin (com-, with, + sidus, a star), and it offers definitions such as "meditation" and "careful thought and attention.”  I don't know how the meaning of with-a-star transformed into consideration, but were I an ancient earth-bound Roman beholding a star, I think I'd likely be filled with imaginative speculation.  Mental states such as "pondering" and "musing" come to mind.

Presumably we "consider" things not known or obvious.  We don't as a rule consider meatloaf.  Thus our ancient star-smitten Roman would experience literal and cognitive distance between observing self and observed object.  Necessarily, because of a star's faraway unknownness.  And his consideration might involve patience and humility on account of that distance –– something like "What's this, then?" instead of "I know you.”  Rather than coursing full-bore towards Truth, he would be musing in an aura of compelling mystery.

In any event, that is how I prefer to think about the process of considering something.

Now some thoughts, like stars, are worthy of consideration.  Here is one of them:

     He was part of my dream, of course –– but then I was part of
     his dream, too!

     (Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass [1871], p. 126)

Interesting thought, this.  I want to sit with it a while until meanings settle: consider it.  I don't know much about Through the Looking-Glass or Lewis Carroll, but then I don't know much about the galaxy either. Even so, this quote twinkles, gets me wondering about the experience of finding oneself attracted to compelling objects.

What's going on when we are considering?  Why do some things "grab” us, much like a stars's pull on an ancient Roman.  Especially when those things are more human-scale than stars, mountains, vistas; not inherently majestic, that is.  Certain things –– people, objects, activities –– strike us but, as with stars, there is mystery and ambiguity.  I can't tell you with 100% accuracy, say, why I love my wife or how her being firms up my being; similarly, with music I like or art or other interests. Yet my life is bound up in the aura of this person and these interests. 

That said, and while I lack specifics, I do have a framework for knowing what's going on.  It is not my own but borrowed from psychoanalyst, Christopher Bollas.  It is this: we move through our lives being grabbed by certain things, star-struck so to speak.  More importantly, the things that strike us also express us, give outer shape to the indistinct, shifting muddle of our inner lives.  Huh?  What "indistinct, shifting muddle”?

Helen Vendler, cited by Bollas (1992), puts it this way:

     Something –– which we could call ruminativeness, speculation,
     a humming commentary –– is going on unnoticed in us always,
     and is the seed-bed of creation... .

Vendler’s quote appears (p. 47) in Bollas’s book, Being a Character: Psychoanalysis and Self Experience (1992).  Bollas extends this "humming commentary":

     Our inner world, the place of psychic reality, is inevitably
     less coherent than our representations of it, a moving medley
     of part thoughts, incomplete visualizations, fragments of
     dialogue, recollections, unremembered active presences,
     sexual states, anticipations, urges, unknown yet present
     needs, vague intentions, ephemeral mental lucidities, unlived
     partial actions... .
     (Ibid, p. 47)

The notion here is that what grabs us does so because it is a suitable vessel for something unclear and unformulated in our mental life.
Some things interest us, hold our attention, some don't.  Only certain people, objects, activities constellate for us in significant ways.  We all live in our own universes.

Bollas likens this process to dreaming.  In dreams, the mind conjures images and stories that give form to something less distinct, that shape up the jumble.  In everyday life, the mind is drawn to people, objects, activities that house and express (if imprecisely) inner psychic leanings.  The process is invisible.  We see the effects of our dreaming, the dream image, but not the dreaming itself.  We see the effects of the "moving medley," the "humming commentary" of inner life –– in our social, intellectual, artistic concerns –– we don't see the movements themselves.

Bollas uses an exact analogy to make this point.  He is trying to arrive at the deepest, subjective nature of a friend, by examining objects in his friend's room.  Then he notes:

     We are, however, imagining the room without its inhabitant.
     What if we could watch this person move about his room,
     picking up objects, moving them about, giving form, as it were,
     to his person?  To make this imagining sharper, throwing into
     relief the point I wish to make, let us think of this person’s idiom
     by conceiving him to be a ghost.  We are in the room, then, with
     a ghost, whom we can see only as objects are stirred or moved
     around the room.  By seeing the objects move, rather like
     observing the wind by watching the moving trees, we would, in
     effect, be watching his personal effect as he passed through his
     life, and theoretically, we could film subjectivities' enacted
     dissemination by catching the movement of objects over time.
     (Ibid, p. 55)

And somewhat later:

     Being a character means that one is a spirit, that one conveys
     something in one’s being which is barely identifiable as it moves
     through objects to create personal effects, but which is more
     deeply graspable when one's spirit moves through the mental life
     of the other, to leave its trace.
     (Ibid, p. 63)

We are haunted by ourselves, inspirited, perhaps sleepwalking –– and we glean something of our nature through our involvement with the stars by whom we are struck and towards whom we gravitate.

This is a headful of ideas.  Where does it lead?  In part, to this: we are not clear-eyed navigators sailing known waters, we are starry-eyed dreamers in poorly charted seas.  Also, in part and unexpectedly, to this: it comes to me that, without knowing it, I have been musing about my wife's and my 29th wedding anniversary.

My Wife (You)
I believe Lewis Carroll's quote sparked interest not simply because of intrinsic properties but because it fit well as a container for my own "part thoughts" and "incomplete visualizations."  I think my "spirit" subliminally registered a rightness of fit.  Rather like Bollas's "moving tree," the quote's twinkling quality was an "effect" of my "barely identifiable" probing.  And maybe this is all quite normal.  If I hear a new song and feel instantly drawn to it, chances are there is an "unnoticed" scanning at play that has "moved through" the song, finding itself at home.  A kind of invisible spirit-guide.

As to that 29th wedding anniversary, I will appropriate Lewis Carroll's thought.  Pronouns and tenses have been changed:
My Photo
Her Husband (Me)
     You are part of my dream, of
     course –– but then I am part of
     your dream, too!

Here's to you, friend.  It's a long time we're in this thing.  Good on us!


christopher bollas said...

It may sound self serving in that Kit's blog is in part about my work but I must say having read a heck of a lot of blogs by now, this is the most intelligent one I have come across. It is a shame, however, that a blog does blog out a person's identity so the list of Kit's preferences is not akin to finding the ghost who moves through the object world but more like reading a phone book. That said, this person is a deep thinking self, and I reckon he is worth reading in the future.

Christopher Bollas

Kit said...

I am deeply appreciative of Christopher Bollas's comment.

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