Archive for the ‘dream’ Category


flirting with David
Bowie — showing off my best
camp moves — flamboyant
release of the hidden self
— my Undiscovered Faggot

A friend asked me to recommend some easily-digestible Jung to read, and I responded instantly: The Undiscovered Self. Last night’s dream (or at any rate the poem I have just written about it) seems to mock the slightly pompous ‘Jungian’ side of me with an image of myself as a flamboyant camp dancer. In reality I have always struggled to know what to do with myself on the dance floor. One of the miracles of the last ten or fifteen years has been gradually picking up an ability to enjoy myself in my own way — though there’s nothing particularly camp about my moves as far as I am aware. I do identify as bisexual: so it’s quite plausible that there is an outrageous faggot in me, hidden from view.


his goodheartedness
surprised me — I don’t know why
— maybe kindliness
sits strangely with the function
of a sacrificial priest

There are no sacrificial priests left in the literal sense. Although any violent scapegoating, whether performed by the Americans at Guantanamo Bay or by Islamists in Iraq & Syria, carries something of the old significance of human sacrifice. And of course Christian theology & liturgy attests powerfully to the living memory of sacrificial logic. I was actually thinking of the play Equus (again) though in this poem. I dreamed of the analyst Fred Plaut last night, who was responding kindly to a situation where I’d missed an appointment.


seventies heartthrob
David Soul — look at him now
barely able to
walk — so old, so old — more like
a wizened tree than a man

I don’t really have much to add to this by way of explanation. Dreaming of the name Soul must certainly have been suggested by the chapter of the book I’m reading by Charles Nicholl called The Chemical Theatre. It’s about the influence of 16th century contemporary alchemical publications upon the imaginations and writings of Shakespeare, Jonson and Donne. I was reading about Donne yesterday, with examples from his poetry. There was much talk of souls.

The theme of old age — or at any rate late middle age — i.e. the age I am now — cropped up yesterday in the course of my delivering a testimony of lived experience of paranoia as part of my job. I succeeded quite well, better than usual when I do these talks, in getting across the general shape of my life (as it appears to me), as being largely a story of homelessness and mental illness with just a little coda of the most recent ten years spent being ‘normal’ with a job and a relationship. My audience, during questions, kindly asked me how difficult must it have been to adjust to the ways of society at such a late age.

Arising out of my blog two days ago about Stendhal, I was reflecting that he died aged 59, the age I am now. Shakespeare and Beethoven both died in their late fifties too (actually Shakespeare was 52). In that sense, I am an old man.

pencil scribblings #7

Remembering and honouring and preserving the Christian rituals/beliefs I was taught in childhood — is incredibly important. But hang on a minute. If these beliefs are no longer alive and vivid and literal, surely they must resemble museum exhibits. Do I have some kind of inner museum of my own past, which I visit and view with a detachedness which is vaguely disquieting, because there is a lack of connection between the exhibits and the present moment? I think the answer is probably yes. And it goes deeper, because it applies to a good many more aspects of my past than just my Christianity.

So welcome to my ‘museum’ then. Let me roll out an exhibit for you now. Many of my exhibits are dreams, which I still remember from decades ago. I want to display now a dream — about museums — which I had on the morning of 14th May 1985.

In the dream, I saw the French novelist Stendhal (real name Henri Beyle) exhibited in a glass case. He had female genitals which were displayed for all to see. He was alive in the sense of existing in some kind of afterlife, and aware of the indignity of it all, but seemed philosophical about it. Awake, it was obvious to me that his physical transgender status in the dream was symbolic of a psychological disposition while he had been alive, towards women, whereby he both studied them and loved them. Women were so supremely important in his life that now, after death, he had become one himself. So his fate — his being here in this museum — had a kind of dignity about it despite everything. Attached to the glass case was a label which bore the Russian word meaning ‘science’: НАУКА

About twelve months earlier, I had read a biography of Stendhal by Joanna Richardson. I had not at that stage read any of his novels. I’d also begun toying with the idea that I might be a reincarnation of Stendhal. This was partly because our respective attitudes towards women were so similar. For example, we both made a big deal of unrequited love, refusing to surrender the loved one spiritually, even though physically there was no possibility of consummation. It was also because of a couple of biographical coincidences. Like me, he had a sister named Pauline. He was born on 23rd January and died on 23rd March. I was born on 23rd March and my sister was born on 23rd July. There were also some parallels with his hating his father, as I did mine (at least during my teenage years), and a certain emotional dependency on his maternal grandfather.

