Posts Tagged ‘dreams’

THE EVENINGS, by Gerard Reve, 1947.
Published by the excellent Pushkin Press, in its first English translation, by Sam Garrett, 2016

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I am currently reading The Evenings, by Gerard Reve (Gerard Kornelius van het Reve, 1923 to 2006).

This is an early, outsider-novel, and a classic:
– ‘a cornerstone… of modern European literature…’  (Tim Parks)
– ‘The funniest, most exhilarating book about boredom ever written….’ (Herman Koch)

And that last comment captures my problem.
The novel is set in 1946, presumably in Amsterdam. There is no TV, no record player or records; there is  a radio, yes, that plays classical, a bit of jazz, some Latin American.
Of course no internet, iphones….
And everyone is bored out their heads.

Note that, ye critics of today’s youth.

And so the chief character, 26 year old Frits van Egters, entertains himself by needling everybody. This ‘entertainment’ takes over, to increasing degrees.
At first I had the distinct impressions of Billy Liar, by Alan Sillitoe, but no.

And so I am struggling with it; struggling to keep up the interest.
Because…. ‘I have seen the best minds of my generation…’.
Exactly.
The date, see: 1946.
The best minds of the generation before were still numbed by years of Nazi occupation, the round-ups, the transports. The best engineers, mechanics, workers, had been trucked off for the German war effort. They returned home morally ruined, physically malnourished, spiritually dead.

And Frit’s generation were beginning to stir, wake, shake themselves, look around. And what did they see?
‘He looked at her’ (his mother), ‘:  the thin face, the grey hair, the slight growth of hair around the mouth and chin, the arms that never stopped moving. “Help us,” he thought.

 – Is it me, or is it always the woman is the easy target? That she must maintain a static, constant, role, appearance, demeanor, for the narrator/character.
Woman as a distant, uncomprehended being; woman as an inhabitant of the same world, also – but surely she cannot feel what we chaps feel, how we feel. She goes on doing that house stuff as though nothing else mattered, or had happened.
Only, Frits wakes one night, to sounds in his parent’s room. He entered, to find his mother shaking and sobbing. His father, isolated in his own wrecked existence, excuses it as one her nervous attacks.
There is an unwritten novel in that, certainly. In her side of the story.

Frits looked around his world, and saw people holding onto the known and trusted traditions, but they now seemed little more than threadbare habits:
‘”Who’d like a pickled herring?…”, “”No, please, no.” But he does.
‘“… there’s a real Middenweg wind blowing…” , “…Please don’t use terms unfamiliar to the uninitiated.”

The book starts off well, with a sly, dry, ironic humour as Frits woke early one Sunday morning. Early: good, despite the bad dreams, but time to make something of the day. Then we see him every few minutes clock-checking, and the opportunities flounder, die, as the day wears on.

The story is set in late December. Even the Winter was a disappointment: the ice on the canal melted early; there was no real snow; plenty of drizzle, yes, but nothing with any energy or excitement to it.
The intention was there, but it is as though the life had been drained out of people, the world, even; the spark to ignite a creative fire, dampened.

‘“Tom ta tom tom, tom ta tom,” Frits sang to himself, “nothing ‘s good, but everything’s fine.”
– There’s definitely a modernist technique at work here. There is certainly an echo of Doblin’s ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’, in the use of vernacular, in the internal monologues, thesinging.

*

The novel is structured on ten evenings, of increasing frustration with a fruitless life, and world. Each chapter charts the route taken by the tacking and manouvering of a clumsy, mostly empty, boat.

No, the novel is a not a ‘Ulysses’; it may share some of the self-absorption of Joyce’s classic, but the scale and scaffolding are pointedly small-scale.
After the previous period’s vacuous claims to new world orders, new worlds, great futures, this is a pointedly and purposely humdrum conception of humanity.
When you build, you must build from proper materials: people as they are – and not cloud cities, a reich, built from vacuous guff shored up with people’s real blood, guts, lives.

We see Frits attend the school re-union; his peers were trying to adopt the old role of getting on, making something of themselves. Frits, perversely, does not.  It is not as definite as that, or as a much a stance. His life has no heroic gestures, statements, no focussed disavowal of old values. No, he rumbles on in a diffuse scepticism.

And it is here where the book’s strength lies.
It does not succumb to cliche, or stereotype. Frits is disagreeable, but not hateful. The story charts  the hinterland that is his life: he does not veer far from the main path, and certainly not off into the dubious byways, side roads, the district beyond the tracks.

