The Proscenium

The proscenium is a category I gave to a Scape in the Surreal, also to the process of creating it. It’s one of the turnkey concept-methods between the receptive liminal activity—receptivity?—and active liminal…activity. The preceding sentence is why I don’t like dualism, by the way, it gets everywhere into everything when the concept I’m trying to get at is really just one (third?) thing with differing things in the thing.

The library I call my “third chamber” originated as a visualization exercise called the Memory Palace, or the method of loci. As I recall, it’s ancient Roman, but I can’t recall when it became a thing and who authored what specific information about it. As I understand, concepts should become easier to remember if symbolized by an object that occupies spacetime, in the imaginary sense. While I could imagine this place that I’ve never been to, I couldn’t attach specific ideas. I ought to have been able to attach a grocery list to the banister, for instance. Instead, while I could see the banister clearly, I couldn’t help but think there was—because my mind’s eye could see, because my fetch-heart knew—this hoary old man with an eyepatch named Odin (the man’s name, not the eyepatch’s) rattling his cane impatiently against the bars and referring to me as ‘sonny’.

So, that’s one possible example of how something mundanely imaginary can overlap with spiritual significance. I could understand, at least I anxiously anticipate, the embarrassment of interacting with a symbol of my oedipal issues as though they were a cosmic power personified. I could also understand the frustration of hearing something, “Oh, you’re Jung’s Wise Old Man archetype!” over and over again by mortals who want to claim so much is just in their heads that it almost becomes a humblebrag—having so much more in yer noggin’ than most other people, eh?

However an individual decides—or feels is the best way—to interpret it, though, is probably the right way. Even if that inclination towards the psychic-like-psyche or psychic-like-psi-phenomena changes during the process, as the individual gains experience.

I liked that it was a round room. Sometimes, it would develop corners. Rather than wonder what the change in architecture symbolized, what self-work I ought to do so that my imaginary room would be round again the next time I glimpse it…I would make an effortful visualization of the room being round again. That would work well enough. It wasn’t so effortful to get it there in the first place, though, so I wouldn’t say that the mental effort alone makes it -real in the Surreal.

My Proscenium appears to operate on the wishcraft of a fiction. Once, two regular residents of that room vanished with all the furnishings. I re-established the third chamber as it used to be, but I still believe that happened. Am I deluding myself that the third chamber is still fully furnished? It feels awkward, but it doesn’t feel wrong.

I have never attempted to domesticate the landscape of Erstvale like this. I control my fetch when I quest. I wield Eidems like Heartwrench and the something Of Doom (with the pointy bit). We all have stories, and inaudible names I know, and some kind of vibrance. That’s what I experience, and whether I decide it’s in my head or some otherworldly journey, it helps to keep that possible.

~

It would feel wrong for me to summon those two residents back to the third chamber. I thought I could deliberately visualize a ghost-guardian person in Erstvale, the same way I rounded the walls of the third chamber…and, she simply wouldn’t take. I decided not to make the effort anymore, and a year or so later had an unsettling dream about her being melted (something alive or at least moving within the slurry of what used to be form.)

I write stories. I shape my mind for them: plot, aesthetic, voice and style. I let images form in my mind, emotional beats, manifesting potentials like a lucid dream (or, when writer’s block comes around, like a nonlucid dream or dreamless sleep. Is it a mineral deficiency, or do the muses leave me? Whatever.) It’s so common to speculate on the psychology of creators—while that is not the only literary analysis approach that exists, I took for granted that that would keep them safely contained.

But then Captain Marigold fired the cannons through the walls of our realities, so if I thought I made her up (which I shouldn’t have been able to—poor ghost-guardian of Erstvale,) she’s fairly self-made now.

That’s part of the Proscenium process, too: metaphorical thespians, characters, scripts and improvisation, rehearsal and orchestra, backdrops and backstage, costumes and makeup and lighting and masks. None of it strictly real; some level of it always true. Detached, we know it for what it is. Immersed, we know it for what it is.

