Thursday, December 9, 2010

'The Importance of Art to the Eternal Soul'

I had another dream last night. Wow, my dream life is becoming more interesting than my waking life. Again, the dream had to do with a play, and although it had all the trappings of an 'actor's nightmare', it was somehow pleasant. I was waiting to go on stage, this time as an actor, and the shirt I was supposed to wear was not in the dressing room. I went out to where the audience was trickling in, and ask this tall bearded man if he had a shirt I could wear for the performance. He said yes and brought me the shirt. As I looked at the dilapidated shirt, and then looked at him, it was clear that although he was going to sacrifice the shirt, he really didn't want to give it up. It had a history. It meant something to him. After careful consideration, I gave him back the shirt and headed back into the dressing room, anxious now about whether I even knew what play I was in, and furthering the anxiety, I contemplated if I even knew what my lines were. What's so interesting about a dream, is that a waking life's brain could not think up such a scenario.

The creation of theatre, or many of the art forms really, are forms that allow us to enter into a dreaming life consciousness while we are awake, and its why when you see a painting or a play, it sends a signal to that place that stirs and binds both worlds. It could be an image you see in a play that you mysteriously recognize, or standing in front of a painting that suddenly moves you deeply, even though you can't explain exactly why. Perhaps this is what a life beyond this one will yield, a blending of both worlds, in a new form, and a new way to travel and navigate both the temporal world and the subconscious world together. I like the thought, one collaborating with the other, or as Townes Van Zandt says in one of his songs, "night into day were a bindin'…"

The other day, sitting in my old AA meeting home group, I realized that in the two and a half years since I had been there, I had radically changed. I think there are moments in life, if one is paying attention, there can be a particular conscious awareness that one has gone somewhere else, that there is a difference in the way everything is perceived and processed. A simple example could be returning to a childhood home and realizing the vast changes that have occurred since it was left behind. The self-consciousness I used to have in this room had gone. Disappeared. The two and a half years of pushing myself through time and place had taken me somewhere else. This was a good revelation, even though I don't know exactly what it means. I suppose the historical nature of the old shirt in my dream that I couldn't wear is significant, because it was someone else's version of history, and even though it was offered, I could not wear it. I think part of this has to do with how performance over an extended period of time can change perception. Especially, I think, if the performance you are rendering has been partially created from dream states of the subconscious. I have spent the last two and half years changing into something and someone else, even though the history of who I am is still there. How often though, the foundation that renders who we are becomes like another person's shirt that we can no longer wear.

I feel better today than I did yesterday, and I knew that I would if I took some action. However, I am glad I experienced yesterday, for I felt like I could articulate in words the feeling of despair and loss. I was glad I was able to write it down, because although its meditation was a bit frightening, I realized that most of it was captured in dream state. I am grateful that although I have these feelings and mode of depression from time to time, (and I'm not completely out of it yet) I'm glad that I don't have to stay there as some do. I was thinking this morning about Sara Kane's play, 'Psychosis, 401', I think that is the name of the play, that 'Stray Cat Theatre' produced a few years ago. Sara Kane was able to articulate her inability to escape her nightmarish state in a waking life, which eventually led her to suicide, within the walls of a mental hospital. If you witnessed this play, it was very clear that she was in a nightmare state in waking life that she could not arrest. Medication could not arrest it. Therapy could not arrest it. She attempted to take her life several times before she finally succeeded. I am of the opinion that although it is an extreme example, the dilemma resides in some flaw in the body, some inability to produce something biologically that can arrest it. I have never seen a play that articulated this psychosis so well.

It is why art is as relevant to mankind as religion, history, and philosophies of all kinds, because contrary to the whimsy it is often characterized as, it may truly be a biological window into the soul through the subconscious, and for me, it makes much more sense to explore it as a way to understand this human state of flesh and spirit we find ourselves in. It is also why science and art bind more with each other than, I think, the dogma of a religion, because it boldly goes to where our deepest fears reside without reservation.

Alcoholics are taught in AA that alcoholism is a progressive disease. However, to me it is easy to formulate the opinion that as the body ages, alcohol, or any other pain altering substance, works differently on the body as the human body deteriorates. I was discussing with my mother last night, that chronic pain, (both emotionally and physically) is arrested for a period while under its chemical interaction with the body. I'm not advocating it use, for it also has its residual effect, but I do understand why someone may choose to remove the pain.

