Two ways to forget a dream: 1) leave it alone and let it evaporate naturally; 2) misremember it with narrative coherence.
Equally inhuman: total artificiality and pure naturalness.
At dawn my lover comes to me
And tells me of her dreams
With no attempts to shovel the glimpse
Into the ditch of what each one means
At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what’s true
And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden
– Bob Dylan
Dreams, children’s stories, Greek myths (pre-Bullfinch, pre-Hamilton, pre-Disney), raw observations of well-executed research — this is empirical truth. The minute understanding enters the picture — any concept, theory, narrative, even relevance or quantification — (any kind of coherence apart from the fact that these were all experienced by a single consciousness) — the empirical truth is diluted with interpretation.
Empirical purity is lost. Good riddance, too.
Understanding digests raw empirical fact and absorbs it into the body of meaning.
You want pure empirical truth? Why? Search your biography for reasons. What for you makes the empirical chaos superior to that which hovers over that-which-is, which articulates distinctions and narrates a continuous story? Are you sure you are as empirical as you think?
Here’s my opinion: most of us reject grand narratives (or concepts), not because we are against narratives (or concepts) per se, but because the narrative (which is an expression of our conceptual system) in which we are enmeshed requires us to repel truths which feel suspiciously relevant and meaningful, and systematically excludes them from the general body of meaning, our culture. It is a principled self-denial, a postmodern geek’s asceticism.
Freedom from the dominant narrative and conceptual framework is the means to a better narrative and conceptual framework, one where we have a place. We need a place where we have the words we need say and hear, a place where we can do our work and where we can rest.
Imprisonment, liberation, building, dwelling… then realizing our dwelling has degraded to imprisonment… that’s the cycle of culture.
We humans keep reinventing what a human is. We’re at least as cultural as we are biological. The line between the cultural and the biological is a fine one. The line is a narrated one.
In addition to our physical “homeless problem” I believe we have a spiritual homeless problem. How many of us have found situations where we are permitted to do our own kind of service for others, and are valued for it?
Think about the people you love. How often is there agreement between one’s own sense of value and the collective’s sense of one’s value? Isn’t it more common that the collective has no use for what one wants to give, or is even hostile to accepting it?
One is enslaved or marginalized.
Imagine a world where people actively value what you need to offer, what you feel born to offer.
Has it ever occurred to you that culture changes because it produces new kinds of people, the people it needs next, and it is up to those new people to effect change, to make a place in the world for themselves?
“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” *
* Note added Easter Sunday April 16, 2017 / Pesach VI, 20th of Nisan, 5777:
On “Son of Man”: A child of humanity never has a place to lay her head because she is born to make a new place for new heads to lie! Sacred galut. A child of humanity — a new humanity produced by humanity, by culture — by a particular culture, that essentially progressive and eternally productive Jewish culture — is born and reborn. Judaism produces yet one more new kind of Jew, one particularly beautiful link in a long chain of generating generations. How can anyone not want to become part of such a tradition — a project of human self-reinvention?