When not wayfaring I may flirt with the Night, that realm of fancy, irreconcilable with daytime brightness and clarity: till Reason sews up Days and Nights together in the patchwork chequer-board of life and rolls them into the scrolled archive of Time. When Reason’s away, primal impulses play. In dreams’ unfettered playground, no daytime rules apply. To an optimist, worshipper of Day, dreams are no more than a crop to be harvested, distilled perhaps to medicine for improving noonday health. Such a one may snatch dream-narratives by the nightshirt before they flee; then launders and irons the torn-off fragment, to play with it as a puzzle-piece: where does it fit to daytime understanding? Such an optimist ignores an array of vast unremembered sagas, too disjointed and evanescent to survive the sceptical light of day. Few are those who heed them, and drain to the dregs their fantastical atmospheres.
What if sleep shrinks from us and we lie too tired to get up but unable to melt into that shadowy land? Then our lucubrations are disordered in a different way, presenting problems without solutions: the state we call worry. The loose ends of day-life---debts unpaid, slanders unanswered, fears unresolved, the world’s future---bully us in the night; fuelled I suppose by nocturnal brain-chemicals. And so it should be: for the night is no time to act---only to reflect.
I snatched a fragment of dream and tore it away from other phantasmagoria. I was in the House of Commons, a windowless cavern of sophistry, in the small hours. The normal Parliamentary session was over. Members were lolling about in little cliques and I passed a row of Tory Opposition spokesmen, recognizing them vaguely and giving them a cheeky smile, knowing they would not recognize me. Politicians love a challenge and my smile threw down the gauntlet. “We’ll see about that!” they responded, smiling back enigmatically. ---Which put me on the defensive. I managed to find a dark corridor in the middle of the Chamber, a kind of tunnel or cook’s galley, and hid safe there, congratulating myself.
This notion of smile as a weapon arose from an incident the other day in a narrow alley, leading from a dead-end street, a cul-de-sac of decaying factories, broken tarmac and refuse. I suppose I was scowling, for my face falls into it naturally, belying the cheerful soul inside. The rest of my life has been transformed, only the surface still betrays history. A belligerent-looking man approached from the other direction and seemed to take it personally. This was despite (or because of?) my declining to look him in the eye as he drew near. He yelled a remark at the moment of passing. We didn’t slow our pace, so there was no time to “refute him point by point” as P G Wodehouse would have expressed it. I yelled back “Yay!”: a little proud of my repartee.
It was a “wake-up call”. As women know better than men, change your face to change your life. A man is more stubborn and it took the dream to show me the way. Since then, I’ve been secretly composing my face into a smile, practising in private. When the sun shines in my eyes or the cold rain runs down my cheeks, my face screws up unprompted.
What is it about Tory politicians? Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister hardly used to sleep. And this:
“Something of the night
. . .
. . .
“Whence the phrase? In 1900, the literary critic Lewis E. Gates wrote that the novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne ‘had in fact something of the night in his disposition . . . a suggestion of the discolored temperateness of night.’ John Baker, a Washington lawyer, found this citation from Henri Frederic Amiel’s ‘Intimate Journal,’ published about 1886: ‘The relation of thought to action filled my mind on waking, and I found myself carried toward a bizarre formula, which seems to have something of the night still clinging about it.’”
Source: Taipei Times
Night breaks the links of Reason. What we call sanity is nothing but daylight. No wonder sleeping pills are popular to buy oblivion from the insistent voices of darkness. What happens when our day-world itself, under the sun, becomes a nightmare? For example when “Science” tells us what to think, how to populate the secret vault of poetic imagination? Professor Evans, winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for medicine, goes public with an impassioned plea for the cultivation of embryo monsters (“legendary animals combining features of animal and human form”): “Please look at the evidence. Don’t immediately go for the knee-jerk reaction mainly powered by the ‘yuck’ factor,” says the Professor. Well, I wish the “yuck” factor could halt his research, just as it prevents most of the world from eating babies and other horrors.
I did not know how to end this piece, mainly because the night ran out and much of it was drafted in daylight. So I waited till the next night. I woke at 4 and lay quietly until the blackbirds started their pre-dawn chorus, echoing from the chimney-tops. My dreams retreated into their dark corners, and of all things I started to worry about 2012. The Olympic Games in London, only 30 miles away! A great festival of security, hype, politics and terrorist attempts. A looming catastrophe, with no sane purpose, a symbol of all that’s wrong in the world. Could it not be cancelled, in the name of sanity?
Dawn is lighting up the sky and these thoughts will soon disperse, as surely as day follows night.
PPS: The above post is not about politics!