Monday, January 25, 2010

to Dream, perchance . . .

What do you suppose a dream is? Whatever the neurologists will eventually say - about cataloging and housecleaning and random constructs - memory is always a part of it. I'll never be certain that the literary takes on the mind will not prevail, in the end, over the hardware metaphors. Go Freud (misogynist pig)! Go Shakespeare (rehabilitated neologist)! Go Bills (yeah, right)! Go revisionism!

Dreams are hard to remember on waking, sure, but inside of them there is also a continual lag between whatever the problem was that your mind was working out and the working out of it which makes the dreams, when remembered, so surprising for their structure. As if you were some kind of genius beyond your own ability to know. Who makes this shit up when you're asleep? You know you could never do it waking.

The problem is trivialized, I'm saying, if you just suppose that your mind threw up structures based on what has been on it, your mind, and then promptly forgot them so that you could watch the construct of your brain, having suspended judgment for that time. As if you are outside the mind of its creator. Like being able to watch your own movie and be taken in by it even though you're its producer. Looking past the seams which you yourself stitched.

My dream, which I do remember because of unusual full bladder issues, likely related to staying up past my bedtime to watch some football game on TV; my dream was disturbing. I won't bore you with its details, but it did remind me to steel myself against harm to myself that I must bear in preference to harm to my children. That thing which George Orwell in his 1984 supposed can be tortured out of us by finding the one terror we can never, willingly, face. The one we would betray anyone to avoid. It would seem to be a good idea to face them all ahead of time, rather than to be caught in a lie, no? At least face them in your (waking?) dreams.

I must have had manonpause (sorry "andropause" more properly) on my mind, and resurrection, having read of Mel Gibson's rehabilitation all over again for playing roles of a father's rage at his child's injury. Reading of his certainty that the living Christ did resurrect, and him citing counts of eyewitnesses. As if he was there. His movie version doesn't convince me of anything other than of man's inhumanity to man. He seems addicted to violence.

So I was distracted the entire evening; one screen showing the football game - cheering for New Orleans since I don't know football but it seemed like a resurrection of sorts. After Katrina, as if there's such a thing as home team anymore. And one screen showing Extreme Home Makeover Buffalo Edition. Which, even excepting the excuse that I just moved back here, I should really know about. It's right around the corner from me. And just because I don't watch TV . . .

Well, the truth is I'm just plain cynical about such lottery celebrations. Like Slumdog and all the Hollywood movies, they just make you focus on your dreams (sic) and not on reality. As if there will be some sky ranger who drops into your life to take care of all your worries, and send you to Disney Land when he does it.

But there was Buffalo, turning out in volunteer hoards, to help a black community activist who wasn't even born here. Who has an accent still. And the show couldn't contain their project - with so many volunteers - to just that one house, so they spruced up the entire neighborhood.

Sure, I was in transition when all this was happening, and then I was in the hospital, being informed about the West Side by my roommate, one of 13 or 14 Puerto Ricans who grew up in one family there. I learned from his wife how to improve my take on beans and rice. But it's still a blind spot, the West Side on whose border's this side I barely live. It's still like a dream I can't recall. That blind spot I have to remind myself to include in my breath-restoring peregrinations. I generally walk the other way, where all the cool people stroll. Coming in from the suburbs.

Over there beyond Urban Roots. Where they make gardens of the empty lots, and where our white-speaking black mayor invests a lot of hope. I should get over myself already and cheer right along with the crowds.

And yet I hope, instead, to take point for the city as interpreter of China. That place which my daughter calmly points out, to her world which I can glimpse from Facebook, steamrollers Tibet. Bringing civilization to the world, pretty much the way that we have always done under the banner of Christ, or maybe just by Yankee ingenuity. We steamroller anything in the way of what we mean by progress. But we do it by corporate proxy, and with a winning smile.

As an adult and a realist, I understand that if these two great world superpowers posture themselves against one another, each holier than thou, then we're all screwed; and never mind the native riches that are being destroyed along with species on a daily basis, east and west. The Moslem v. Christians sideshow will fall into the backdrop. Foregrounded will be where the real money's at. Oil, after all, is limited. After a while the earth is just skin and bones. We're gearing up for that, right?

Sincerity meets formalism is how I see it. We Americans disingenuous in our insistence that here we enable the freest possible flow of information. Never mind that Verizon can divert that flow for government snooping, on illegal orders, and then get a pass for following them. Never mind that it can prove nearly impossible to get beneath various conspiracy theories to find some actual sincere speech underneath them. Nevermind that you would be a fool to trust even your spouse these days. Especially your spouse.

The Chinese put an especially formal face on things, keeping their own multi-part disputes under wraps until they settle on a public posture. House-imprisoning anyone high up who exposes the inner debates to the outer crowd. Chopping off heads unceremoniously, from those not high enough up to make any difference, but loud enough to be noticed. Harvesting their organs for the public good, or so some conspiracy theories say. Or have they already sunk beneath the noise, and I'm just out of touch?

They eat dogs over there (and the reason we find our dogs so lovable is because we ate all the ugly ones in our past, breeding the kind of irresistible quality which assures their survival as man's best friend). The Chinese were the ones who bred the really exotic ones for our approval.

My niece casually informs me, along with an audience of mostly elderly and extremely well-educated church goers, that in Ghana, where she'd spent two years with the Peace Corps, they don't name their children until a week has passed. In accommodation to the ravages of infant mortality, at least historically.

And my little Peanut was named instantly on violent exit from her wombspace. Two months early, as if there was no chance that the technology avialable wouldn't save her. (It wasn't the technology so much as the doctor's missed diagnosis which shocked the surfactin into informing her lungs while nearly killing her mother).

But we would charge murder against abortionists who understand that a child unloved is a far worse tragedy than one stopped in its gestation. I watched my daughter speaking reasonably up on YouTube about Tibet, as gangs of Chinese intellectuals marched out in protest against this affront to what they knew for certain. Much like fundamentalist capitalists do if I suggest that we don't have real freedom of real information either.

We take an opposite tack with our intellectuals. We suffuse them with left-wing pedagogy, confident that they will always prefer the pretty things after they graduate. Whose is the greater disinformation mill? I truly don't and can't know. I can only know that these two great powers must learn to understand and respect one another, and that only by doing so will the native life of the planet have any chance at all. We won't survive another cold war. The great firewall dividing the Huns from civilization is all made of cultural miscues. And the Huns were really really violent and nasty and brutish.

China sounds dreadful until you consider our prisonhouses full of despair, overrepresented by blacks and others who required drugs more powerful than those on prescription insurance subsidy to feel that their days are worthwhile. Until you consider how we destroy the Lindy Englands of our world, and give the powerful a pass too.

I'm no big fan of the NPR style assumption that if you simply air the left and the right, the balance will be found in the middle. Sometimes there really isn't any truth at all on one side or the other. Sometimes you have to catch Democracy Now! to be reassured the world hasn't all gone crazy (I'm sure Fox TV has a point or two, now and then).

Well, the Saints won in overtime. I liked that. Favre was inspiring too, for taking all those hits just like Mel Gibson would, and even going so far as to congratulate his opposition. And the folks of Buffalo showed the world once again that we will turn your cynicism right into activism, the same way we championed Scotty Norwood for his wide right. Although we're pretty beaten down. We seem to get up again. This City of no Illusions.

And the Chinese have good reason to be nervous about messianic cults resulting from contact with the West. They're pretty sure they don't want another cult of personality. They've suffered a few too many. As with any good marriage, by learning from each other, we can become our better selves. Bring it on.

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