The label НАУКА in the dream, deserves a few words of explanation but it is difficult to know how to begin to convey the depth of felt irony attached to the idea ‘science’ for me, both in the dream and in waking life. There was definitely some kind of notion in the dream, that science was being mocked or at least taken down a peg or two. I felt, in the dream, that I was in a future world, far in the future, when ‘science’ itself would be viewed as a quaint museum exhibit. I regard this with my waking mind as entirely plausible, not to say likely. The explosion of science in the last couple hundred years is a fleeting phenomenon viewed on the timescale of centuries. Science tends to have an inflated view of its own importance, to put it mildly.

I read an interesting article yesterday about the relation between science and the humanities, by Iain McGilchrist. Actually it is not just interesting. It’s brilliant.


Jung’s psychology,
like a Rembrandt self-portrait
presents one man as
the world — who am I? — and why?
— answers on a postcard, please

This morning I remembered a couple of fragments of dream. Quibbling about which of two psychoanalysts was older: one was 90 and the other was 100. Recapturing the exact sensation of wonderment, thrill and poignancy associated with William Walton’s music for Henry V, written for the Laurence Olivier film in 1944, which I saw in the cinema when I was very young and didn’t understand much of it. But later in childhood, I discovered my father’s 78rpm records of the music, and managed to transfer it onto tape. I am very fond indeed of Howard Jacobson’s column for the Independent and Saturday morning usually finds me reading his weekly article online. Given the fervent patriotism of Henry V, I discovered a synchronicity in his latest offering this morning: a topical issue connected with the St George’s flag. So patriotism and group psychology (same thing?) was the starting point for my poem. But, thinking about the phrase ‘group psychology’ I lapsed into an old rut of thought about the phrase ‘Jung’s psychology’. My first ever introduction to Jung’s psychology at the age of fifteen was a book called funnily enough An Introduction to Jung’s Psychology. The picture of Jung on the cover had an enormous impact. After a few years, I noticed the potential for a play on words. ‘Jung’s psychology’ could mean something more along the lines of ‘rat psychology’ or ‘group psychology’. Not so much the study of the mind by Jung, as the study of Jung by the mind. Same thing of course, but I often used to wonder if the ambiguity was intentional. τετέλεσται is the original New Testament Greek for ‘It is finished’.

questions for the microcosm

why do we matter?
— and what if we don’t? — am I
the source of my own
caring? — how to fathom my
infinite unfeelingness?

Dream images included that of a school bully — a figure from real life in 1970 who had been a close friend, but who became slightly power drunk when he began developing muscles aged thirteen. Yesterday I chanced to bump into two different friends independently, from previous eras of my life. I’ve bumped into both of them before, but with both it was more difficult on this occasion. I have done better for myself than either of them, in terms of having a job and having a life partner whom I love. I guess I might appear to them a little like the school bully, as there is an element of denying the previous close friendship which went before.


she resented me —
for treating her like some kind
of “project”, she said
— if I were African I’d
feel that way about Geldof

This was something said to me in 2000 by someone who was a kind of platonic girlfriend for a few months. Her name was Sabita. The poem also refers to a TV debate I saw on the BBC ten days ago, where a Liberian lady called Robtel Neajai Pailey was arguing with Esther Ranzen about Bob Geldof’s latest effort to raise money for Africa. She was very convincing I thought. Began by acknowledging that Geldof’s motives were pure, but proceeeded to demolish the whole notion of Africa as needing charity when what Africa needs is for the WTO to cease certain policies designed to enrich the West at the expense of the poorer nations. Titus Alexander‘s book Unravelling Global Apartheid dealt with this kind of thing, back fifteen years ago. I’ve always found the word patronise to be very elusive as to its meaning. And have sometimes worried that this must mean I am patronising, myself, since it seems to be a blind spot. Looking for a title for this poem, I landed upon patron and thought I would look online for a definition. Turns out to derive from pater the Latin for father. And finally it all fell into place. In my dream last night I was acting very strangely. Falling in love on the spot, apparently for no other reason than because the girl in question had cancer and her hair had fallen out.