Close Scapes

On the 15th, I dreamed that I walked through the courtyard of my grade school campus. Sometimes it would continue into some garden spa that, of course, wasn’t part of the campus in waking life. My therapist had arrived, and then this giant cumulonimbus cloud tried to descend to meet us—meet my therapist, really, having mistaken my therapist to be some high-ranking member of this cloud’s holy order. Unless that wasn’t a mistake…hrmm… Anyway, what I remember next was walking on the sidewalk on the main avenue that (in waking life, too) linked all the university campuses, and meeting who I intuited to be the spirit of the road, or associated with the road or something. I remembered ey introducing emself as Guidon. (Which I wrote down, with much less difficulty than I usually have writing in dreams, so I didn’t glom onto the fact that this was a dream.) As we walked together, I remember feeling mildly amused and informed by the sheer amount of intellectual posturing that Guidon was doing.

When I woke up, I ran the name through a search engine, and eventually wondered if I might have been prodded or might be called by Gwyddion.

Then I thought to divulge this dream to my corporeal friend and roommate Cecilia, who gets more vocally irritated at the undergraduates who populate the now-gentrified Universityville. I described Guidon as that, because ey looked young and dressed in the fashionably unfashionable way of the Kids These Days, and seemed to have an awful lot to say about theoretical (theo-rhetorical?) matters. Eventually, Cecilia and I got back to grumbling about how, Back In Our Day, it was condiment pasta and farmer’s wet markets crowding the empty lots, not all these fancy schmancy restaurants in newly-constructed malls with giant air-conditioned grocery stores in the basement.

Then:

“The newsletter for Ateneo de Manila University is called Guidon,” Cecilia informed me. “Spelled that way, too: G-U-I-D-O-N.”

I hadn’t know that. I must have just picked it up and forgotten it, let it steep in my subconscious until it comes out in a dream like this. Still, we had a good laugh about how the personification of the Avenue wasn’t just one of those brilliantly irritatingly twee undergrads, but an Atenean (with all the associated stereotypes born of university rivalries).

Seriously, though, I’ve considered just leaving a clove cigarette and libation of Red Bull somewhere in the corner of the Avenue, to appease this minor dream-god of Young People Going Places, may ey forgive us nearly-elderly fogies our negative expressions of nostalgia.

In waking life, I did get around to seeing my therapist again. My sessions first started nine years ago, not continuously of course, and I have angst about how much of a lifetime a person can lose to the blearghy bleargh blah life plus neurotransmitter whatever… While waiting, I did finally get my hands on a copy of Jung on Active Imagination by Joan Chodorow, and it contextualized the Red Book enough that I realized I had been going about this all wrong. (From a Jungian psychological perspective, anyway. Maybe kind of.)

Cecilia and her family also invited me to stay with them in the Visayas for the summer. I’d heard so much about the place that I was excited to actually get to walk around in it, so that’s where I’m typing this from now. More later hopefully. Probably.

Cartograms and Homunculi

In Alchemy, a homunculus was the successful product of an alchemical procedure that would create life without resorting to heterosexual intercourse. As much distinction that I want to make between woo-woo and the term that the sort of people who invented the term woo-woo would rightfully claim as theirs, such as “energy”, I actually found the medical homunculus so much more valuable for what I wanted to talk about. The sensory homunculus substitutes size of a human body part (in the Platonic ideal proportions of a human body) with an alternate value, that is, how much of the world that body part experiences.

And then I superimpose that upon a cartogram, a map in which some thematic mapping variable (literacy rates, internet use, gross domestic export of the nation, income per capita) is substituted for the size of the land. Thus, the geometry or space of the map is distorted to show the value of this alternate variable. Of course, whatever information is being transmitted through writing can only exist between individuals in parts of the world that produce texts and individuals in parts of the world who can read those texts.

Of course, I trust that the research data is accurate, that the hard numbers are true enough to remain applicable (between the time this data is gathered and the time that it gets to me), that the website program runs smoothly enough that I’m not looking at another map by accident instead, and that these categories and values are worth looking into.