The immediately pre-War writers grouped under the banner of Forum, were preoccupied with the relationship of man to society. The War changed all that; the War brought the Nazi regime’s Kultuurkamer and its prescription of everything other than National Socialist writing.
Reve’s book was the first one of impact to be published in that aftermath.

Reinder P Meijer, in his’ Literature of the Low Countries’ (Stanley Thornes (Publishers) Ltd, 1978) writes, ‘The dreariness of the subject matter recalls the work of the nineteenth-century naturalists, of whom Van de Reve may be regarded as a descendant.’
The directness of Gerard Reve’s depiction, though, is the main factor: ‘Van het Reve offers no explanations, no comments, no psychological key.’ (: Reinder P Meijer).
Gerard Reve also employs ornate speech – the interactions between Frits and older brother Joop, and associates, reads – as his response to the use of vernacular, above, shows – as an arch, ornate, edging-towards-parody of earlier high-flown literary styles.

It is not Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ the book shares kinship with, but perhaps Sartre’s ‘La Nausee’. They both explore the ennui. Sartre’s book has the definite stance, raison, backstory even, in the opus of Being and Nothingness. Reve eschews those grand gestures, definitions, concepts, in favour of the individual vision.
Where Sartre argues for the individualistic response, Reve gives it.

*

Gerard Reve hit the headlines again with his 1970’s quartet of books ‘Dear Boys,’ ‘Sweet Life,’ ‘I Loved Him,’ and ‘A Circus Boy,’ where he explores gay sex, with a brutal edge. It is the style, also, that grabbed attention. The books are written with a blend of fact and fiction, in the form of written letters, and fantasy, but not the standard epistolary format.  Reinders P Meije again: the books stand out because of their ‘firm structure and … skillful way(s) of preserving a precarious balance between reality and the fairy-tale elements… introduced in his later novels…’.

But I’m still stuck.

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1

Nights as a child being put to bed before ready – summer, the light nights. A blanket over the window to block out the light.

Then to come awake, find yourself up near the ceiling: a wholly visual experience, you feared for your eyes when the ceiling drew near.

Those nights would be the night-mare nights.

In late teens reading books on Astral Projection. So much was going on those years, though, you just had not the time to put into it. So much to do outside, in those bright nights.

Later to come down with an illness, so try to Heal Thyself. A ready predilection for that type of activity, so use that as a vehicle.

Dig out those books again. Then to discover Robert Monroe’s trilogy ‘Journey Out of the Body’, 1971; ‘Far Journeys’, 1985; ‘Ultimate Journey’, 1994. Devour those.

He wrote one account of travelling across the space of one particular landscape when he encountered a huge shape stationary in the sky. He couldn’t go under it; he could not go around it. It stopped him at every point. For people who remember dreams, this is one they too will remember. It seemed Monroe had tapped into something most knew of in some way.

Read all the books, and it begins to pay off. You have increasingly successful experiences.

The basic activity is to lie/sit and try to quieten the mind to a sleep level, but also to stay alert. The aim is to allow one to sink to the borderline of sleep where the body either falls completely asleep, or can disengage the… spirit or whatever, where the alertness is anchored. This can then rise out of the body and … have adventures, I guess.

You’re after knowledge, to know how to up life levels, get better, become full again.

On one occasion lying on a settee when a space opened above, a hole. In that space was a large yellow room. Faces appeared and looked down, some were smiling, some laughing. Some were gesturing to come up to them. You’re not perturbed by this, but declined; it was far too busy and noisy. You needed somewhere quiet to concentrate on getting the technique right, on learning how to do it, and to get control.

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To read and read. Then one night it happened: woke up and found yourself in the vibration state – between sleep and alertness, a general overall vague fuzzy feeling.

The key to all is remain calm. The books recommend you dip in and out a few times to become familiar with the feeling. You try this but it’s tiring. So you got up – out of yourself.

The dark bedroom was only a little less dark; it was also recommended you look back on yourself. So you do, and, as it says in the books, seeing yourself in bed is not very interesting – just as easily have been a fold in the bedcovers.

Ok, a low state of projection; get yourself to move, but it’s slow. Get out of the room if you’re to do anything.

The door’s shut. Ok, if you concentrated, and kept that concentration you would slide through. But lost concentration half way. The door panel became like rubber around you; you pushed and it bent with you. A massive shove. But it cost too much energy, and although you’re through you lost it, remember nothing else.

2

This was great start, surely!

Shortly after though you lose all interest, become disenchanted. Gave the books away.

You’d kept a dream diary – stuck to it, writing everything down. After a while when dreaming you have more control, initiate events, move more. Yes, but too much was going on outside, it was a big world.

