Absent snap

Preliminary study in pencil and ink now guiding growth of a proper illustration.

Imagine waking in a dream—a lucid dream, but dream nonetheless—to rumor of someone, an other, with whom one need only suppress a little of one’s mind. Imagine a link free from large scale mental disenfranchisement, as if somewhere Papagena actually draws breath despite Papageno’s undeserts. In hope, antennae go up and scanners operate at maximum power. Anticipation constitutes wildly beyond the given.

From certain angles, in certain light and particular settings, when shadow falls a certain way, that dreamer (less the lucid part) resembles me. Not so much straight on, but enough in profile that I have learned many choruses of what-if. What if that whisper of a hint torn in tatters by the wind really was fate beckoning? Improbable, but what if?

A kernel of realism at the heart of dream anchors yearning. Its gratification may be difficult, but must be achievable or it is ridiculous. The dreamer’s hunger to meet a dialectical mind sits on the border. He longs for embrace by a conversation that, once started, renews again and again, enthusiastically and unobliged. It is a hunger only chance can feed.

I am nothing if not a devotee of chance. The current project, the Dvarsh oracle, Nod’s Way, celebrates it. Without contradiction, I also believe there are ways to weight trajectories of randomness. As Pasteur observed, “Chance favors a prepared mind.” On the track of preparation (given that, astronomical unlikelihood notwithstanding, Papagena may one day appear) I coach myself for encounter:

  • maintain eye contact
  • ask questions
  • listen
  • ignore peripherals.

Frequently, I recite this while driving, a blockhead’s mantra. Has it done any good?

March 2, I attended the opening reception for “Wires,” an installation by composer/conceptualist Douglas Laustsen. The installation consisted of a collection of hand-made books, on the order of a couple dozens. Each book featured pages of images and pages of text, as well as a sound generator, the kind used for alerts, alarms and other canned tones in small electronic devices. The books were numbered. Starting with the first book, the text began a story that was interrupted by a decision point requiring a reader choose how to proceed. One choice led to picking up the story in a given other volume, possibly book 2. A different choice led to a different volume, perhaps book 8, and a different continuation of the story. As each book was opened in turn, its sound maker added to a successively layered audio texture. Installation design was optimized for one reader at a time to browse through the books, each making this or that choice at decision points, and so constructing a personal experience of the piece.

A dozen or so people were present for the reception. Time constraints meant that few would have had a chance to experience the story through to a resolution if turns were taken one or even two at a time. Douglas suggested the group designate a storyteller, and have that person navigate the books for everyone’s benefit. A woman, enthusiastically seconded by her friend, put herself forward. I am grateful.

The installation was imaginative, conceived in detail, well crafted and delightful. Meticulous construction of the books was both an impressive feat and ground for a tongue-in-cheek seriousness that pervaded the piece. A lot of thought, creativity and labor went into “Wires.” It showed.

Add to this an impeccable presentation. Quite actually holding everything in her hands, our storyteller read the unfamiliar text fluently and expressively. With tact and skill, she chaired the group through decisions that moved the story. Her cadences made me want to hear her read other words, including some I have written, and then made me want to hear her give and take in conversation.

These wants were silent at the time. They are revealed now to the five of you who read this blog.

Overall, the event was a happy combination of careful preparation and fortuity. I was charmed by the installation and awed by the storyteller. After her presentation, I thanked her for bringing the art uniquely to life. She surprised me by extending a hand and introducing herself, “I’m A*****.” It was unexpected humanity.

Surprise tends to blunt my reactions, which it did this time. All the recitals about eye contact and asking questions counted for nothing. Shaking hands with the most interesting person to appear in an unhurried cycle, I rose all the way to “inarticulately shy.” A*****’s attention went elsewhere, and the moment that might have opened did not.

Every subsequent day I have revisited that introduction to no good end. Somewhere in the role-play of second guess hide words that might have paved a basis for reciprocity. An acquaintance. Unfortunately, lightning doesn’t strike twice, even when a mind prepares. The unsatisfactory resolution is like a loose tooth the tongue can’t reach. Best outcome is that lessons taken may animate a fictional character somewhere along the narrative way.

Meanwhile, here at HQ, I draw an enchanted cottage. The image will figure in Nod’s Way, so it’s timely. Drawing is also a way of thinking deeply about a topic without thinking directly. Like connections, places also may resound with possibility. A mystery to probe through allegories of pencil and ink is whether or not I would be less of a blockhead if resident in Montevideo. The correlative quandary: how to get back there to find out?