Geena Davis, founder of the Institute on Gender in Media, stated recently on NPR: “We just heard a fascinating and disturbing study, where they looked at the ratio of men and women in groups. And they found that if there’s 17% women, the men in the group think it’s 50-50. And if there’s 33% women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.”

While Davis correlated this with the representation of women in media, she voiced the concern of the representation of women in everything from cardiac surgery to tenured professors. Tali Mendelberg, professor of politics at Princeton University, and Christopher F. Karpowitz from Brigham Young University, found that a room full of people discussing politics required women to be in the majority by 60% to 80% before women “spoke as much as men” (I’m guessing that they timed it, rather than measured the volume of voices) and “encountered fewer hostile interruptions.”

While that last sentence is very qualitative, and the entire study certainly* concerned purely cisgender issues, that is what inspired me to think about cartograms and homunculi again. I see a lot of explaining that needs to be done with how a corporeal element such as body (/part) size or time-given-to-converse confers any sort of value, but it becomes those corporeal elements that set the benchmark or standard for when any value other than that primary is inflated or compressed.

* for the given value of certainty

Loose Canon: Hades and Satan, Syncretized

So, a while back I phant’sied this presence of (I intuited) a syncretism of Hela from Norse mythology and The Morrigan from Celtic mythology, which at some points go together like a turkey ham McFlurry, which is to say they don’t actually go together but there she is.

I just refer to her as Lady Hawthorn, and wonder why I didn’t get another syncretism instead, for instance, Kali and Izanami, or even somebody else entirely such as Death as a perky Goth girl from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.

I did wonder if syncretistic deities were still happening, though. In a way, I sort of got my answer:


(transcript here)

I forgot where exactly I typed up a wall of text, I might have typed it up at multiple places, about J.M. Barrie’s Neverland being misconcepted as it became popularized out of the novel that he wrote. The misconception, however, came off to me as an echo of a place or basically a fairyland in an even older story: Tir na nOg, returning to the collective consciousness by another name.

It could be a combination of coincidence and personal bias, and certainly much of the beauty and profundity of Barrie’s version is lost when Neverland is shunted to regressing into an imitation of something perhaps simpler and less challenging a description of the otherworld and what it would mean.

The point being, I waffle between trusting the collective consciousness to generate and popularize the stories that the most people need, and mistrusting the stories as lies to advance some agenda, such as sustaining the imbalance of representational power. (I haven’t gone so far as to detest fiction and storytelling completely as ungrounding and misleading and untrue by nature.)

In the former consideration, the old stories of Poseidon’s attempted conquest of Olympus or Hera’s being displaced by Hades’ attempts that are a new thing, could show how much more uncomfortable the collective consciousness is with mortality (than, say, natural disaster or women.)

On the other hand, I am so bored by the antagonization of death, and Lady Hawthorn and I might not be alone in this but there aren’t comparatively as many stories that show death as an inevitable and not particularly inimical presence, even adapting from mythological spheres where it (in this case, Hades) was that. So, now I can consider the damage of appropriation, and understand a little better why the flow of stories (which I’d previously considered a natural resource that belongs to everybody, even if the money attached to intellectual property has its own separate flow) ought to have dams and filters.

Vorpal Sword 3/3

swords

It doesn’t matter that my weapon is a sword. At least, it doesn’t matter in the way that I thought it would matter. I thought, “Why a rapier? My short stature wouldn’t have an advantageous reach: why not a spear? I don’t like direct stabby-slashy confrontation: why not an archery set? I don’t like combat at all: why not something defensive like an invisibility cloak, or a shield? Sure, I wanted a sword, but I wanted a katana.”

My sword does have ranged attacks. I don’t “blast” out billows combatively without my hands—my sword does that. My sword also creates protective bubbles and warps, so that’s a defensive function that doesn’t suit the symbolic form. That’s archery and shielding together, and I don’t know how or why that is.

The form that it takes, if it means anything, means something else that I haven’t figured out yet.

