Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bored in Dreamland

Hopefully, by the time you read this I'll have been found. I seem to have gotten lost in a dream, and I have to say it is not at all what I expected. For a start, it's terribly dull. I always assumed that being lost in a dream would be an exciting and vibrant experience, if at times a little harrowing. Turns out it's a bit like having an anxiety attack and being very sleepy at the same time. I imagine it might be like spending too much time in a country where you don't know the social mores and eventually get tired and frustrated from constantly doing the wrong thing because you simply have no concept of what the right thing is, or could possibly be.

That's not to say there aren't some nice things about it. I can summon up a talking penguin anytime I want, for instance. Unfortunately the only thing it wants to talk about is how disappointed it is that I never went to grad school. Which I guess means the penguin is a manifestation of my father. Except my father is here already. In fact, there's several little clones of him milling about, and all they want to talk about is fish and how frightened they are of polar bears. Which suggests that my father is just a manifestation of a flock of penguins. This is precisely the sort of thing that I don't know how to properly react to. It's pissing me off. I get enough of this in real life.

Then the other night I had a lovely dinner with Gurdjieff and Mamie Van Doren. But again, it was terribly frustrating. Gurdjieff's English is dreadful, and he overcompensates for this by bugging his eyes out a lot and gesticulating wildly with a forkful of spaghetti Bolognese. It's unhelpful and messy. Then I managed to derail things entirely by asking Mamie what it was like to be dead. Turns out she isn't. This cast quite a pall over the proceedings. Gurdjieff told me "you verra bad man," and then they both ignored me for the rest of the meal, carrying on a completely unintelligible conversation between themselves. I would have made my excuses and left, but it took me hours to figure out how to get out of the insanely complicated chair I was sitting in. There were straps and buckles involved.

After that, I tried to keep to myself. I couldn't find much to do, so I ended up spending a lot of time napping. Except of course that would just put me back in the dream world. It was a bit like walking out of the front door of your house and finding yourself back in the hallway, in that it was equal parts fascinating and irritating. I suppose if I was a mathematician or a psychologist I would have something insightful to say about this sort of folding of reality, but I'm just a schlub with a BA, so all I could come up with was "Whoa, that's kinda trippy." The penguin was terribly disappointed.

I tried all the touristy things one does in dreamland. You know, the classics: flying, going to class naked, being chased by an unknown assailant, being the president and starting a nuclear war. The usual stuff. It was all fun, but rather unsatisfying, like I was just doing the things so I could cross them off the list. Oh and consequence-free sex with whoever I wanted turned out to be a disaster. Like anybody would, I tried it with myself first and apparently my technique is really lacking. I thought that I knew what I like, but when I caught myself checking my watch, well, it was emasculating to say the least. I lost the taste for experimenting after that.

Eventually I decided to concentrate on asserting normalcy. Perhaps I could escape by turning the dream world into the real world. I created a passing simulation of my house and office, and tried to follow the same routine I do in the waking world. I'd get up in the morning after lying in bed pretending to be asleep for what I judged to be eight hours or so. Then I'd make myself a cup of coffee and feed the cats. This took a long time as the house was populated by every cat I'd ever owned or wanted to own. Then I'd have a shower, get dressed, kiss my wife, explain to the penguin why an MFA wasn't for me, and head out to work.

Work was always a blur. I mean, literally. I couldn't get it to come into focus at all. Vague walls, ill defined cubes, shadowy co-workers who made sounds like papers rustling and keyboards clacking at the bottom of a well when they spoke...None of it resembled reality in the least. Well, maybe it resembled my reality, but now that I was paying attention to it, it certainly didn't resemble real reality. I managed to keep this up for what felt like a few days, but the passing of time kept slipping away from me. I suppose a few months must have actually gone by, because I eventually ended up having a midyear review with my shadow boss. Overall, my performance had been "rustleclickrustlerustle ," but I needed to concentrate more on "clackclickrustleclack" if I ever expected to make "clickityshufflerustleclack." I promised to do better, and then let the whole thing evaporate into thin air.

And now I stand on a flat white plane that stretches to infinity in all directions, a white, perfectly hemispherical sky overhead. If you happen to see a place like this in your dreams, please do stop by and see if I'm still there. I'd love for someone to lead me out of this boring place, or at least explain to the penguin why an MBA isn't the guarantee of success it used to be.

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