There’s this game of cat-and-mouse we play with memory. I know I, for one, wake up sometimes after having dreamed the perfect sentence, the perfect combination of words. There’s this mist enveloping my head, this feeling of elation, from which I don’t want to depart but which I will have to destroy soon. Very, very fragile, this ecstasy. So fragile, it comes to me in fragments, not as a full-bodied article.
Light, the destroyer
Before my eyes open for good and light returns to rule over my world, there’s this state of in-betweenness, where things are still happening without a program, and where I find the texts I might be able to write – I find them perfectly formed, perfectly written. Only not on my page, not on my screen. They are there, in me, and yet not exactly there. I encounter them the way I encounter the accidents of my life, and I rejoice at seeing them (or rather feeling them) the way I rejoice at the sight of pregnant newness. Oh my god, I say. Oh my god, I've got it. I've nailed my best one ever. The words and everything – lined up in a beautiful string like beads queuing patiently after one another, everything making sense, everything making more sense than anything else. The thoughts – their hard surfaces and their soft malleability – their fragile being materialized in a state between states. The genial embrace of the muse through the blanket covering me head to toe. The feeling, the good feeling, covering me like a blanket too – I am it.
And then – damn, I wake up. And every time I ask: Why do I have to wake up? Why do I have to ruin this wonderful moment? Wakefulness brings about its own monsters – darker than the monsters of the night, harder – if not impossible – to push away. The stubborn monsters of reality, the menaces of daylight. They come and steal away my best sentences. They eat them up like they were slices of cake. The worst thing about these monsters of daylight is that they steal away my brilliant ideas, with that rapacious gluttony of ravenous ogres.
|Source: Deviant Art|
I find this in a poem by Tomas Tranströmer, and I know he means exactly what I’ve been saying so far.
“A dizzying commedia that is inscribedinside the eyelids’ monastery walls.A sole exemplar. There it is right now!It is, in the morning, altogether erased.The mystery of that great extravagance!Obliteration… As when the tourist is stoppedby suspicious men in uniform –they open his camera, unroll his filmand allow the sun to kill the pictures:so dreams are blackened out by the light of day.”
And they say daylight is good… It may be for plants, but the photosynthesis of thoughts is different. Unlike plants, they grow well in darkness as well as in full light. Maybe better, sometimes.
Tranströmer’s example is one that calls for some thinking.
You think: when there’s no way out for thought, one way will have to be invented. Take the gift of speech away, and you’re left with the gift of telling. Because speaking and telling are not the same thing – no way. The turning of one into the other is not a taken-for-granted metamorphosis. The pronunciation of words does not make the thought apparent. But telling – telling can be achieved without words. You can tell with your hands, with your eyebrows, with the color in your cheeks, with the trembling of Adam’s apple.
And so, the passing of speech into telling requires a threshold of its own. This threshold may be speech’s own progression into meaning, and at the same time its state of uncertainty: the point where it’s not yet clear if what you’re saying will be understood, if it will be made apparent in the form of something told. What is clear, though, is that not everything will pass through. The threshold is not only a passage but also a filter. Like a sieve that allows the water to leave while keeping the solids in place, it is a termination of something and an inception of something else. This is where speech loses its inarticulateness and where it starts to take the forms of meaning – where it becomes articulated.
The threshold. So many good moments died at the threshold between my nights and my days that I’m thinking: isn't it unfair that we depend so much on this state of conscious wakefulness to create things that are mostly irrational? Poetry comes from where reason gives up in embarrassment. Writing in general comes from the same regions, although there must be a secret potion somewhere that transforms writing-in-general into poems. It needs to pierce through all this barrage of reason, this unbearable daylight, in order to get back to where it is possible – to where poetry is not poetry but a dream, an event that hasn't occurred yet but which is about to take place.
At the threshold, there are no certainties. There are the things behind and the things ahead, none of which shine true. Behind and ahead are mere coordinates, not to be relied on. Since the ground is shaking, the only things I am left with are questions. Where is my muse now? Where is her promise to deliver the Idea? Is she hidden? Is she forbidden to cross the threshold? Am I left alone? Should I be worried?
If there’s a muse out there, she must be worried by the threshold, because this is where her mirage becomes apparent, where it is exposed as hallucination.
The situation in which I find myself when I forget this way and try to bring the forgotten back from the recesses of a memory that is not exactly memory (since, as I still believe, dreams come from a region that’s independent from mundane experiences, if often caused by them), this situation in which I try to bring to the surface something that lurked underground, i.e. under the ground of my conscience, is a writing situation. It is a writing situation insofar as it presents precisely the possibility of a recollection; but a recollection that is remembrance in the sense in which putting members together, when a body has been pulled apart, will not create the original body, but something else: something more monstrous, like a mere collection of members. Remembrance is recollection, no doubt.
When I wake up and realize that my words and my thoughts have flown away from me, that they are broken apart, I timidly formulate the hope that writing might be a salvation for me, because I've been taught (by whom? I can’t recall) to think of writing as an aid to memory. But also because (as I've learnt by myself) writing is more likely to be a storage system. If I could use this potential of writing to store, I would never be worried again about my thoughts slipping away. If only.
But as things stand, writing is nigh impossible at that threshold between the conscious state and the state of slumber. When I manage to cross this threshold what I am faced with is a series of sorry recollections. I see improbability and incompleteness when I try to view what’s happening at the threshold. I see my thoughts trying to take shape and failing. I see, therefore, the need for a system of recording; for an archive of sorts.
Writing, as a system of notation, is this rescue I am hoping to get from somewhere. But writing, I need to remind myself, is not a means of producing copies. Writing is not a copy of the thought, of the real, of the World. Writing is creation of worlds, of thought, of realities. So it cannot be the rescue I am hoping for. Even when I take pen and paper immediately after I wake up (the way some psychiatrists advise their patients in order to monitor their flow of dreams and the significance of recurrences), what I write on the paper never sounds complete. It does not have the same weight as the words/the thoughts I encountered in my sleep. Not even when I’m sure that I've put down the exact same words I heard/sensed in my dream, with the same inflection, with the same logical succession.
But can I ever be completely sure? With thoughts, as with texts, certainty is a risky enterprise. They can be anything and nothing at the switch of a button; at the crossing of a threshold.