So, I propose a notable difference between the real world and otherworlds: form doesn’t always determine function.

I noticed that there’s a certain kind of anger that arises in me, that seems to correlate to the sword’s blade lengthening. There’s another kind of anger that correlates to the sword’s color darkening. Other times, I feel like I won’t get carried away with any sort of anger, and my sword turns into something that looks like silver or ivory. (It doesn’t turn into a flower, or anything like that.) This started on New Year’s eve, 31st of December 2012.

In mid-January of 2013, my sword took on the appearance of a gold hilt with a red gemstone: definitely not my style, but there was a rightness in that form. Or so I thought. When I descended into the surreal with the red-gold sword in hand—I was wandering the most unhappy grade school I had ever attended, and not voluntarily—I encountered what appeared to be an aggressive figure. I also identified it as an acceptable target, because (I sensed) it would continue to be aggressive and do harm without any capacity for negotiation—so, I ran it through with my red-and-gold sword. It only grew bigger, and appeared jauntier, without necessarily becoming friendly.

I snapped out of Surreality, and haven’t seen the aggressive figure again, but I figured that this was yet another example of form defying function in Fairyland. To wit, when you attack a target with the intent to damage, that target shouldn’t get healthier.

It continued to bother me that this had no name. I could think up of some way to refer to it or another, but it would always feel vague or wrong.

In September 2013, I was walking around the mall with the extended family. We passed by a hardware store, and I saw a wrench. We chatted, had dinner, and I recalled that the red jewel on the gold sword sometimes pulsed like a heart.

I named it Heartwrench, and while I recognized it when it was in my hand the next time, the form had changed to one even more cumbersome. It was a broadsword, with a central fuller groove.

Sometimes it would darken, and I would feel the cursedness of the sword being its main feature, and then it would be useful for attacking. Other times it would redden, and I would fall upon the blade and come out feeling healthier.

It remains terribly ugly and not at all the weapon I would have chosen, but it’s mine–perhaps it’s even me. I don’t need to use it, I’m even loathe to use it—but I like having it. I never thought I’d be like that.

I guess Heartwrench represents the warrior ideal, which is that it’s an innately noble and harmless thing to have a warrior’s spirit. To be a warrior does not mean just being a mass-murderer with good public relations. Rather, it’s a philosophy that adds fullness to life…I’m guessing. I haven’t quite figured any of this all out yet.

Later on, I consciously recalled this “black, red, white” psychological jargon that I’d read in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run with the Wolves, and “nigredo, rubedo, albedo” that my own therapist had mentioned. When I finally got around to looking up alchemy, I found some version which had four color-coded stages: black, white, yellow, and red.

The symbol for psychological alchemy was more applicable to my psyche than I’d thought, then.

Some Explaining to Do

 

When the surreal doesn’t come to me, I find assistance to let me go to it. I probably shouldn’t, in case the surreal swallows me up only when it has something worth imparting that I need to attend to and therefore must pay attention to, but I usually enjoy just being there nowadays, so I do direct some conscious effort to facilitating exploration of that world.

Audio recordings of guided meditations help me immensely, and the ones that I like best usually lead to a meadow. I’d described it before: the memory of a tree from my grade school playground, beside the lake from my mother’s friend’s summer house.

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Lately, though, I’ve felt that the tree and even the actual summer house being there made it feel too crowded.

So, I walked around looking for another meadow.

Where I started from used my memory, and so beside my mother’s friend’s summer house was a dirt path that sloped upwards.

There was never a stairway.

Well, now there was, and I didn’t put it there. Not consciously, anyway. The steps were cut from something like sandstone, and built into the coarse wall of a cliff by the ocean. Wasn’t I in the mountains? Wasn’t that ocean and sandy shore, a lake with clay banks just a few moments ago? Weren’t the slopes gentle, not these tide-crumbled bluffs?

Those sudden and surprising changes could be interesting.

And then they wouldn’t be, because as I ascended the steps, I sensed a movement behind me, and from a cave in the cliff emerged a tall, cloaked figure.