After I had my hip replaced several years ago, and subsequently discovered opiates as a way to arrest the pain I was experiencing, I began to read everything I could about them. I read 'The History of Opium'. I read forums online. I wanted to know why its properties were so powerful, and why we even had 'the opium wars' in our history. So often, as a high school teacher, I would hear people come into school with the anti-drug message. I always heard the terrible effects of drugs and the journey out of their use message, what I heard much less, was the reason people started taking them in the first place. Because they make you feel better. Because they arrest your pain. Because they give you a confidence and energy that didn't exist in you before. Unfortunately, they also work against the natural chemicals in your brain and begin to change it, thus creating a physical dependence. There is so much more to say on this subject, but I need to move on to the rest of my day, perhaps I can explore it further in the future. The reason I went down this particular road, is that the property of opiates also create a change in your subconscious life. Mostly, nightmares that take horror to a new level. Or, in my opinion, subconscious psychosis.

The quote that has been the most helpful for me in understanding depression I have used before. "Depression occurs when fantasy collapses in the face of reality." When we fall in love, the nature of love creates a world that is often full of fantasy. For some reason, the heady endorphins it releases-reinvents dreams, hopes and fantasies, similar to that of a drug. (Drugs work in a similar fashion, they cause the brain to release endorphins as well). Falling in love is a life changing experience, and so its understandable that in its collapse there is most definitely a collapse of that fantasy created while under its power. Perhaps it is the most logical drug for us to use as humans, because it releases the brain's endorphins in a more natural way. But in its collapse, it also bears the sting of its reality, that in its loss, the brain returns to a depressive state, no longer releasing these endorphins from the brain. Thus, a depressive state. (insert real tears here).

I've noticed something as I've grown older, as I've searched for love. Like some of the aforementioned ideas, as the body begins to break down, the bloom of love is more difficult to find and keep. Hell, I'll just keep it simple, "As we age, if a man and woman's craziness isn't compatible, all hell will break loose." I'm still baffled by the confusing demise of my latest attempt at love, and angry at what I assess as the trivial nature of its undoing, but I did learn after a few years that I am capable of finding it, and watering it, and being moved by it. But I've also learned that I am also a little crazy, and to keep love, I will have to find someone whose craziness is compatible with mine. NOTE TO SELF: "Keep crazy thoughts to yourself until there is sufficient trust to reveal them…"


Gerry said...

Hey, Ray, I hope you don't feel like the lone ranger out there, your mother agreed to actually read this blog entry to me and told me if I made any deurrogatory or sarcastic comments I probably would not be able to sit for two weeks, because I would have to have a footanalectomy, do I have to explain that? I liked the part that you said about going back home again, Boulder or wherever that is. Was it Thomas Wolfe who said you can never go home again. And if you go looking for love, you will never find it. You will find sex, lust, whatever, which considering is a pretty damn good alternative. Love will kick you right in the butt. So be careful about who you turn your back on. Looking forward to you coming over to see where your mom's office is. She had to wash the rugs today and she badrapped me about my moldy stinky bathroom. My aim at night when it is dark is not that good. So you have that to look forward to.

Gerry said...

Raymond, I just posted Doc's comment under my google account, so keep that in mind. Sorry.

Gerry said...

I think you are blogging well, son, I really enjoy it when you begin to blog. I think of it as a good sign. Remember our date tomorrow at the park with chairs. Doc is anticipating your visit as you can tell. Be prepared to talk about Charley Foster. said...

I enjoyed those sharp bits of humor coming through. Life is a tumbleweed; keep it rolling.

Chuckh said...

We all share in the state of being human. Of knowing our fate even as we start our journey in life. Theatre is a way to share bits and pieces of our emotional life with others. To relate to our own and others experiences and see it acted out in a concrete forum. Our intellects are tied closely to our emotions, informing our decisions, influencing our tastes. One thing I've noticed is that as age comes upon us, for many people, tolerance for frustration and difficult circumstances decreases and we do not want to deal with difficult problems the way we may have in our youth. A difficult person is avoided. Uncomfortable circumstances are circumvented. This is done through experience. I figured out a long time ago that certain battles, situations and problems were worth avoiding at all costs. I used to take on all challenges head on. I was constantly swimming up stream. But I’ve come to realize many challenges are not worth the effort. Writing, on the other hand has become easier for me, and is similar to the dream state. At times I simply feel like I'm writing down what I'm seeing composed in my head and have very little to do with it, except giving it a nudge here and a nudge there. Creativity can be changed by drugs, but not exclusively. I think depression and emotional exhaustion can be crippling, and can come upon you like a wave. The trick is to recognize the symptoms as they build and to head off the “event” with some sort of intervention.