It’s Always You

The Beloved is in the Blood. -some Sufi or other

It may be that you have appeared to me in more dreams than any other person, aside from my dead father. It hadn’t happened in some years, and I thought that time was past, till it happened again this morning.

This ‘you’ doesn’t always look the same. What I have identified as ‘you’ is a feeling within me. ‘You’ is a feeling I have. The puzzling thing is why I have associated you, an actual person I briefly knew, with this archetypal other.

You, as a person, rarely ever cross my mind, but unconsciously, within the theater of my dreams, I identify this archetypal other as you. It’s not that I wake up, think “who was that?”, and decide on you. The association is baked into the dream.

Back when I first started writing songs, this ‘you’ was my first muse. It struck me as strange then, because the songs had virtually nothing to do with any relationship we had actually had. I knew I had conflated you somehow with my first love, from fifteen years before. Thinking of you, then, brought me back to her, and that association stuck.

I remember offending you somewhat back then by saying that you struck me as a composite of two other people I had known (the astrologer Demetra George and the singer-songwriter Marta Topferova). You said something to the effect that maybe after living for long enough everybody new always reminds you of someone else. It was an efficient testament to our age difference.

Long story short, back in Rhode Island last year I realized that this dream ‘you’ was an alienated part of myself, a part that had become fully alienated in the wake of my first heartbreak, though the fissure had started years before. The alienation of that ‘part’ was what I think people commonly call a loss of innocence. This innocence isn’t an external measure. The innocence I lost was felt. I lost the feeling that I was innocent. This innocence wasn’t an absence of sexual feeling, but a conviction that this impulse was true and beautiful and good.

Going into my first love I felt this unity. Coming out of it, I didn’t… and I haven’t really since. I came, rather, to identify with Hamlet, and his statement “all men are knaves”. I think it might be fairly said that it’s virtually impossible to live with truth, beauty and goodness unified; and yet can living with them separate really be called “living”? Can’t live with it; can’t “live” without it.

Being an adult, somewhat worldly and quite skeptically minded, I can take what is perhaps a sober view of this fragmentation. It happens to us all, more or less, and dealing with this tragedy is the puzzle we’ve all got to face by the mere fact of our existence. In fact, we have arrived at a cultural moment within which a naive sense of sexual innocence is profoundly critiqued and deprecated.

I’m still an idealist in my dreams, though… and in those dreams ‘you’ represent to me the possibility of recovering the three in one. I’m tempted to call it fucking ridiculous, but it’s probably more ridiculous to presume I am wiser than my dreaming mind.

As to why – to the best of my understanding – you became the symbol of this fragmentation, I will be brief and say that it is one thing to be rejected by someone, and something entirely more serious to reject yourself. This scene in ADAPTATION expresses the matter perfectly:

I felt stupid loving you. I disowned it, because you didn’t see it the same way… and I think that’s why you got stuck in my unconscious, because in adopting your view I alienated myself from my own… and abandoning myself in this way is, as the film above brilliantly details, is the root of creative impotence and grandiosity.

And the prospect of following through on my own creative inspirations is the last dream I have left. I wouldn’t say it’s still standing. It’s more hiding in a swamp, terrified of being found out. But it’s not yet dead. So it seems to me that ‘you’ keep coming back to me in dreams, as the embodiment of that possibility of self-acceptance and creative actualization, because my encounter with you amounted to a sort of flowering of my own self-rejection.

I don’t know that I could have done it any differently, then, but it hardly matters. The abiding question is whether I can do it now.

It sounds simple, particularly as we live in a culture that endlessly encourages us to embrace ourselves, vaguely and in general. The reality, seems to me, is much more complicated and less glamorous. It is built up in – so to speak – a million quiet moments of dedication that no one else is there to notice. My first and final hope is for this dedication.

There’s no need on my side to get a response from you on all or any of this. Please feel free. Perhaps there will be some value in it for you, actual, and perhaps not. I don’t know.

Oh, finally, in my dream this morning, you began to recite to me a story you said I had written to you long ago. It began:

where did noble joe go
but to the bedroom?
by the time he got to the bedroom,
the gun was the most important thing
in his mind

I laughed that I had forgotten all about noble joe, and the euphoria of starting to remember woke me up. To write well, it seems to me, is to be able to bear the light of remembrance without annihilating the dream.