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It was a very tall cloaked figure, and the cloak was black unlike in my drawing.

It blasted something out at me, a sort of flame I guess, which I turtled myself up against with Heartwrench (my sword that makes protective bubble-shields when the point gets stuck into the ground.)

It didn’t insist upon defending its territory. It just straightened up and ambled on past me and the stairway, all fifteen feet of it.

I followed the stairway up to a meadow, where a sort of round clearing had been sort of paved by polished panels of some light wood. I seemed to have walked in on some sort of meeting…

That was a few days ago. Today, I returned and the clearing was once more uncrowded except for Foxglove. For some reason, I had a parasol and was dressed in some Edwardian-era gown.

PIC_1793 The tall cloaked figure was there, too, and it seemed humanoid-shaped but I can’t remember if it was just wearing a very plain masque.

So, I asked Foxglove, “Do you know what that is?”

Foxglove only gave a slight knowing smile, a slight affirmative nod. He continued to watch the fifteen-foot-tall cloak pass by the meadow, I guess in the same way that corporeal-world people sometimes stop to watch somebody busking.

I watched with him, except that I considered this sight much, much stranger than busking. “So, what is that thing?”

Foxglove did answer, but I didn’t understand the syllables. I tried to get him to repeat himself, but he wouldn’t.

I nagged, “Why don’t you want to tell me what it is?”

“Because you’re too bloody cerebral! It doesn’t translate.”

So, that got me thinking about the process that I use to understand and communicate with characters in the surreal world.

In my mind’s eye, an image simply comes to me: Foxglove’s mess of wavy black hair, the angles of his eyes, his uncommonly pointed chin, and a ghastly complexion that’s white as paper.

The same isn’t necessarily true for voices and the content communicated. They usually feel more like ideas transmitted first, accompanied by some expression that I can witness. So, if instead of writing: “Because you’re too bloody cerebral. It doesn’t translate.” I wrote: “You rely on logic far too much. You wouldn’t understand something like this.” Or, “You’re waaay too heady. I couldn’t explain.” It wouldn’t necessarily be inaccurate, because I didn’t hear any actual words. I only caught at ideas.

Somehow, though, the general idea has a cadence and quality that I tried to capture using the sentence fragment, the use of “bloody” as intensive rather than adjective, the neutral observation phrasing of “It doesn’t translate” over “You wouldn’t understand; I couldn’t explain.”

When he spoke the syllables that I could not understand, I could see his mouth moving and sense some ideas being transmitted, but it was all a garble. It was a garble, though, that I could hear with my mind’s ears. I’d wanted Foxglove to repeat himself so that I could catch the exact pattern of consonants and vowels that I’d heard as the garble, so perhaps the explanation of this tall cloaked creature’s habits, motives, uniqueness and so on–all that could be understood, but the word for the creature itself would be otherworldly (or should I say “other-wordy”?)

Apparently, it doesn’t work that way.

A rare couple of times, the words did just come to me. One bad day in the corporeal world had people calling me all sorts of names that I didn’t give myself, and I went into the surreal and took it out on Foxglove, confronting him with, “You’re the part of my psyche that’s out to turn me into an immutable heterosexual and then convert me to monotheism, aren’t you. Who I am now is getting crushed to death by cultural pressure, and you’re the harbinger of a future version of me who would spit on my own grave but nicely and then project so much unnecessary suffering on anyone who seems to be like I am now.”

His, “No,” was a concerned murmur, followed by another that was personally amused but recognized and respected what an awful day I’d had. “No.” But I’d heard the words first.

Another time, I made a momentarily bad decision for the wrong reasons, and Foxglove called out my name in a panic. Not the idea of, “Alert, you!” Or, “Radiating sudden emotional reaction!” But my offline name that my mother gave me, the one that goes on my birth certificate, which I’d actually never told Foxglove and didn’t think he’d use if he knew because I don’t identify with that name.

Most of the time, though, I do get the sense that I’m mostly missing out on stuff that doesn’t translate.

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