Degradation. Decay. The slow and inexorable loss of meaning. It’s all just slipping away, breaking down, collapsing into senseless noise. Vision disrupted, blurred, indistinct – a haze of static clouding your memory. Events, order, that passage of time, your own history eliding into a morass of past. That state upon waking, when a whole world, a whole other life, rich in symbolism, bursting with untold significance comes to a terrible halt, ruptured by consciousness – a breath of fresh air, drifting through the open window, a crack of sunlight through the seal of dark curtains, the shameless cry of an unwelcome alarm and it’s gone. Everything you were, everything you were striving for, rendered obsolete, before, forgotten.
But something vivid remains. Sometimes it’s a sense, a vague feeling, barely comprehensible. Perhaps a word, a phrase, even a sentence. Other times an image, hardly coherent, but resonant, the memory of something forgotten, viewed through a mirror at some oblique angle. With these slithers of past, this collage of dream you can rebuild a memory, reassemble and relive that prior state, flawed and forged, a figment of whatever subconscious meandering, broken, lost, found, re-pieced and remembered, but true nonetheless. Something authentic, however false it may seem to your waking mind.
It is a fool’s errand to go searching for meaning in dreams. Vanity may lead one to believe that there are secrets, hidden truths yet to be uncovered lurking just beyond the horizon of our night-time sojourns, but for a world invented, so pure and focussed – existing for but one indefinable purpose, what need have we for whatever arcane cryptography we have to hand? In dreams the meaning is apparent, an open wound seeping its essence into our waking lives, implicating our own sense of being in whatever cryptic performance we are witness to. Ask instead, what does this dream provide me? What meaning, what sense of purpose can I take with me?
Tonight, I told myself that I’d write about depression or about my artistic endeavour, instead, I’ve written about this. Maybe this speaks more clearly – about me, about who I am. Is this about me, or is this about all of us? Am I really important in my writing, or am I just a cipher? Given my past, my experience with mental illness, my struggles with depression, suicidal ideation, an eating disorder, self-harm, alcoholism, drug use etc. I could find any number of ways of slipping back into that negative thought cycle. Not tonight though. Tonight we should talk about purpose.
I don’t know who my art is for. I don’t really know who is seeing and enjoying my art. Right now, that is less important to me than the fact that I’m producing it. We all struggle to identify ourselves. To make sense of this nebulous idea of a self. At an early age we might have an idea, a sense of who we are. Something that will continue to shape our lives, influencing the decisions we make, the people we become, but that’s all they are, ideas, possibilities. Any one of dozens of people we could be, any one of the multiplicities of people that we are. There is nothing that truly defines us, no one thing that makes us.
I could go on. The point, perhaps, is that whatever I’m doing, right now, with my art is an achievement in and of itself. Its mere realisation is purpose enough for me. There’s a horror that leads you into these places of desperation, of self-doubt, crippling whatever part of you that wants to create – and had you chosen to define yourself, made some claim to an individuality based in creativity, nothing but grief will come from it. It might be good, noble, worthwhile to be an artist, but at this time, I am so uncertain of who I am, what “I” even means – perhaps I’ll never know – that to believe myself any sort of human being is a distant dream, one reserved for those less conflicted, less lost in thought, less troubled.
Certainty is beyond me, echoed in my work. I wish to become more uncertain, more frail and confused, whatever it takes to find meaning, a purpose in my work, a reason for creating that work, and more than that a reason for living. Does it lie in dreams, in the past, or in a future I am yet to envisage? In a sense, it doesn’t really matter, as long as I find something to believe in for now.