KING OF THE KILN
Dreamed 11/25/1996 by Chris Wayan
In a radio interview, Fred Alan Wolfe discusses his new book on physics and the soul. Though by "soul" he seems to be mean a sort of god, one universal consciousness, not individual souls, which he calls "selves". He says Chopra and others confuse self and soul, but Wolfe uses the terms so idiosyncratically HE'S confusing. His physics may be solid, I dunno. He talks as if he's the only guy doing this--doesn't even mention Talbot's The Holographic Universe with its model of an even-handed interaction between universe and perceiver, allowing for a solid world with flexible rules, fractional and alternate realities--neither Newton's clock or Buddha's dream. Right or wrong, Talbot's clearer.
Then, just before sleep, I start Tolkien's verse-tale Beren and Luthien. It mimics a medieval chanson de geste, and like them, it feels artificial, just doggerel at first--but the story builds. Heavily annotated with early and alternate versions--fascinating to watch him develop it. From Beren being an elf forced to wash pots in the kitchens of the Prince of the Cats (something I'd dream) it grows into a stunning, primal tale rivaling the Nordic myths it mimics. Despite that mythology's deep patriarchality, Tolkien subverts it. In place of La Belle Dame Sans Merci, or the swooning Lady of Shalott of the Romantics, you have Melian, a hard-headed angel staying with Thingol out of love, and Luthien Tinuviel, who descends into Hell to save her mortal lover. Eurydice saves Orpheus this time...
Tolkien's wavering conceptions, growing through endless emendations and windings--"the story stew" he calls it somewhere--contrasts so vividly with the 'given' quality of my own art born of dreams, where the story's core is firm from the start, since it was lived, not invented. My art is in choosing and ordering experiences, the viewpoint, the medium, the rendering of what's, for me, given: simple biography. I lack Tolkien's freedom to revise--I hadn't fully appreciated before just how much I deal in realism and its constraints. I'm like a landscape or portrait painter. Ironic! Too impatient and unobservant (in waking or dreams) ever to be a photo-realist writer, like the American mainstream--but I'm far more of a realist in my way than Tolkien. He coins and smashes and remolds names and realms and tales with a tangled vagueness that most people'd call "dreamlike."
This word dreamlike makes me see just how un-dreamlike my dreams are. I always think other people are just mis-scribing their dreams--culturally brainwashed, recalling poorly, writing sloppily. I make these excuses to cover the discrepancy between their dream accounts and my dreams. Fred Alan Wolfe's interviewer said he occasionally had lucid dreams "so clear the waking world seemed to be the dream..." as if this were unusual for him. And I nearly ignored that, missed it because the phrase made no sense to me. All my dreams are as clear as waking, and many are clearer.
Did my last sentence make no sense to you? I mean what I said--dreams can be clearer than waking. With a little dreamwork!
I need to start taking other dreamers at their word: many humans really do live in a rigid, simple world whose spell is only broken by drugs or occasional dreams that dissolve it into chaos, NOT into other, equally coherent worlds. They rarely escape their particular time, place, and form. Being trapped like that would sure motivate me to work hard at the details of this life--money, family, power, status, toys. That IS what I see around me, but I attributed it entirely to culture, to capitalism. What if materialists are more like tone-deaf or color-blind people who just happen to be in a majority here? Intellectually I can see that they consider me and even theorists like Wolfe to be the ones with defective senses--no, defective reason, wishful thinking! To believe in other worlds like that, how childish!
No one seems to be researching these profound differences in people's sensory realities.
Is it early training, spiritual predisposition, genetic?
I'm at a college. Though I'm shy, I go to face the intimidating King of the Kiln and his beautiful helper--his daughter, I think. She's so light she's barely embodied--half spirit! If she's air, he's earth: a heavy, grayish, brooding man, frighteningly strong. They're just opening one kiln and preparing to load clay statues into another. There's room for my work if I want to fire it. Of course it may explode... I ask "how dry should it be? I know wet clay will blow, but is there such a thing as too dry?"
"Yes. You can't wait forever to fire your clay. Too dry, and it'll crumble in the kiln."
I go through my mental catalog of clay pieces, and realize they're all dry enough, but many were made without firing in mind--they may have air bubbles, or different clays jammed together, or foreign material inside. I don't think ANY of them would have much chance in the fire.
I dare not risk it. I have to leave them fragile, and turn down the offer of the King of the Kiln.
ONE WEEK LATER
My friend Mark calls to say he's taking a clay sculpture class. But his stuff, and his alone, never seems to get fired. Weird! Echoes my dream.
I say "So why don't you just ask?"
Mark says, "Well... this one guy here has absolute power over what gets fired. He's King of the Kiln. He has really intimidating eyes--I've been scared to ask him, so I just let them sit on the shelf and wait unfired, in limbo..."
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