Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Night-Train To Nowhere

It’s tough enough falling asleep these days and then when you do the night-train comes along and transports you to unforgiving destinations.

Here you are again in a large building with many rooms set in the surround of a grassed area. There are lots of people milling about. It's not a bad place but not a good one either, because you haven’t packed yet and the bus is waiting to get you to the station or airport. Where is the damn bus or did you get here by car and where did you park it? You’ve lost track of time or run out of money.

This is where you find, or rather lose yourself, about three times a month between midnight and five. The place is your unconscious, your Oz, and you seem to be anxious to get to back to Kansas.

Jung tells us to make the unconscious conscious and honor it. The dream is a hidden door which opens to that cosmic night beyond the reach of our ego. He would probably say that all those other people are also yourself. The fact that your dream is recurrent must be telling you something you need to tend to.

It has never occurred to you to stay put. The dream always starts with your leaving as if you had walked into your movie with ten minutes left. You have no sense of what preceded this anxiety state but you’re not escaping over the wall or running for your life. In fact you may be running away from your life.

I wish I had better access to my imagination in the waking hours. Wallace Stevens wrote about reality being the necessary angel. His poetry was a seemingly inexhaustible excursion into his imaginative life. But flights of fancy require grounding and his was at his desk at the Hartford Insurance Co. where he worked for decades and refused to leave even when offered positions in academia.

Reality begs for sorties into that vast unknown, whether we like it or not.  It is as if a forbidden rendezvous between the two happens nocturnally or otherwise. How we reconcile their ongoing dynamic can be a lifelong struggle or joy, a wrestling match down on the mat or a slow dance.

In his 15-part series currently being shown on TCM, The Story of Film…an Odyssey, Mark Cousins argues that movies of the 30s while escapist on the surface often ended with a soft landing back to the reality outside the theater. Scarlett O’Hara ultimately faced the death and destruction of the Civil War even if by that time Rhett didn’t give a damn. Gary Cooper gulped and accepted Lou Gehrig disease and Jimmy Stewart learned that Mr. Smith cannot go to Washington and remain innocent.

The hope is that by writing this I can own my dreamt place, then mosey around the corridors scribbling graffiti, read the shadows, maybe tunnel the basement floor under the moat of lawn across to the woods, climb a tree and release the stars. Then turn my back on the waiting vehicle and find a return on some gossamer thread of my own making.

Maybe the night-train doesn’t stop there anymore. There is no arrival and no clock. No need for a train or plane to get back. You’re just there and then you’re not.

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