Do you remember dreams? Most do. Think back – remember the state of mind in a dream.
Not just the blind panic, the scaring at the slightest object – remember how your mind works. When you dream reasoning becomes vestigial, one’s awareness becomes a shallow, unthinking. The dream experience is fraught with infantile fears and scares, of details suddenly looming into frightening significance, of nothings becoming essential. Remember that state of mind.

Anyone who has worked on visualisation must become aware that whatever one concentrates on becomes fore-grounded, huge, massive.

The minds’ eye magnifies. You concentrate on a fear, it takes over; you concentrate on some everyday object from a different angle, it becomes unknown, threatening.

Out-of-the-body experiences, you realized, if not actual dreams, are so like dreams in every detail, lucid dreams, that they as much use as dreams.

Can dreams tell us anything? Maybe only certain things, overlooked things.

You wanted knowledge, healing. It was not found in dreams.

And it took so much time: time spent lying around to master the techniques – days, weeks, months lost doing what we do every night.

There was your body in the bed. Only, when you got up out of it you were on your back: he was on his side. Irrelevant, dismiss. But very relevant: you only see what you expect to see.

Can we leave our bodies? Probably not.

Even Robert Monroe came to a similar point, though he either refused to join the dots, or didn’t see them. He got tired of travelling around the solar system, from ‘dead planet’ to ‘dead planet’ (Not an enquiring mind, Mr Monroe). He got fed up. He was aware that he was not actually flying, but being carried – a hairy arm was around him. Ok, he said, to the carrier, you take me from now on. The adventures got better, he had better encounters. He forgot most of it. In effect, he allowed himself to deep dream, rather than sticking to the low state of dream awareness he, and you, had known. It was his own arm he felt: his body-awareness was partial and so, seemed strange, became magnified.

These are the places where the outside interfaces with what is inside, liminal places.

3

One has to prime oneself to have these experiences. Even one of the books recommends that if you want to project from your body you must read many accounts beforehand.

You have to learn the codes, the interpretations, to expect certain things. All else that does not fit in with the learned template is dismissed as irrelevant.

Shamen, priests, spend years learning their craft. They learn, in effect, how to read things in a certain way, the traditional takes on one’s ordinary experiences, the different versions of events.

Our contemporary term for this is ‘deep-learning’.

Do meditation techniques, instead of clearing the mind of its concerns, in effect, reformulate them in certain ways, then push them down into the semi and unconscious mind? Motivations etc become altered, coloured by them from then on. If enough ‘scripted’ material is similarly absorbed on a deep level will we then become personalities wholly centred on this.

One has to prime oneself – it is indeed a form of indoctrination.

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When drifting off to sleep, all those patterns, geometric and delicate…. Hang on, aren’t they the same patterns you saw flashed up large, flexing, highly coloured, part of the drug experience? Yes.

Inner states give little more than we experience every day, but dismiss. Concentration techniques magnify the details, fore-ground the minutiae.

But it is still the same old inside-the-head thing.

There is a part of the brain – towards the ear on the side of the brain? – when stimulated produces the effect of being in some great Presence.

– Suddenly you were in a dark place, facing a great overpowering light. You interpreted this as being on the edge of a clearing in a wood, facing a great deity. Was this the Mother Goddess? To feel so insignificant before her, no more interest than a grain of soil you stood on. Look at her – it was very slow and took all your strength. Then you lost it.

Yes but you were primed on Robert Graves’ The White Goddess; you’d had taken the book to heart.

It was all interpretation: a brain event. The darkness was probably you looking out of shut eyes, with the light of day coming in. The rest? Brain events. Even at the time aware you ‘clothed’ the experience, in order to make it bearable. One must indeed choose one’s wardrobe.

You saw through Graves too.

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As a child you knew that bedroom intimately on a visual level – spent so long looking at it waiting for sleep. Still saw it in your mind’s eye – visualising magnifies – so zoom in on the ceiling. Sleep paralysis. Alpha waves fighting with Delta waves. Active mind and tired body spelt disorder in the night.

What is hidden we fetish the most, whether it’s what’s under one’s clothes, closed doors, or behind shut eyes.

 

Coda

This talk of ‘brain events’, or chemical, neuro-pathways etc is not the last word on the subject. It is a subject to occupy people always. And so the terminology will change. Using words, after all, is a metaphorical attempt of the understanding at grasping something that is outside of words. Most things are outside of words.

None of this made you any cleverer, wiser, more ‘mindful’… or healthier.