Thursday, March 19, 2009

Washington, D.C. 18-19.2.1993: Drowning Dreams and Watching Angels

At the Hirshorn Museum, after a morning in the National Archives, and very weary, dissociated.

All night, I dreamt I was writing some kind of “breakthrough” letter to the college, saying now is a time of national debate, and also of crisis for the college.

For both reasons, discussion of the college’s identity seems imperative. Yet it’s being blocked, often by demonizing of the new, and by sheer refusal to discuss, as we manage conflict.

This is unjust. A college is a community—bound together, etymologically—and requires free shared discourse to be what it purports to be. Moreover, refusal to discuss covertly privileges a few, and allows power centers to manipulate, rather than invite discussion.

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At National Gallery of Art. Very moved by a series of allegorical paintings by Thomas Cole, 1842, on the four phases of life. In each, a guardian angel—in childhood, with the child; in youth, on the shore as the youth’s boat pushes off on the river of life; in midlife, watching solicitously from the clouds as the boat shoots dark rapids to a dark ocean; in old age, rejoining the boat as it enters the ocean.

There’s a type of thought about pictography. Not a new notion, I know—evident to anyone who looks at any primitive” art, that we depict in order to think. And yet think very differently from anything commonly called rationality now.

This is thought of the dark, moist, fertile self below rationality. Because it’s powerful thought, we need to suppress art in our “civilizations” of technocratic managerialism.

I don’t know how to give myself to the thought of the dark, camera oscura, pictographic self. It kills me to do so. I do so only in painful and voluptuous dreams in which any sense of self I have is so painfully fragmented and shattered, that it’s almost a violent wrenching of my body—literally so, some days—to awake. I drown in dreams, in a stream that seeps simultaneously into every crack and crevice of my being, showing me mad illuminations of the many facets of my experience that I simply cannot tolerate, or seem to connect in daytime without actually going mad.

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