“Like hundreds of scientists since, he fell in love with his own ideas, saw their reflections all around him, and mistook his projections for discoveries.”
The above quote comes once again, slightly adapted to make it more generic and void of context, from “The Wayward Mind”. This great book offering the comfort of illusory sense. It really makes everything so clear, simple, almost linear. A sort of unifying idea of everything. Not explaining everything, but providing the frame where you can then carefully place the pieces.
But that’s where the warning should trigger. Whenever you find something that makes sense and sheds a perfect light, it dies. You should start doubting of it and its power, because this sense, when it is “traced” and so understood, becomes a cage that traps you in.
For example in the case of “Midnight Tides” I was happy to translate the symbol with my interpretation. The tides under the sea that are the real movement, hidden from the surface of consciousness. What happens is that I’m happy with this interpretation, and in fact I can then find echoes of it through the whole book. So I have confirmations of the initial intuitions. The “cypher” I hold helps me understand the sense whenever similar images come up. Yet this is an extremely crippling process. It’s human and automatic that whenever you see a symbol you instantly, seamlessly replace it with its meaning. The symbol disappears, it’s magic. It’s built-in the language, I say “tree” and you immediately think of a real tree, not the word and the letters. Or otherwise you couldn’t follow any written or spoken message.
In the same way, I was caged in my interpretation and meaning of “Midnight Tides”. Once I found a way to understand it, I stopped looking for others. Actually, I would be hostile to the suggestion of different interpretations. This is also human. We desperately cling to what we know. Whenever our imagined “sense” is threatened, we fight for it. We fight for that empty shell and never once strive for “truth”. Truth is always more complex and out of reach, every achievement is a starting point, back to the zero. Ideally, the moment you think you understand something is the moment you should start to abandon it, because you’re becoming the slave of sense, and your vision is failing. Creating or finding sense is about rising walls to keep Truth outside. Errant is the truth. The “Hold”, is the respite from truth and the real world. It represents the human soul. It’s the consolidation of sense in the stream of life. The single heartbeat, the fixed moment in the continuity of the flow of the blood.
“Midnight Tides”, the undercurrent of the unconscious. I found this, and whenever it came up again I would simply replace it with its meaning. Done, understood and thrown behind. Exhausted, nothing else to find in it. I wrote sense into mystery, felt glad and satisfied of what I found. There were still some small things that didn’t fit perfectly, some annoying itches that I preferred to ignore, rather than abandon my neat interpretation to look for something else. I realized this while reading “The Wayward Mind” and suddenly finding an image that may as well be more fitting to those “Midnight Tides” I imagined.
He saw the ego as ‘like a land mass threatened by the rising waters of the id’, and argued that ‘in the same way that the Dutch reclaimed the Zuider Zee, so must the psychoanalyst win back parts of the mind that have succumbed to the unconscious.’
What is suggested here is a slightly different symbol. Consciousness is not anymore the top of the ocean, the visible layer, but the land itself. The struggle between consciousness and unconscious is symbolized by the struggle between land and sea. The image is not much different, and in fact I do believe that my interpretation isn’t far off, but this variation actually could fit a lot better than the one I used (I’m referring to that first page in MT, the book, where Erikson expands the metaphor).
How do you deal with this, though? I have no idea. In the last few months that I’ve been reading and thinking about the problem of consciousness, the construction of reality and everything originating from there, whether through scientific theories or the Kabbalah, I got the strong feeling of “understanding” things so much better. I am certain that I was able to tie together so many of my interests scattered along my life, finding an unifying thread. As Bakker, I think this is not so much “a problem”, but THE problem. That the problem of the human condition, and my own within, is contained within that model. “The Wayward Mind” is the “narrative” that unifies everything together in a broader mythology of humanity. It has a spot reserved for everything, every ideas, every religion and vision of life. All there and watching the same movie.
This is deeply rewarding and satisfying. Finally finding a sense that sheds light on everything. That doesn’t completely exhaust the problem, maybe, but that tells you where to look, how to handle it, how to circumscribe it.
I know it will take me years, if it could even happen, to root me away from these ideas. And I’ve learned, by thinking about thinking, that this is bad. Maybe I should be thankful for my forgetfulness, because soon these intricate ideas will start to get all jumbled and I’d have to go back and look a my notes in the hope of recovering that clarity I once had. Sense is slippery, life and the world outside constantly threaten it, nothing survives to the passage of time. Like a midnight tide that devours the land.
Once again I put meaning into a symbol, and dug out a sense. I see clearly, I understand. In the daylight I’m looking at the world and feeling complacent. I have my meaning, I feel like I exist and that I’ve chosen. Till a great tide will eventually wash over me.
In darkness he closed his eyes. Only by day did he elect to open them, for he reasoned in this manner: night defies vision and so, if little can be seen, what value seeking to pierce the gloom?
Witness as well, this. He came to the edge of the land and discovered the sea, and was fascinated by the mysterious fluid. A fascination that became a singular obsession through the course of that fated day. He could see how the waves moved, up and down along the entire shore, a ceaseless motion that ever threatened to engulf all the land, yet ever failed to do so. He watched the sea through the afternoon’s high winds, witness to its wild thrashing far up along the sloping strand, and sometimes it did indeed reach far, but always it would sullenly retreat once more.
When night arrived, he closed his eyes and lay down to sleep. Tomorrow, he decided, he would look once more upon this sea.
In darkness he closed his eyes.
The tides came with the night, swirling up round the giant. The tides came and drowned him as he slept. And the water seeped minerals into his flesh, until he became as rock, a gnarled ridge on the strand. Then, each night for thousands of years, the tides came to wear away at his form. Stealing his shape.
I’m about to start playing a Japanese Visual Novel titled “Remember11”, I’ve read that it plays with the same “toolkit”, like consciousness, quantum theories, Jungian psychology and whatnot. I see reflections all around me. Everyone is saying the same thing. Harmony and sense, everywhere.
(the jpg is from Promethea a comics written by Alan Moore, 32 issues, all about mythology, magic and fictional worlds)