Reflecting on this now, in the light of the above, I think Noble Joe deserves a space on the shelf, with GI Joe, and Average Joe, and John the lover of prostitutes throughout history. Even, a central one.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. William Winslow says:

    Two things occur to me, their applicability to this writing a bit unclear still.
    The first is a memory of you telling me “The person who thinks you are you is the same person who thinks I am me.” There’s that. We both dropped acid together once, or maybe it was hallucinogenic mushrooms. On that journey I had a fuller experience of the unity between us. I took your statement initially as a universal statement rather than a personal one about you and I. However, during this trip I had, I supposed, managed to personalize many impersonal things, and vice versa. I would watch you walking on the beach and wonder, “Am I watching myself from a different vantage? Does he have the same impression about me?” There is a Pink Floyd song about this impression, but it is between strangers rather than friends.

    On a separate acid trip (I have only had maybe half a dozen) I was accompanied by David Wright, and we ended up at his base of operations, a house in which a woman was conjugally involved with two of her roommates at once, and having children with at least one of them. Both men shared parental responsibilities. David was the third male, and told me of pressures to join the harem. At one point I was viewing some hallucinogenic projections on a wall. “It’s trying to tell me something,” I told David. What I saw was a swarm of words, all piled up on top of one another and coming into and out of focus. I felt as if a legible message would arrive if I settled myself enough. I had figured all these words would array themselves more or less as a single page of text which David and I would be able to read. Eventually, a message did come; a single word: “YOU”.

    If the wall was talking to me, the you is myself, of course. This is the first interpretation I had for the word. But over time, I came to regard “You” as a feeling, such as I think you are describing. That is why, when I saw the word, and read your text, I could not assume I was, personally, the you. It would not seem likely that I could fulfill any kind of muse function, judging from whom I take to be your other muses.

    I can say that I feel blessed to have found Beauty, Truth, and Goodness in one person. But that person is myself. That is not to say that I embody the essence of those qualities nor that I do not embody, also, many other things besides. It is not even a feeling about myself so much as a recognition that I am more than I could possibly be aware of, even if I am less than a speck in someone else’s world. I am the very people who never knew me, or knew me falsely, or who will forget about me. They will be thinking, mostly of themselves, just like I did.

    Probably, my perspectives have been shaped by my marriage more than anything. I will not say here that unless you have been married you cannot understand. My marriage is, in so many ways, unlike any I’ve known about. It shares some features common to all or many, of course. Those have also informed me. But what has happened to my partner has transformed me in so many ways. There is a sense in which the search is over, when you get married, for obvious reasons, I suppose. But it is not the case that I find no others attractive or even very compatible with me, and, due to my wife’s injuries, more capable of fulfilling certain things I could name, sex being only one example. Yet I have already met my soul’s mate, despite any apparent incompatibilities, and I deeply know this is so. She, like me, has Beauty, Truth, and Goodness within her, as well as everything else. The everything else is part of the life of those essential qualities. It is not that I would eschew idealism. I relate to the sense of fragmentation and alienation. But I think that, whereas my path has been one of integrating the shards of a thing, you are still seeking the original gemstone: the dreamstone, the dreamsign. But I would be unable to recover any of these shards had I no dreams of the complete and perfect. I would not recognize the pieces as belonging to anything but themselves and this pile of chaos.

  2. Inconsistent Jesus says:

    Thanks for all that, Bill.

    What I meant to convey in the above is that this particular ‘you’ is an identity that I assign, unconsciously, to a state of integration within myself. I had meant, initially in writing, to get at why – I concluded last year – I had made this association. In a nutshell, the ‘you’ above had become the embodiment of my own self-doubt, and an emblem of the integration on the far side of it.

    1. William Winslow says:

      I think you conveyed this rather well. As you know, I can be indulgent sometimes in my own associations. But I did try to relate to what you were writing. It seems to me that if your emblem of integration is identified with your obstructions to the same in some way it can be a bit confusing. But a “you” is someone one is talking to, as opposed to someone one is talking about, according to common usage of the pronoun. To probe into “you” as a third person or object to wonder about might be arouse something curious. In my reading, it was difficult to resist feeling spoken to by this word, and therefore, about, even as I understood it to be more abstract, or potentially more than interpersonal.

  3. Horseman says:

    I am familiar with your tendency toward such indulgence, though I didn’t want to jump to the conclusion that that was what was happening. I’ve spent some time over the last few days clarifying and expanding on the point… hopefully to good effect.

    Anyway, I think the ‘you’ has a general sense of being the other person to whom we look for validation.

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